How to Grow Hanging Flower Baskets and Window Flower Boxes
Container Gardening Ideas
Window flower boxes, tubs, and similar gardening containers for planting should, if possible have a number ofholes in the bottom. Each hole is carefully covered with a piece of broken flower pot (crock) and then the whole of the base is covered with about an inch deep of small stones or crocks. Over this place a layer of turf, coarse moss, peat, or dead leaves. Then fill up with John Innes Compost No. 2.
Hanging Flower Baskets and Window Flower Boxes
Take the compost to about an inch below the rim — many people make the mistake of filling right to the top, which makes watering difficult. A suitable tray containing a layer of pebbles, placed under the box, is a help to drainage. Some experts suggest leaving the container for a week 5 for the compost to settle before planting. I think that is unrealistic; the majority of people — including me — can’t wait to put the plants in at once!
When planting, remember that an informal effect is better than a regimented one which results from placing plants in rows. Obviously tall plants need to be at the back or sides, and shorter or trailing ones at the front and sometimes the sides. I find it useful to arrange the plants experimentally before removing them from their individual pots. By standing back and walking around I can achieve an appearance which is balanced and effective both from indoors and out. After planting I like to give the container a top covering of peat, pebbles, Forest Bark, or small stones to act as a mulch and prevent too much evaporation; this treatment gives a smart, neat finish to the container at the same time. Now give the planting a really good watering with a can which has a fine rose. Take the water right over the foliage to freshen it and wash away anywhich may be adhering. Do this in shade, for the sun’s rays on wet leaves may damage them.
I like to have a number ofcoming along as seasonal replacements to bring into prominent positions when others finish flowering. An alternative is to fill permanent garden containers with compost, Forest Bark and use this simply as a means of supporting plants in pots, which can be replaced as and when necessary. If the whole thing is kept watered and the plants given an occasional feed you will find they romp away in the idyllic conditions of constant humidity coming up around them from the compost. Indeed, more often than not when the pots are removed, the plants will be found to have rooted out through the hole in the bottom of the pot and into the compost.
Care of the Plants
Regular removal of dead flowerheads before a plant can set its seed is important for a long flowering season in all containers, and I always do this job at the same time as watering. Dead, dying, or insect-nibbled foliage should also be removed, as should any any dead wood. Window flower boxes containing bulbs which have finished flowering are best moved out of vision until the foliage dies down; it is important to leave the foliage on, as it feeds up the bulb for the following year.
Perennials should be cut back, and divided if necessary, in the autumn. Geraniums andshould be either moved in their containers to a light, airy, and frost-free place before the frosts come, or else lifted and replanted in suitable pots. But if you do not have room indoors for a number of large plants, you can gently prune back the roots and cut back the plants. In late winter or early spring new growth will quickly get under way. By feeding all winter, a geranium will probably flower all winter indoors.
I put most of my indoor hanging flower baskets, window flower boxes, etc. out of doors when there is any light, warm rain in spring, summer, or autumn. This is a marvellous wash and pick-me-up. I even put out collections which are growing together, and single plants which have no drainage holes in their containers. It generally takes rain some time to penetrate any depth, and by then I will have brought them in again. If it rains so hard that a plant is standing in a puddle of water, which really is too much, I simply lay the container on its side to drain for an hour or two. The only disadvantage of this whole system (or perhaps I should say advantage) is that it usually stops raining as soon as I have taken everything outside!
Watering Your Plants in Containers
Many gardeners are concerned about the danger of over-watering plants growing in containers. This frightens many inexperienced people into erring so far in the other direction that their plants die of dehydration, or take so long to recover from the enforced thirst that they never make more than puny specimens with a half-starved look. With experience you get the feel of the thing, learning the signs a plant gives to let you know when it is dying for a drink, such as lightly flagging foliage and drooping. The soil or compost feels dry to the touch; when you tap a pot it ‘rings’ rather than gives off a dull thudding sound. Dig your finger into the compost just under the surface to test how dry or damp it is – this is my favourite method. When a little water is poured on, very dry earth or compost will make a soft crackling sound which you can hear if you listen carefully, and this is a very good indication that watering is required.
Plants need a great deal of water when they are growing well, and in warm conditions. Watering everything perhaps once a week is not a good system, for the requirements of each plant differ according to the time of the year, its state of growth, and so on. Watering large garden containers can be a problem in spells when the earth has really dried out and water poured on the surface tends to run straight off. One solution is to sink one or more pieces of pipe or tubing vertically into the soil, or use a slim plastic bottle, with the bottom cut away, in the same manner. Water is poured down the tubes or into the bottle, and so penetrates to where it is needed, at root level. The device can usually be disguised with bits of moss, pebbles, or something similar, if the plants are not sufficiently big to cover it from view. There are also many useful automatic watering systems available, ideal when plants under cover of balconies etc. have to be left during holidays and other absences from home.
When the weather is warm and dry, an overhead spraying is appreciated by most plants, particularly on their foliage, for it creates humidity as well as removing dust, freshening the colours, and generally livening everything up. It is amazing how dirty plants can get outdoors, in particular if they are near a drive or the road. I sometimes use an ordinary watering can with the rose in place, as this provides both a spray and an ordinary watering at the same time, but more effective is a small mist spray which can be held in one hand. The spray is fine enough to be directed exactly where you want it. Spraying also discourages that scourge of plants in dry sheltered places, the red spider.
If you find that flowers have flagged very badly, perhaps on a very warm day, first water them well (even if the sun is beating down) then cover the whole container, flowers and all with a double sheet of damp newspaper. Cover the newspaper with a sheet of lightweight polythene, which prevents the damp paper drying out. This treatment provides the plants with a moist atmosphere to revive them, and also keeps off the worst of the sun. Remove the polythene and newspaper in the cool of the evening or the following morning.
Putting Your Indoor Containers Outside
Lots of indoor container plants find it a bit of a treat to be put outside for a ‘summer holiday’, after the risk of late frosts is past. Round about early June I put many of my indoor plants out into window flower boxes, tubs, hanging flower baskets, or other garden containers. Indoor plants can be planted directly into the containers or else plunged into large containers still in their own pots, the space between being filled with gravel. I find they usually thrive and make a good show. Colours and leaf patterns become brighter and livelier, and the plants will often burst into bloom for the first time. In fact, they seem to generally enjoy themselves. This can certainly be a tonic for a slightly ailing plant. If possible, select a sheltered, warm, slightly shady position for it. Make a daily check on plants in outdoor containers for watering and signs of greenfly and other pests.
Indoor plants, which I have found greatly benefit from a refreshing spell outside during the summer months, are all kinds of geraniums (pelargoniums), bilbergia, ferns (placed in a very shady border), ivies, the kangaroo vine (cissus), aspidistra, pittosporum, grape ivy (Rhoicissus rhomboidea), mother-of-thousands (Saxifraga stolonifera, or S. sarmentosa), streptocarpus – a broken leaf will root in a shady border, campanula isophylla, plectranthus, pilea, fatshedera, aphelandra, aechmea, and Dracaena marginata tricolor. Keep an eye on them, and if they show the slightest sign of discomfort bring them indoors again.