This article was originally published on the web at however that website is defunct at July 2013. The copyright remains with the original author.

Baskets - Mixed Planting

Though you have no doubt already planted up your fuchsia baskets a little while ago, in preparation for entering them in a show, a few mixed baskets around the house make a nice change too. Variety is the spice of life! You can still use fuchsias of course, as they will complement and be complemented by other types of trailing plants very nicely.

Now is a good time to plant up, after all we have all seen how forced-on early baskets suffered badly in cold early June winds and didn't last the summer out either. You can use small plugs, bedding strips etc, but if you do desire a more immediate impact 'jumbo' plugs and potted plants can be used, though it will increase the cost considerably too!

  1. Stand round-bottomed baskets on an upturned plant pot to give it stability while planting. Clay pots are particularly suitable as they are heavier, especially when wetted, giving even more stability.
  2. Insert a liner to hold in the compost and prevent it from drying out too quickly. A wide variety of commercial produced liners are now readily available or make your own. A very simple, efficient (and cheap) way is to use an old compost bag. Cut out a large circle and make slits at regular intervals to about halfway through This will then fit the shape of the basket and enable you to insert plug plants through the sides - the key factor to having a well shaped mixed basket. Alternatively you can still use moss, though now harder to come by. Either on its own or, the preferred way, on the outside of the plastic liner. It doesn't really matter what you use as after a few weeks a good basket is after all completely covered with greenery and blooms!
  3. Make some drainage holes. Do not pierce the very bottom, but start a few inches up to create a kind of reservoir to aid watering. You can also add an old plant pot saucer for this.
  4. Add some compost up to the level of your first layer of planting to cover the sides. Peat-based compost is preferred as it is lighter. Add slow-release fertiliser and perhaps some water retaining gel.
  5. Insert the small plants through the sides. Take care to avoid damage by protecting the plantlets by wrapping the foliage in card or stiff plastic folded in cone shape . Insert (protected) head first from the inside and voilĂ  no damage done to rootball or topgrowth
  6. Continue to build up the sides with moss, if using this, add more compost and plant more rows of plantlets through the sides . Don't be mean - it takes a lot of them to get a real impact!
  7. When the sides have been completed, fill to the top with compost and fill in with plants, an outer layer of trailing plants to make it look fuller, and some taller plants in the middle to give added height and interest.
  8. Keep the basket in a frost-free place. It is a good policy though to put them outside on warm days as soon as possible to become acclimatized to the 'rough' outdoors and also to prevent drawn growth. Do remember to bring them in again at night though. Late spring is a very tricky time. The often brilliant bright days, can so easily lull us into a false sense of security, forgetting that the clear skies often also bring sharp frosts at night. Beware!!

The last few years we have seen quite a change in the availability of plants. Numerous varieties are nowadays widely available and well worth experimenting with (after all there is more to gardening than growing fuchsias!) The good old trailing lobelias, if not allowed to dry out, are still hard to beat for impact at low cost. However several newer subjects have been introduced lately. Some, like the rather vigorous, surfina and million bells petunias need to be used with care, otherwise they all too easily swamp other subjects. These, and pendulous begonias, impatiens and ivy-leaved geraniums, like fuchsias of course, lend themselves particularly well to having a whole basket all to themselves.

For the mixed baskets I have particularly liked the look of oxalis, with its attractive foliage and golden dainty golden yellow flowers, produced en masse, the equally free-flowering bacopa (Sutera) Snowflake, and impatiens (Super Elfin) for planting in the bottom layers. Petunias (Mirage Reflections), ivy leaved geraniums, and fuchsias, of course, are recommended for the top, with maybe a taller zonal pelargonium or a triphylla like Thalia in the centre. But have some fun yourself experimenting!

Wonderful though single subject baskets are, mixed baskets hold interest over a very long season and can be just as spectacular. Well worth growing.