Monday, 25 June 2012

Flower Baskets (25 JUN 2012)

The pubs in the UK have a tradition of hanging flower baskets outside in the summer. I went on a pub crawl of sorts in my local area to illustrate the point but only found half-dead, bedraggled displays in need of refreshing, probably because outside seating is not an option due to all the rain we've had recently. The local council, on the other hand, have allocated a portion of my taxes to tending flower bowls hanging from lamp-posts, watered early in the morning by a man with a hose on a pole. Cheap and cheerful, they compensate for the high proportion of front gardens which have been converted into precious parking spaces.

lamp-post flower bowls planted by the local council

On Saturday morning I had to give someone a lift to the DIY store. While I was waiting, I passed by the sick plants shelf (the only place where I've bought plants so far) to see what could be rescued. A box labelled “variegated trailing veined petunias” caught my eye, a few of them seemed healthy enough to live a while longer and perhaps flower. I bought them for £1 with a particular flower basket in mind.

My Mum never tires of telling the story of how she was the first person in the street and the family to plant and hang a flower basket at the front entrance of the house, a pioneer in her own way. Gradually, the neighbours and relatives followed suit; not me though, preferring to keep my passion for plants private.

However, on arrival at her house, instead of being greeted with gratitude, I was scolded for thinking that four small plants would be sufficient to fill a hanging basket - it would be an embarrassment for all to see. I pointed out that four small plants which had the potential to trail down eventually and bloom with veined petals might be more decorative than the weeds sticking out of the basket which had been left untouched since last year. Little did I know that she was still at the planning stage.

She directed me to a small nursery, like a farm shop, selling inexpensive plants for bedding and baskets. I'd never been to a nursery before, there was a steady stream of customers, all very knowledgeable and friendly and the lady in charge assisted to find what we were looking for. I couldn't help but compare the rows upon rows of newly propogated, healthy plants with my festering seed trays and the neatly labelled but unloved specimens in the DIY store.

It didn’t take long to realise that working on this project together would be problematic. Despite her spartan dress-sense and lifestyle, my Mum aspires to have the colours of the rainbow represented in her flower basket, crowned with a signature fuschia; I go for the less-is-more approach. We finally compromised to limit the pallette to her favourite purple (matched by a velvety verbena), with contrasting lilac and cream (combined in nemesia) even managing to find a fuschia with cream sepals. Some volunteers of vinca from the garden completed the collection.

left to right : variegated petunia, verbena, fuschia, nemesia, vinca

Assembling the basket alone (as Mum seemed to distance herself while I was pulling out the vinca), I began to understand the attraction. It's sanitised gardening that can be done with bare hands without worrying about that hidden worm or slug.  It's a totally absorbing pass-time, started and completed within a few hours. It captures the emotions and fancies of the moment and shouts out : "This is me!"

hope it fills out ... or I wont hear the end of it.

Before hanging the basket outside, I looked around sheepishly to see if anyone was watching, feeling guilty that neighbours and visitors would think that this was my Mum's best effort. Finally, I could see her point. I never thought I'd be the kind of person to plant flower baskets; maybe I shall assemble my own this summer, but I'll definitely hang it in the back garden if I do.

How to assemble a flower basket properly :

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linniew said...

What a heroic effort b-a-g. Really I can't imagine pleasing two people with a basket of plants-- I find it hard enough to please myself. I always put in too much and a plant war follows with death and destruction and never enough water for all the roots. Looks to me like you did an excellent job all around.

Diana Studer said...

Your collage looks luscious, I like the gentle harmony of colours. Let us see a later filled out after the rain version?

Donna@GWGT said...

This was such a funny adventure and I was so surprised to read that you were never in a nursery before. Kudos to your mum for being the first in the neighborhood too. I can see why you took a scolding, she has an image to maintain. But your basket has a nice combo and will certainly fill out in time.

BTW, W4W will be pastoral. That is a good word for the UK. The word was actually sacro-idyllic, but I did not think many would know that term.

Andrea said...

I've seen lovely hanging baskets like those in Europe and also some planters put on windowsills but works like hanging baskets. I did something like that with petunia earlier this year and hoped they will be lovely in the dry season. But they just turned lanky and not beautiful. I guess the tropics is not really favorable for petunias, maybe more dry tolerant ones will do! I remember also Tootsie's love hanging baskets every year, and she has a lot.

Mark and Gaz said...

It's not always easy maintaining hanging baskets, most of the time they end up looking so scruffy quickly. But for those who manage to keep theirs looking good, kudos to them! :)

Casa Mariposa said...

I think it's beautiful!! I really like the color combination. You've never been to a nursery before? Go go go!!! It's a great way to learn about plants and meet fellow gardeners. Pretty soon your mom will be taking notes from you. :o)

Libby said...

Lovely colours - I bet it'll be great once it's plumped up and the plants have settled themselves in. That gap between planting and it looking filled out is always a bit awkward with containers.

Stacy said...

You and your Mom could give lessons in certain diplomatic circles for starting from such different places and reaching such a lovely compromise.

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

That basket will be beautiful once it grows in America we love to hang baskets of flowers down village streets and especially from the roof of our have probably seen mine this year which are much better than in years past....great soil and lots more plants has can be fun to try different kinds of plants in hanging baskets...I think you did a wonderful job

b-a-g said...

Thanks Linnie - I'm not sure if my Mum appreciates my strategy to avoid "death & destruction" in the flower basket. Time will tell.

Thanks Diana - Whether it fills out or not, I'll include a picture in one of the GBBD posts.

Thanks Donna GWGT - Having a reputation to maintain is a lot of pressure. I'm surprised that she wasn't tempted to tweak my arrangement to perfection.

Your pastoral post is brilliant:
I'm working on it.

Thanks Andrea - Even though it's rains a lot in the UK, flower baskets need to be watered daily. I'll check out Tootsie's.

Your're right Mark & Gaz - I've probably seen more scruffy flower baskets. Maybe people forget them once the novelty has gone.

Thanks Casa Mariposa - I'll certainly be visiting the nursery more often, voluntarily or dragged by my mother.

Thanks Libby - The awkward phase you mention with containers is usually when cats dig up plants - another advantage of hanging baskets.

Thanks Stacy - It may seem like we come from different places, but my mum's always reminding me that we have the same blood.

Thanks Donna GEV - Yes, I remember your petunias in the antique pots. Maybe that's why I chose the box of petunia plants, which started off this adventure.

Anonymous said...

What a good son you are - nice to know your Mum is assisting in your gardening education. Mums always know best.

Crystal said...

Nice to see you've used a Easy-Fill hanging basket, described on the shopping channels as like gardening with numbers.
Well they might be easy to fill, but the art is keeping them going, watering and feeding etc.
I hang mine in the back garden, not because I'm ashamed of them, but to stop the local vandals from helping themselves.
Your basket will soon fill out, and if the shopping channels are true to their word, it should look as good as the ones planted by the council.

HELENE said...

Loved your comment about ‘the sick plants shelf’, I have bought many half dead plants over the years which have turned out to be real stars in my garden! Hanging baskets are 50% trial and error – 50% listen to advice, even if they come from your mum and you really want to do it your way :-) Good effort!

I would like to nominate you for the ‘One Lovely Blog Award’, your blog is great and truly deserve it. Congratulation! You can find the rules here:
Take care :-)

debsgarden said...

I think your choices are great! If my son were to arrange a flower basket for me, I would faint! And I would probably offer too much of my own expertise and opinions for his comfort. And whatever the final outcome, I would be supremely touched and proud of him!

Shyrlene said...

You sure know how to turn a phrase! I have this image of you "looking around sheepishly" as you put up the hanging basket. While you bravely propagate plants from seed, I am a wuss and visit the local nurseries with reckless abandon (well, as far as the cash will go, anyway).

Laura@Patiopatch said...

You've summarised why I love container planting though be warned creepies still get in. Hanging baskets need more watering than standing ones - that is the only downside of these globular aerial creations. Glad you were able to add restraint and go for a more muted effect!

Carolyn said...

I am always amazed at how quickly a few bedraggled annuals will pick up steam and fill a container.

HolleyGarden said...

I am terrible with container plants. I completely forget to water them. I tried this year to remember, but the last have died in the last few weeks. :( Yours looks beautiful - well, it will be gorgeous when it fills out. And I'm sure it will. I am like your mother - I love all colors of the rainbow together, even though I know that a little bit of restraint and color coordination makes a prettier display. I am shocked to read, though, that part of your taxes go to paying someone to water hanging baskets!

Alistair said...

Hi b-a-g. I wonder if I could get away with going on a pub crawl with hanging baskets in mind, Myra!!! I am sure your basket will develop very nicely. I used to go through all this palaver with baskets, now I generally take one of my very large multi headed Begonias and it fills the whole thing. Naw, don't be shy of embracing your love for plants.

b-a-g said...

Thanks very much Helene - I've mentioned you in my next post.

Thanks all for your comments :

CroftGardener & Deb - "Mother knows best" was probably the first sentence I was taught as a baby.

Alistair - I'm sure that Myra would let you go on a pub crawl if you took her with you.

Laura & Holley - I thought the muted look was more sophisticated at the time of planting but a colourful display would have been more cheerful especially during these dull rainy days.

Shyrelene - I think I'll be visiting nurseries more often, as well as (bravely) propogating plants.

Carolyn & Crystal - I'm still waiting ...

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