Hanging Basket of Verbena and Helichrysum
For a stunning hanging basket, plant it generously with vibrant pink Verbena ‘Kemerton’ and silver-leaved Helichrysum petiolare for delightfully contrastingand foliage all Summer long.
A far greater impact in the small space of a hanging basket display can be created with two strongly-contrasting colours, rather than a medley of several shades. Just such an effect is achieved here with the deep green foliage and bright, shocking pink blooms of Verbena ‘Kemerton’ being contrasted with the silver foliage of Helichrysum petioiare.
Both plants have a spreading habit and, if kept regularly watered and fed through the Summer, they will soon hide the basket completely with their abundant growth; they will go on looking lovely until the first frosts. So generous with growth is the Helichrysum that you will need to snip off shoots every few weeks if they are expanding too far or threatening to smother the Verbena. This may also need light trimming to keep it tidy; dead flowers should be cut off.
Choosing a basket
There is now a wide choice of hanging baskets on sale, but many people prefer to keep to the traditional wire basket lined with sphagnum moss. However, this tends to dry out rapidly in hot weather, and dripping after watering or rain can be a problem if it is positioned above a path. To conserve moisture and prevent the problem of dripping, add an inner lining of black polythene sheet and a saucer in the base of the basket.
Use a compost that has been specially prepared for hanging baskets by the addition of moisture-retentive polymer granules. For the best early display in a basket, plant it up with well-grown material, water well, then stand in a sheltered place for 10-14 days until the plants have settled in before hanging up.
Both the Verbena and Helichrysum are half-hardy and will be killed by frost. Looking ahead to next Summer, it is a good idea to save some of the tip growths snipped from the silver foliage and use them as propagating material.
A number of Helichrysum cuttings about 8cm (3in) long should be inserted around the inner edges of a flower pot filled with perlite. If this is stood in a shallow container of water, in a cold frame or under the green-house staging, and never allowed to dry out, new roots will form on the cuttings in a few weeks. Then they can be potted-up to over-winter in a light, frost-free room, or greenhouse, to give plants for your next year’s hanging baskets.
Some types of Verbena are also started from late Summer cuttings, but the usual method is from seed sown in gentle heat in late Winter/early Spring. These can be pricked out and hardened off to go outside when all risk of frost has passed.
PICK AND PLANT
Bright flowers of a similar hue to mix with the silver foliage include: Petunia ‘Supermagic Pink’ or Geranium ‘Sensation Cherry’ or Geranium ‘Gala Highlight’, Impatiens ‘Super Elfin Lipstick’.
For a change of colour use creamy-green foliage of Helichrysum petioiare ‘Limelight’ with Geranium ‘Sensation Scarlet’ or Geranium ‘Breakaway Red’ or Impatiens ‘Super Elfin Orange’.
PREPARING THE BASKET
Stand the basket on a large flower pot to hold it steady while you work; line it with a layer of damp sphagnum moss about 2.5cm (1in) thick and reaching about a third of the way up the sides. Press the moss into place with your fingers so that it is firm and of even thickness.
Place a piece of black polythene sheet inside the partly-lined basket so that it overlaps the sides all round. Stand the saucer in the middle of the lining, on the bottom of the basket, then cut four small holes in the polythene, round the edges of the saucer, for.
Add sufficient slightly damp hanging basket compost to reach almost to the edge of the moss lining, firming it gently into place with your hands.
Then make some slits in the polythene sheet at this level with the scissors to accommodate the first row of plants.
Remove some of the Helichrysum from their pots or planting strips. Then, taking care not to damage the roots, insert the rootballs through the sheet lining, from the outside, to be pressed down slightly into the compost. All plant growth should be on the outside of the basket.
PLANTING THE BASKET
Add more sphagnum moss to extend the outer lining two-thirds of the way up the basket, again making sure that it is firm and even. Make a new row of planting slits in the sheet lining at the top of this layer of moss, placing each of them half-way between two holes in the lower row.
Trowel in damp compost to the new level, firming it well around the roots of the bottom row of plants. Insert Verbena plants through the top row of slits in the polythene. Add more moss to line the basket to 2.5cm (1in) below the rim; trim the polythene to just below the top of the moss.
Add more compost to a level 2.5cm (1in) below the rim of the basket, smoothing and firming it gently with your hands. Put a row of
Helichrysum plants around the inside edge of the top of the basket, sloping slightly towards the outside and with the roots firmed in well.
Finally, snip off any pieces of plant growth that look untidy and any bits of polythene that show above the moss lining; water well.