Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Beautiful Hanging Baskets Start with Smart Planting

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Beautiful Hanging Baskets Start with Smart Planting

Article excerpt

For such sweet-looking things, hanging baskets can be demanding divas.

Restricted to small pots and hung in the drying air, their plants often require far more attention to maintain their looks than flowers planted in the ground.

But Pete Kern and Pamela Crawford believe gorgeous baskets are within anyone's reach, if you start with smart planting.

Kern's Florist and Greenhouse in Springfield Township, Ohio, creates the eye-catching baskets that line Akron area roadways. Ms. Crawford is a noted container gardening expert from Canton, Ga., who has written a series of books on the subject and designed planters for the garden supplier Kinsman Co.

We asked Mr. Kern and Ms. Crawford for their best tips on creating hanging baskets. Here's what we learned.

BIGGER IS BETTER

Ms. Crawford insists she developed her planting methods by learning from her many mistakes, and one of the earliest of those was using baskets that were too small.

For one thing, small baskets don't hold enough water, she said. For another, they lack room for the roots to grow large, so the plants can't live as long. Flowers in small baskets will peter out before the growing season ends, she said.

The smallest basket in the line she designed for Kinsman is 14 inches in diameter.

Keep in mind, however, that a larger basket can be heavy when it's filled with plants and well-watered soil. Consider whether you're going to have to lift the basket to care for it, and whether the spot where it will hang can handle the load.

Whatever basket you choose, make sure it has a drainage hole. Some also have attached saucers to catch overflow.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT PLANTS

Your basket will be only as beautiful as the plants you choose. There's much to consider -- bloom color, foliage color, texture, growth habit and the plants' mature size, among other factors.

Mr. Kern and Ms. Crawford suggested starting with the most basic question: How much sun will the basket get?

Plant tags tell you whether a plant prefers full sun (more than six hours of sunlight a day), part sun or part shade (three to six hours) or full shade (less than three hours). Narrow the field by considering only plants that meet the sun requirement of the basket's site.

Luckily for gardeners, growers have developed many plants that tolerate both sun and shade, Ms. Crawford noted. That's especially helpful in a situation such as a west-facing porch, where the basket is shaded most of the day but blasted by hot sun in the late afternoon.

ADD ARTISTRY

Next comes the task of choosing plants that create a pleasing arrangement, and that takes a bit of artistic sense.

Ms. Crawford said she starts by choosing a taller plant to go in the center of the basket -- "something that completely dazzles me," she said -- and then looks for two or three more types of plants to surround that centerpiece. …

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