You’ve probably noticed that my garden lust is generally fulfilled by regular food gardening flings and that I’m tantalized by trees. I’m also passionate about perennials and have an endless desire for deer proof plants, but every year during May, I am amorous for annuals! Yes, those trollops of the garden, flaunting incredible though short-lived beauty, I just can’t resist them, no matter how I try! I will (try to) place the blame for my shameless yearning on my employers at the garden centre, they tempt me by filling the greenhouses with such succulent splendour that I succumb, quivering with delight at the bountiful beauty laid before me. Okay, enough with the alliteration. The practical side of me DOES feel a little silly, poring over flats of bedding annuals and basket stuffers that I KNOW will be consigned to the compost at the end of the summer, but I’ve long since abandoned any sense of embarrassment at the depths of my horticultural passion – why bother? Very early this spring on one of my preliminary visits to the garden centre I discovered some new and very beautiful wire baskets that had just arrived with the new spring hardware. I have been on the lookout for a couple of big baskets to hang from my covered patio and these certainly fit the bill, being very large, skookum and uniquely wrought. I scooped a pair without even asking the price, brought them home and hung them in my greenhouse to wait for basket planting season.
I soon realized that these enormous baskets wouldn’t hang on the small hooks I had installed over my patio, so I had to buy a pair of sturdy wrought iron brackets, wide enough to accommodate the baskets plus some volume of plant material. The costs were beginning to mount, but at least these outlays will continue to pay off for years, unlike what I plan to put into the baskets! Fortunately, because I was able to overwinter all of my geraniums in my new greenhouse instead of having them crammed together under a grow light in the garage, I had some nice big plants in full bloom to pop into the center of my enormous baskets. I also seeded a flat of dwarf sweet peas, which will hopefully provide colour and fragrance for a minimal cost. This has kept my basket stuffer costs down to a dull roar, but I certainly had to invest in a few beauties to provide diversity in colour and form. Basket stuffers I bought included: • Calibrachoa in purple, red and yellow • Blue Bacopa •Pink and white Verbena • Supertunia ‘Priscilla’ for its lovely double purple veined fragrant blooms • Light purple Osteospermum •Nemesia ‘Pearl’, and a couple of foliage plants To the lightweight potting mix I added alfalfa pellets, bone meal and some 14-14-14 slow release fertilizer( which isn’t organic, but I’m not planning to eat anything in the baskets, so I’m okay with it). I hope I am organized enough to provide regular lashings of a water-soluble fertilizer as well, over the hot summer months these baskets will require regular watering, which tends to wash nutrients away and the sheer volume of plants within a small basin of soil also demands extra nutrition.
Usually, by late summer I start to fade in my dedication to fertilization, after all, they are just annuals, destined for the compost in a few months… Except that I will want to save the geraniums and I’ve also had good luck getting some other ‘annuals’ to overwinter with protection. Many of the plants sold as bedding annuals are actually perennial, just not in our climate! Most likely I will pop the baskets into my greenhouse come fall and see what survives.
I hope my big baskets will become a riot of colour and scent with a bit of a cottage garden feel to them, which isn’t really the style of my garden, but that’s what I felt like doing this year and somehow the baskets themselves suit that style. That’s the beauty of annuals – next year I can go in a completely different direction if I so choose.