A Perfect Recipe for Summer
Written by Ingrid Hoff
My family doesn’t know it but every year they get me an early Mother’s Day gift. I buy a collection of fun and colourful annual basket stuffers (called that because they are just the right size to stuff into a basket) and build myself a hanging basket. Then when summer is just starting to heat up, I have the whole summer to fall in love with it daily. I thank them every year for the gift, albeit very quietly. The fun part is every year I make up a new colour combination, and often go outside my comfort range to try something new and even edgy (although anything in the red spectrum is edgy in my world). If I end not liking it (hasn’t happened yet) well, then next year I can go back to something more familiar. Last year I mixed purple and coral expecting to be shocked, but it was sooooo… good. No matter how crazy I think I’m going to go this year I always follow a bit of a “recipe” to make sure I produce something stunning. Think of it as a recipe for summer, just planted in spring.
Sun versus Shade - it's very important to know where you are putting your basket before you do anything else. Does your site have six hours of direct sunlight? Or is it not really going to get much direct sunlight at all? If you choose your plants right then they will grow happily for you all season long without you having to do much but sit back and admire your handiwork. So, decide whether you have full sun, full shade or something in between and then choose your plants accordingly.
Pot Size - how many plants you need to fill your basket will depend on the size of said basket. A fairly standard size of plastic hanging basket is 12” in diameter and would be perfect for five plants, a 16” basket would be good with seven plants. If you are ambitious and want to do a moss basket then obviously you would need more to plant in the sides of the wire basket. Try to think of the same spacing as with the regular plastic baskets only over the entire surface.
Odd Numbers – you’ll notice that when we increased the size of the pot the plant numbers went from five plants to seven, we skipped six. That is because when planting always think in odd numbers. It’s a design trick that odd numbers are more visually pleasing.
Spillers, Fillers, and a Stunner – for a standard 12” hanging basket I often just go with a collection of spillers and fillers (which is just to say plants that trail/cascade and plants that grow to fill in the spaces). But with a bigger hanging basket I sometimes like to put one central stunner right in the middle. Something to add a little wow factor like a fancy leaf geranium for a sun basket (‘Crystal Palace Gem’ and ‘Vancouver Centennial’ are my favourites), or for shade a big-leaf coleus or bold tuberous begonia.
Keep it Simple – another design trick is to try and limit your plant selection. It obviously depends on your basket size but try to limit it to no more than 3-4 different types of plants. Then just keep repeating them. So, if you can have five plants don’t get five different plants, get two of one, two of another and one more.
Don’t Forget Food, annuals are like teenage boys, always hungry. In fact, if they could up-root themselves and go get the fertilizer they might. Give yourself a break on remembering to apply fertilizer all summer and add some GARDENWORKS 14-14-14 slow release Hanging Basket Fertilizer to the soil when you plant your basket up. As the weather warms up and the plants start getting hungry the fertilizer will release when you water and you will have happy, full and glorious plants.
Here are a few suggestions to get you started on planting up a 12” basket. Put one plant in the centre and then evenly space the other four plants around the outside. If you have a larger basket then simply add more plants (but don’t forget to keep your numbers odd).
- 2 million bells (Calibrachoa) - like miniature petunias, try one in a coral pink colour, like ‘Coral Sun’
- 2 verbena – either in a complimentary coral ‘Peachy Keen’ or a bit spicier like red ‘Iced Cherry’
- 1 creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) – vibrant chartreuse foliage, who needs flowers?!
- 2 Petunia – in a sweet bubblegum pink colour such as Suptertunia Visa ‘Bubblegum’
- 2 million bells – in a deep maroon/cherry purple, such as ‘Pomegranate Punch’ or ‘Sweet Chimes Red Wine’
- 1 silver nickel vine (Dichondra argentea) – the silver foliage is the perfect colour compliment
- 2 begonia - ‘Glowing Embers’ is my favourite but ‘Firewing’ and ‘Bonfire’ are also stunning.
- 2 Ipomoea (sweet potato vine) – the chartreuse leaves of ‘Marguerite’ will almost glow in the shade.
- 1 Coleus – any of them, seriously I want them all, their amazing leaves equals flowers not needed.
- 2 Lobelia – in a trailing blue, they will become a frothy cloud of blue.
- 2 Fuchsia – I really like ‘Swingtime’ but really any of the trailing varieties would be lovely.
- 1 Bacopa – the pure white flowers are the perfect compliment.
I could go on and on thinking of amazing colour combinations and fun recipes but the point is that you need to make one that is uniquely you. So, it’s time to head on down to your nearest GARDENWORKS and check out all the basket stuffers. They are grouped according to sun versus shade, so you can be confident to choose one that will work for your situation. Then start dreaming of your perfect recipe for summer joy and start planting.