Gardening

Splendour of hanging potted plants

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Hanging plants at Plants Galore, in Nairobi on August 4, 2021. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

In Bansi Shah’s garden in Nairobi, hanging baskets are a feature adding colour and charm to her city space.

“I love hanging plants. They add a lot of character to a garden,” she says. Her blooming baskets, made from plastic bowls and metal– are hanging on trees or on metal stands strategically positioned.

“Hanging plants are just beautiful to look at and to look after,” Ms Shah says, adding that the secret to having a stunning overhead garden is in choosing plants “that flower and have nice leaves.”

Her suspended gardens carry Fuschia’s, Bromeliads, Tradescantia with the red and green leaves, the rose type Tradescantia, the Flaming vine, Lipstick plant, the Portulacas, whose flowers open in the sun and close in the dark, the famous pink-green Wondering Jew, the Fish hook, String of Hearts and Peperomia among many others. All of these require zero landscaping.

“If the baskets look good, so do the plants. I like baskets with longer chains. They hang well and are effortlessly elegant,” she says.

Plant positioning is also key. If they rejoice under the sun, let them bask in it and if they prefer shade, let them glory underneath it.

Besides metal and plastic baskets, one can also use hanging planters made from other materials.

“We make hanging baskets from palm, sisal, milulu grass (a reed-like swamp grass) and banana fibres,” Deborah Kemunto, founder of Baskets Kenya says.

“The natural look of the materials makes the baskets aesthetically pleasing outdoors.”

Baskets from Baskets Kenya range from Sh200 to Sh3,000 depending on the size.

To make a hanging basket for yourself, Ms Shah offers this advice. “Don’t overfill your baskets with soil. Three-quarters of the height of the basket is enough. Secondly, choose appropriate plants and water three times a week or as the climate dictates to avoid over and under-watering.”

With the ever-increasing space constraints, hanging baskets are a perfect solution to gardening in small spaces.

Celia Hardy of Plants Galore Garden Centre shares tips on how to plant and care for a hanging basket for a brilliant display.

A fantastic hanging basket begins with finding the perfect container.

For a modern feel, choose one with metal frames and if you are going for an earthy look, woven one. Line the container with a shading net and a blanket.

According to Ms Hardy, the blanket holds the soil and keeps moisture locked in, while the shading net is for beauty. The bigger the basket, the better since smaller baskets equals frequent watering. Ensure your hanging basket has a sturdy hook. A macramé plant hanger is a trendy alternative.

Old gumboots, plastic pots can be hanging containers if they have proper drainage because still waters in plants lead to root rot.

For your hanging basket, use a high-quality potting mix.

“You can make your own potting soil by mixing red soil, bone meal, manure and compost. Bone meal is a slow-release fertiliser made using cow and goat bones,” she explains.

Use it often and your plants will reward your effort with numerous blooms and vigorous, plush growth. If the soil makes the basket is too heavy, coco peat and vermiculate are great lightweight soil substitutes.

The location of the basket determines plant choice. For a full sun hanging basket, plant the showy geraniums, versatile lantanas and bright portulacas or herbs like parsley, thyme and oregano.

For the classic spider plant, Devil’s Ivy and the Boston fern, hang in shaded. Choose plants with roots that fit your basket size comfortably when the plant is fully grown. The right flowers will turn your garden into a butterfly haven.

To build a hanging basket, put a layer of soil in the basket and pad it down to make a firm foundation. Place your desired plants on this base and fill the basket with soil. Water it before hanging it up for all to see. As to how many plants are ideal for one basket,

“Be creative and play around with the plants,” Ms Hardy says.

However, it’s advisable to mix plants with different flowering seasons so that your basket looks prim all year round. An empty hanging basket is no fun.

A good combination of herbs can be strawberries, parsley and thyme, while flowers, petunias, violas and lobelias are ideal candidates for a lofty perch.

Aftercare

Full sun hanging baskets should be watered daily when the weather is hot and once every three days when it’s cooler. Indoor hanging baskets should be watered when necessary. Set plants down during watering until they’re fully drained.

“Begin feeding your hanging baskets with fertiliser six weeks after planting them. You can feed them using bone meal,” Ms Hardy shares.

Additionally, you can use rabbit or worm pee. There are super-rich fertilisers that are eco-friendly thus wonderful for plants.

Most herbs will last six to 12 months before they die out and a fresh planting is required. Prune your flowers for fresh growth, repotting to a larger basket if necessary.

If well-cared for, an open-air extravaganza is the only expected result.