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This article was originally published on the web at myweb.tiscali.co.uk/fuchsias/ however that website is defunct at July 2013. The copyright remains with the original author.

Baskets & Hanging Pots - Fuchsias

BASKET CULTIVATION allows plants to be viewed at eye-level, from their best angle.

CRITERIA

  • The centre and the top of the basket should be filled with growth, this to continue over the edges, cascading down to at least the depth of the basket, covering it completely.
  • Uniform growth, clean foliage and an abundance of flowers according to variety must be evenly distributed from the crown onwards down to the tips of the trailing branches. You ought to avoid the 'bald head', where active growth (and flowers) is present only on the trailing growing tips, but the top of the basket is bare. It is however acknowledged that some cultivars only produce flowers on the end of the branches. As typical growth of that cultivar, this is not considered a cultural fault and therefore will not be down pointed. Plant growth should still fill the centre and top of the basket though.
  • Baskets are to be top planted only with one or more fuchsias.
  • For show purposes baskets must be commercially produced as hanging baskets and of open mesh construction. The top to be circular in shape, size and depth to comply with show schedule. A recent change has been to allow flat bottoms, solid bases and straight sides.
  • To be viewed from the top and sides only, displayed in an elevated position. The basket itself should not be visible when viewed at eye level.

METHOD AND CARE

With fuchsia baskets you have to bear in mind that different cultivars grow and mature at different rates. Using several different cultivars in one basket could result in an uneven and unbalanced look. It is far better therefore to stick to just one cultivar per basket though you can use as many plants as you like.

It is common practice to plant up baskets in early spring, by placing five or seven plants (ex 3½" pots grown on from autumn or winter cuttings and having been stopped at least twice) in a 12",14" or 16" basket. One is placed in the centre and the others evenly spaced around the edge. Use trailing varieties and place them at a slight angle to encourage them to cascade over the edge.

Shaping (pinching out at every two or three pairs of leaves), watering and feeding should be attended to regularly. Take good care to be particularly careful with watering in the early stages, when there is such a large quantity of compost in proportion to the still small volume or roots. Loam based compost is too heavy for baskets so use a good quality peat based potting compost, complimented with horticultural grit, vermiculite or perlite to aid drainage, some slow release fertiliser and water retaining granules. Water retention is also aided by lining the basket with polythene and piercing drainage holes a couple of inches up, not at the very bottom to create just a little reservoir. Fuchsias, like most plants, do not like to have their feet permanently sat in water, so do not overdo it and ensure you make adequate drainage holes further up.

The best position for baskets varies depending on what you put into them. Some plants are quite happy on sun baked walls, but many, and this includes fuchsias in my opinion, prefer a semi-shaded position and even do well on the north side. Much easier on the watering too! Avoid windy corners. Drying winds do a lot of damage to young plants and also make the baskets dry out far too quickly. Remember that regular watering and feeding is essential during summer months and be especially careful on windy days, this dries baskets out just as much as sunshine.

HANDY HINTS

  • Don't put the centre plant in straightaway, but grow separately for a while, stopping at the same time of course. This helps the airflow.
  • To gain height at the top, the centre plant can initially also be stopped and shaped like a bush plant
  • On planting up the basket remove some of the lower leaves so they won't lie on the wet surface compost and risk being caught by botrytis.
  • Remove some of the larger leaves from the middle of the basket to allow better air circulation, again trying to prevent botrytis (the biggest problem in basket growing) striking.
  • Though the basket will be completely covered eventually, in the early stages the sun beating down on the bare polythene lining can burn the roots. Hence an extra outer lining of moss, fibre or netting is advisable if basket are situated in a very sunny position.
  • If a little late with planting up, or just to experiment, it is well worth trying to 'squeeze' even more plants into the top of your basket. Good care must be taken though to avoid the dreaded botrytis setting in!

HANGING POTS, being smaller, are more manageable than baskets - so important with space for growing and transporting at a premium.

CRITERIA

  • Growth should fill the centre and top and cascade over the edge to at least the depth of the container so it is completely hidden.
  • Healthy foliage and an abundance of flowers should be evenly distributed from the crown to the end of the trailing branches.
  • Top planting only but more than one plant may be used.
  • For show purposes hanging pots must be commercially produced. As such, ordinary plant pots with hangers are prohibited.
  • Any colour is allowed, though I recommend you avoid white.
  • Hanging pots must have solid sides and consult your show schedule for specified size, this can vary from society to society. At our local show i.e. we have a class for a 165mm hanging pot (approx. imperial equivalent 6½") for the novices and another class in the members only section for 216mm (approx. imperial equivalent 8½")
  • Exhibits to be viewed from the top and sides when displayed in an elevated position, with container not visible when viewed at eye level.

METHOD AND CARE

Fuchsias used for hanging pots should be in good proportion to the pot, preferably having small or medium flowers. Cultivars should be of trailing or lax habit, self-branching plants are the easiest to use for this purpose. Aim for a balanced ball-shape, growth filling the centre and top of the hanging pot and cascading over the edge to at least the depth of the pot.

Choose early spring cuttings, autumn cuttings or 2nd year plants. Plant up in final container during April or May. Loam based compost is too heavy so use a good quality peat based potting compost, complimented with horticultural grit, vermiculite or perlite to aid drainage, some slow release fertiliser and water retaining granules

Shaping (pinching out at every two or three pairs of leaves), watering and feeding should be attended to regularly.

IMPORTANT WARNINGS

  • Make sure you remove the saucer that is attached to the pot, to assist drainage, otherwise roots could be permanently stood in water and the plant die. Replace when taking to the Show.
  • If growing hanging pots high up in the roof area of your greenhouse, please be aware that it gets really hot there and even if you are damping down the floor or benches the air remains relatively dry too. Hence ideal conditions for the dreaded red spider mite to thrive. Beware! The ideal solution would of course be to grow them somewhere else, like outside or in a shade house. However, if you can not leave your pots out maybe just taking them down during the hottest midday period, placing them on upturned pots on the floor would be beneficial.
  • Hanging pots being smaller might be more manageable than baskets, but especially when planted up with more than one plant can dry our rapidly. At the height of the growing season watering more than once a day can be necessary and this frequent watering can cause leaching of plant food.

RECOMMENDED VARIETIES

Everyone has their own favourites and for growing at home certainly just grow what you really like. Over the years it has been noticed that certain varieties that so many members of the public love to grow never get a look in onto the show benches. This is a great shame really, as members of the general public get a real thrill from recognising them as the ones they grow at home. (This, by the way, doesn't just apply to the basket/hanging pot classes, but to other classes too. Especially the hardy classes, where we tend to see the easy to conform to mushroom shaping cultivars like Mr. A. Hugget and Tom Thumb, while people are expecting to see the arching lovelies like Mrs. Popple and the Magellanicas.)

Other Top Ten basket favourites were Auntie Jinks, Border Queen, Daisy Bell, Derby Imp, Ernie Bromley, Harry Gray, Hermiena, Jack Shahan, La Campanella, Marinka, Multa, Pres. Margaret Sater, Shelford, Susan Green, Swingtime. It is especially good to see gold old Marinka, nearly a century old now still holding its own!

So, if you want to be a winner, you ought to consider those. But, over the years some really stunning baskets have been produced with less popular cultivars and those baskets (and hanging pots) have always ended up being the real much talked about show stoppers, so it can pay to be different too.

Varieties falling into this category were triphyllas such as Trumpeter, Leverhulme & Chantry Park, the colourful, variegated Tom West, Brutus, Devonshire Dumpling, Waveney Sunrise, Cascade, Lillian Annetts and Sir Matt Busby.

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