Monday, March 28, 2011

How Many Is Enough?

Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food, and medicine to the soul.
~Luther Burbank, 1849-1926

Did you ever wonder how many plants it takes to create those full, overflowing, lush flowering baskets of annuals that you see hanging from the lamp posts on your local Main street?

This is basket week at the municipal greenhouse where I volunteer. We are planting thousands of plants in large wire and moss baskets that will eventually beautify lamp posts near and far on city streets. Just look at them…rows and rows of moss baskets. The baskets I planted today are destined to beautify Safeco Field in Seattle…home of our Mariners baseball team.

The pot pictured below is 20 inches (51 cm) in diameter. In it I have placed 20 plugs of differing but all cascading varieties of annuals. I have planted them in two offset circles, so as the plants closer to the center cascade they won’t completely cover the plant at the edge. In the center is a Begonia ‘bonfire’ which is upright but will also hang over as the stems lengthen.

At the greenhouse we plant ‘plugs’. As you can see below they are quite small but well rooted and used more in commercial applications because of volume and cost. At your local nursery you’ll find annuals often in ‘basket stuffer’ sizes, usually 2 inch (5 cm) pots. Even at that size you can still get 20 in this pot. Make sure to read the label and get everything in trailing or cascading varieties. Trailing lobelia, verbena, lotus vine, trailing begonia, calibrachoa, petunia, diascia, ivy geranium are all great for hanging pots. Something upright in the center will add height. Make sure all the plants you choose have the same light needs and are specified on the plant’s tags. If your basket is going to be in full sun be sure all the plants are labeled for full sun.

The brown plastic tubing lying in the pot is a part of the watering system Safeco Field uses. You definitely want to get that in place from the very beginning before the plants start to fill out if you are going to use a watering system like that.

Baskets need more attention to watering. Since they are made of wire and a mossy liner which allows more air flow and being suspended in the air and wind, they will dry out faster than terracotta or plastic pots. In mid summer, on a sunny, hot day you may need to water them two times a day.

Organic fertilizers are slow release naturally, so mixing in a handful of granular organic fertilizer before you put in your plants should feed your basket for 3-4 months. If you feel it needs a boost after 3 months or so you’ll want to switch to a liquid organic fertilizer, using every few weeks. Organic dry fertilizers need to be mixed into the soil, not just sprinkled on top. It will be too hard to mix in a dry type with all the plants and you don’t want to damage the lovely jumble of vines.

So now that your plants are in, all you need is sun, warmth, water and fertilizer and you too can have a beautiful, full hanging basket of colorful annuals this summer.

In Bloom In My Garden Today: Muscari (Grape Hyacinths), Hyacinths, Tulipa turkistanica, Corylopsis veitch (Winter Hazel), Hepatica, Daffodil, primrose (double English), Heleborus, Bellis perennis (English daisy), violet primrose

Author’s photos


Debra said...

I'd love to make my own hanging basket this year and your post was so inspiring. 20 plants won't crowd each other will they?

Joan said...

Hi Debra,
Yes 20 plants will be crowded but that's how they get those full flowing baskets. They are annuals so you'll not get more than the summer out of them anyway. Being crowded is why they'll need fertilizer, perhaps alot. At the greenhouse they get fertilized every time they get watered and are sent away with a slow release fertilizer for the rest of the summer. Glad to have inspired you! Thanks for reading.

Joan said...

ps, Debra...20 plants of the 2 inch pot size should do well providing your pot is deep enough, not shallow bowl like. If you can only find annuals in 4 inch pots you could probably do with 15.

Shari B. (FitFeat) said...

Wow no wonder they charge so much for those pre-planted pots at the garden center! I had no idea it took so many!

How fun to know that your planters will be at Safeco!

Joan said...

Hi Shari! Yes, lots of plants and alot of time at the nursery getting care makes them costly. But oh how beautiful they are. I may just have to go to a game or two to see how they are doing this summer!

Cindy said...

So I FINALLY can see your pictures!

I've been here a bunch of times and they wouldn't load.

YAY and you've been busy!!!

I wish we lived closer I'd have you over for tea and bug you for some garden help!


Joan said...

Hi Cindy,
that happens to me too are fuzzy or won't load.

It would be great to live closer, I agree but we can have virtual tea and you can ask questions here or email me! I'm having a cuppa now, so ask away! Cheers!