Long before vertical gardening became a buzzword, hanging baskets were a practical means for not only drawing the eye upward but also creating more planting room when space is limited.
Along the way, someone discovered a fun means for creating a 360 view of the basket’s beautiful bounty by planting not only from the top of it but from its sides as well. That way, you get to enjoy the basket even if you’re standing or sitting underneath it.
At the Atlanta Botanical Garden, horticulturist Amanda Campbell Bennett has been using the technique for years, creating lush, rounded centerpieces suspended from the ceilings of arbors and gazebos.
The planting concept is much like a strawberry pot, plugging the rootballs of small plants horizontally into the sides of the container, then adding a layer of soil before adding more plants, building a palette of color as you move upward.
Trailing plants, such as petunias, scaveola and lantana, work best, but others respond well, too, including asparagus fern, begonias, even some types of tomatoes and herbs.
Here’s what Amanda recommends:
- Using a strong metal basket—preferably the strongest you can afford because the weight of wet soil can get heavy—assemble the planting by hanging the basket on something low, such as a sawhorse or porch railing, for easy access.
- Line the basket with a moss mat, sphagnum moss or cocoa liner, and add a layer of soil-less (lightweight) potting mix, several inches thick.
- Using a sharp utensil, such as a knife or pruners, make a slit in the liner just below the soil line that’s large enough for inserting the rootball of a plant yet small enough for holding it in place.
- Secure the plant, then repeat with other plants around the perimeter of the basket, spacing them adequately apart.
- Sprinkle a slow-release granular fertilizer on top of the soil and add another layer of soil. Then, repeat the planting process around the basket with another layer of plants.
- Once you’ve completed the highest layer, add one final layer of soil and plant the top of the basket.
- For a fun vertical touch, include a vine in the center than can be trained to grow up the chain from which the basket is suspended.
- Like most container gardens, a basket needs watering practically every day.
- Use a watering wand for reaching it, water both the sides and the top until the water drips from the base.