Container Gardening Ideas – Unusual Hanging Flower Baskets
Hanging flower baskets need not necessarily be of wire. They can be of wickerwork and it is quite possible that the first ones were of plaited or woven rush or cane. Deepish baskets with carrying handles, woven from natural materials, can make original and useful containers for use under the cover of a porch, sunroom, etc., hanging from either a beam or a wall.
Many interesting hanging baskets are imported nowadays and are easy to find. Fishing, shopping, and bicycle baskets are often seen used cascading from a wall or ceiling, depending on their shape and style. Junk shops, car boot sales and market stalls are well worth searching.
There are many intriguing and beautiful handwoven hanging flower baskets around which have been imported from China; they range from variously-sized wicker birdcages to work baskets, hampers, etc., some with handles or chains. Some are strange shapes whose actual intended use is something of a mystery.
Such baskets made of sea-grass, cane, wicker, and similar natural materials, may well suit both the modern home and the country house where antiques predominate. Of course, they display plants very sympathetically, and they do not mind getting the occasional soaking so long as they are allowed to dry out in between. They can be lined with plastic, or you can put plant pots directly into them. I love the wicker hanging birdcages for displaying a plant in a pot, in a conservatory or sun room. The round ones in particular are prettier even than the conventional hanging flower baskets.
White or green plastic-covered wire letter baskets, meant for fixing behind the front door to catch the mail, can be used as wall baskets if provided with a back made from half-inch mesh chicken wire. Lined with plant material such as moss, they make an effective decoration. Brightly-coloured plastic cutlery drainers, with a hole made in the back for a hook or nail, can look effective if chosen in a colour to match the house.
Some otherideas include a macrame string plant holder, which will hold a half or three-quarters coconut shell just as easily as an expensive small bowl. The shell should have a hole in it for . A matt-textured grey-green succulent or stonecrop can look well against the rough texture of the coconut and the string, a good effect indeed at all times of the year, and especially in harmony with ‘cottagey’ bay windows or in country gardens hanging from the low branch of a tree.
This reminds me that some friends have a large real shell hanging in their bathroom window, planted up with blue-grey succulents. It is eye-catching against fine voile, and hangs on fishing line which, incidentally, is a marvellous idea for ‘invisibly’ hanging any container in a window.
Modern buildings in particular look good when hung with plastic hanging containers of ‘modern’ shape. Generally of soft ‘earth’ colours, they come in various sizes. They have no drainage holes, so care must be taken with watering and to ensure that they do not becomewith rain. Slightly better, modern gardening containers do have drainage holes and are supplied with a useful built-in saucer which catches excess water underneath. There are also containers which are completely covered except for holes in the top to take the plants.
It was once thought vital that all growing plants must be in containers with drainage holes. In fact, indoors or under cover of a porch etc. if care is taken over watering, drainage holes are not necessary, and I have successfully grown everything from geraniums to exotic bromeliads with no thought to drainage other than the usual bits of broken pot at the bottom.
I was amused recently when I saw a kettle hanging in a cottage tea-room, filled with a mass of orange nasturtiums which were growing in a pot hidden inside the kettle. The proprietor told me she had different potted plants coming along all the time, to keep the display in the kettle fresh and attractive. See-through plastic or coloured glass looks sparkling in a window, and I have seen a great green plastic ice bucket with a handle showing off dark-foliaged dwarf pink begonias. See left for unusual container gardening ideas utilising coloured tin pots and pegs.
Some of my own very best effects with container gardening have been won with the help of some chunky white plastic buckets sold at our local fishmonger’s very cheaply. They originally held deliveries of cockles, but hanging from a beam in my conservatory their depth allows me to grow many things from schizanthus (a half-hardy annual, which I allow to trail over the sides) to runner beans (which make a handsome jungly trailing plant), golden hop (another trailer for summer),, and so on. You do not have to spend a great amount of money on containers — any dish, pot, or vase with handles can be hung just as well as stood, and I have seen keen flower arrangers display pot plants in a hanging piece of suitably-shaped driftwood!
In recent years there has been a fashion for growing woody-stemmed plants such asivies, geraniums, and even mint, in upturned wine bottles, and you might wonder how this is done. You need a large bottle with a dimple in the bottom, then with a glass cutter or a special bottle cutter you make a round hole in the dimple of about an inch in diameter. Next cut a strong piece of galvanised wire about 9 inches longer than the bottle and push it right through, hooking one end over the base to secure it and making a hook at the neck end for hanging it up. Holding the bottle upside-down, half fill it with compost, pass a well-rooted cutting through the opening at the base, and you will see that when the bottle is turned the right way up the compost settles down, securing the cutting, which should grow into a fine plant, covering the bottle as it develops up around the sides. Water the plant from the top.
Conversely, some hanging containers have flat bottoms and can be stood instead of hung. They can be filled with plants to stand in an alcove out of doors or on a deep window ledge. Terracotta and stoneware ones look good outdoors, and china, light plastic, etc. indoors.
Flat-backed and other containers of all kinds to hang on walls can be attractive and are, of course, like hanging baskets, space-saving. They can be arranged together in a row or group, or singly, along a wall or trellis, round a door or window, or in a porch. They come in pottery, plastic, metal, basketware, and terracotta, some with holes in the back for hanging, others with built-in baskets, and some with a saucer as part of the hanger. Or an ordinary plant pot can be used by twisting a length of strong wire around it, under the rim, with the ends of the wire formed into a loop for hanging.
A visit to an equestrian shop that sells bridles, stirrups, etc., can be interesting, for they will have (or will be able to get) those marvellous old-fashioned black metal hay racks. They come bow-fronted to fit against a wall or in a corner. They require an extra liner of fine mesh wire netting, and hold lots of moss and plenty of compost. They make handsome decorations for, , yards, wide passageways, balconies, sides of garages, or the entrance to a house or flat, and are excellent for places which have no garden at the front other than a paved sunken area. I have also found similar planters on sale at a flower and plant shop and I understand they are available throughout the country.
While you are in the equestrian shop you may see that they sometimes stock deep green or white plastic feed and water containers designed to hook over the bottom half of a stable door. With a short length of suitably sized pole fixed ‘proud’ of a wall (this taking the place of the door) you have an unusual and most useful container for planting, ideal for a houseboat or mobile garden. It seems there is no end to the unusual container gardening ideas available to us – just use a little imagination.
Many different kinds of container are available and better things are offered each year – particularly for indoor sunrooms, conservatories, covered balconies and so on, or where some cover such as a porch is available.
From Italy and Spain, pottery hanging containers come in all sorts of shapes, including tub and butter churn shapes, updated versions of a Victorian idea though on the whole far better, being deeper and roomier so that less watering is needed and more plants can be accommodated. They also have the advantage that they don’t drip.
They are generally hand-painted underneath and round the sides, with somewhat brightly coloured flowers and leaves and this is a point to watch when choosing them, as it might be difficult to find real plants to tone in colour with the painted ones. Certainly they can look great with matching or toning flowers, but are easiest to use with foliage plants. However, the growing leaves should go with the artist’s colours. If the painted leaves are a blue-green, try planting up with grey-green ivies, sedums, and such, but if they are yellow-green then lime-green ferns, or the acid-coloured helxine (Mind Your Own Business) will be pleasing and effective.
Sometimes antique shops and junk stalls have Edwardian or Victorian hanging pots. Like many available today, they have holes in the top to take wire, ribbon, or cord hangers. I have a matching pair of these cottage window pots; they are a strange pink-red decorated with an embossed acorn design. They are very small and quickly dry out, but are amusing to have.
There are real baskets of various sizes to take pot plants indoors or in porches or similar situations. They hang from long plaited wickerwork ‘chains’ and come from the East. The chains are designed for indoor hanging but as a temporary decoration for a party, a number along a verandah or below a balcony, each holding a plant, can be most eye-catching on a still summer evening. They can also be used in a conservatory or sunroom.
Out of doors, real baskets of suitable shape, as well as wire ones, make romantic-looking hangings for garden archways, pergolas, or the bough of a tree. Though real baskets possibly work best when used to hold potted plants than actually being planted up themselves.
Imagine a stone archway or porch overhung with pale pinkand underneath it, a real basket holding warm pink begonias. Or think of a white clematis over a trellis arch supporting a white wire hanging basket spilling with yellow double calendulas. The pots can be placed at different angles by cushioning them in moss.
Container gardening ideas are limitless once you start thinking around the subject. One spring, for example, I hung a staggered row of wire mesh baskets the whole length of a very large wedding reception marquee which was lined with blue and white. The moss-lined baskets held pale blue and deeper blue hyacinths, and were caught up with ribbons of darker blue and white. On another occasion, for a friend’s daughter’s wedding, I close-planted baskets for the church porch with coleus plants in massed colours to match the Bridesmaids’ dresses and bouquets. The effect was very novel and much admired, and afterwards the bride enjoyed the plants in patio pots at her new home.
A point worth remembering always is that a basket should never be hung so high that it cannot be reached easily for either watering, tending, or taking up or down. However, if for some reason you find you must hang a basket sky-high a stepladder or a handy bedroom window can come in useful although now baskets on adjustable chains or pullies are available. A rafter or beam is best for hanging a basket from a ceiling or in a porch or conservatory, and this is simply a matter of a strong hook screwed into firm wood. Swivel hooks are available which allow hanging flower baskets to be swivelled round so that all plants can get the light.
If ais to be hung out from a wall an arm or bracket support, in wood or metal, is required and this must be attached to the wall very firmly by means of screws and wall plugs (such as Rawlplugs and similar makes). Special hanging brackets are available to buy; the metal ones not only look decorative but are strong and long-lasting and usually have a hook on which the basket can be hung. Types in which basket and bracket are permanently fastened together have the disadvantage that, once fixed to the wall, the basket cannot be easily removed for replanting or other attention.