Baskets of colour
Don't be a snob about hanging baskets, says Marie Staunton -- they'll boost your garden no end
There is a lot of snobbery that goes along with certain aspects of gardening and it seems that the humble hanging basket comes in for a bit of bashing.
Now, I'm the sort of person who relishes colour in the garden, and whether it be in the form of a hanging basket or a pot filled to the brim, I'm a happy camper.
Hanging baskets that aren't stuffed to the brim with plants can look a bit sad, so cheat a bit and put in a few herbs to fill them out.
All supermarkets sell pots of herbs for about €2, and they will add aroma to your display.
Auntie Kathleen down in Enniscorthy used to win prizes for her baskets. A bit of good-natured competition will always make for more interesting plant choices.
Cherry tomatoes with a few petunias is a great combination. If you add in a basil plant, then you will have the taste of summer right there.
The main consideration for achieving a long and healthy supply of flowers from your basket has to be water, water and more water, plus lots of food -- without those two ingredients, the whole thing will look miserable.
Using water-retaining gel or granules and slow-release fertiliser will help enormously.
The granules aren't a substitute for daily watering; they're more of a safeguard.
If you use too many, then the plants will appear to leap out of the baskets as the gel swells, so don't be over generous with them.
There is a compost with built-in water-retaining gel on the market, so that might suit you better and it might work out a bit cheaper in the long run.
Just a word of warning if you are lifting bags of compost: they can be pretty heavy when the compost is wet, so be sensible when lifting them and get a bit of help when you are taking them out of the car.
Hanging baskets should be filled with compost, but not right up to the top, otherwise, the compost will spill out everywhere when you go to water them.
Height in the centre of the basket can be achieved with a geranium or a fuchsia; then just pack in lobelia, Petunia 'Surfinia' and a few herbs. I love becopa, nemesia and little bedding verbena for an old- fashioned look.
Ready-made basket displays can be found in nearly every garden centre for that instant summer look if time isn't on your side.
At this time of the year, the garden should be filling up with colour, and if you can pack the plants in then the weeds will look less conspicuous -- you know me, I like the idea of less weeding and more time to sit down with a good book.
I'm all on for cheap and cheerful and bedding. Begonias flower from now to the first frosts, so keep them in mind as fillers in your borders.
Cosmos can sometimes be overlooked in favour of the more standard summer-flowering annuals, but since these beautifully bright, daisy-like flowers float above delicate fern-like foliage, they can look really impressive.
Should you be heading off on holidays soon, I would be inclined to dead-head the geraniums so that they don't waste all their energy flowering away when you are otherwise engaged, relaxing, hopefully, by some gorgeous pool in foreign parts.
Salvia and phlox benefit from a hair cut in early July to guarantee a long flowering season, so don't be afraid to get the shears out and take them back by a third for a second showing of flowers this year.