Thursday 8 December 2016

A feast of colour

Marie Staunton

Published 14/05/2011 | 05:00

This is the time of the year when the urge to plant up window boxes and hanging baskets takes hold. The risk of a late frost is over and many garden centres are full to the brim with an array of colourful bedding plants that will excite and delight.

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I love planting up hanging baskets, and I tend to use Mediterranean colours such as reds, oranges and cerise pinks -- a blaze of hot colours to get the pulse racing.

Putting together a planting scheme is a very personal thing and it's almost a reflection of your own personality, so with that in mind, I will give some plant options to suit just about everyone.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to planting up baskets for the summer; all that is required is some good compost, a slow-release fertiliser and lots and lots of lovely summer plants.

If you have a garden hose then invest in an arm attachment for it, so you won't be over-stretching to water at a height. They get quite heavy as the season goes on, so position the hanging basket at a height that is comfortable for you to water.

Now, for the exciting bit. As I mentioned, I like combinations of hot colours so I will be using lots of lovely upright and trailing petunias in red alongside orange and red pelargoniums. I also like to put in flat-leaf parsley for that fresh green colour -- two or three small pots of parsley will do the trick

Put a large geranium at the centre of the basket -- this will give height to your display. Put in enough plants to cover every bit of the compost and this will insure a wonderfully colourful hanging basket that will last for the whole summer.

For those of you who love to cook, how about an aromatic basket, using sage as the centre plant?

There are lots of choices when it comes to using sage: the gold variegated one is really lovely; the common sage is probably the best one for aspiring chefs as it adds a fantastic peppery kick to pork dishes and it's a great addition to any stuffing.

Use parsley, thyme and oregano as the fillers and sunny nasturtium as your trailing plants. Everything can be used in the kitchen -- the nasturtium flowers give an otherwise boring salad a touch of class.

Herbs are fantastic for using in marinades and for infusing oils, so position the basket close to the kitchen and enjoy fresh herbs as you need them.

I like to make my hanging baskets earn their keep, so with that in mind how about mixing a little cherry tomato plant with upright and trailing petunias to give you the best of both worlds? A friend of mind uses white petunias and they act as a great foil for the sweet cherry tomatoes.

Add some basil plants to give a bit of contrast -- the end result looks beautifully simple, takes up little space and, of course, there will be a ready supply of juicy tomatoes towards the end of the summer.

For a bit of romance, use delicate pink petunias, both upright and trailing, a little dwarf white lavender mixed with pelargoniums -- choose the ones with the scented leaves and, on a summer evening, you will be treated to the most wonderful fragrance.

The secret of a successful hanging basket display is to pack in the plants. They will be small to start but, as the weeks pass, they turn into a feast of colour and scent.

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