Monday, 17 November 2014

Hanging Basket Design Challenge

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to take part in a design task, along with a few other garden bloggers, to create a Summer hanging basket that could potentially go in to production.  This sounded like a good bit of fun and also turned my mind once more to thinking about options for next year’s planting schemes.  Right now I’m concentrating on plants being useful, however this may look, and I’m loving creams and whites, which I’ll be incorporating wherever possible.

The initial brief was as follows:

  • Create a mixed Summer hanging basket using plants from Plant Me Now and other sources
  • Baskets will be 30cm Rattan baskets, so no side planting
  • Try to keep it to 6 or 7 plants

Well, that sounded fairly simple and it certainly gave me scope to play around a bit. Then I had the inevitable child in a sweet shop moment. There were so many plants to choose from in the bedding range!  I decided that settling on a theme should narrow things down a little and that’s how my design came to be.  

I knew I wanted to incorporate a useful element to my basket and I also wanted to design something for people who may have limited growing space or perhaps people who want to venture in to the world of ‘Grow Your Own’.  In addition, I felt a fruit or vegetable option would add interest and likely help to differentiate my design from others that may focus solely on ornamentals.  In this instance I thought that a choice of tomatoes or strawberries would be best as they are both easily maintained in baskets and generally favoured by most people.  After searching for suitable choices I decided to utilise a Strawberry called ‘Sarian’.  This plant has a trailing nature and is well suited to growing in a basket.  

After deciding on incorporating strawberries I then turned my mind to flowers that could add interest across the whole Summer.  I wanted a colour that worked with both the ripe and unripe fruit and also something that could help me build a theme.  In my mind Strawberries go well with two things: cake or cream.  I couldn’t find many references to cake and so I decided on a theme of ‘Strawberries and Cream’.  I chose Begonia ‘SuperCascade Vanilla Cream’ as this fitted the brief in both habit and name.   

Given that both these plants are trailing I thought that some vertical height may be necessary, although the simple and limited palette above should give plenty of interest.  Again focusing on the desire for the basket to be useful I chose to use Sage, in this case I opted for Salvia officinalis ‘Icterina’.  I always have Sage close to the house as I use it in almost every dish I make and it will also prove useful in this situation given that it’s a Mediterranean herb and therefore will be useful in times when water is in short supply.  I also like the bright green/gold colours in this plant and I think it will help to set off the darker foliage of the Strawberries and Begonias.

And so we have it, my ‘Strawberries and Cream’ dual-purpose hanging basket.  Simple but useful, I hope.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Of morning walks and first years produce

Frosted Nettles last week in my garden
Each morning I dutifully traipse out to the garden, wellies on and bleary-eyed looking like an even more confused and concerning Milton Jones.  Trust me I don’t do this for fun at this time of year but to see to the animals and check all is well in my world.   My lazy fashions have moved with the seasons from shorts to pyjamas and more recently to jeans, which will invariably lead to me breaking out more weatherproof attire given that the first frosts have kindly silvered my half-awake morning follies.

The first growing season in my new home is over and despite only being here a matter of months I think it’s been a fairly productive venture.  I have produced a decent haul of vegetables, fruits and salads and my first folly in to meat production remains underway with more posts to come on that in good time.  Suffice to say that the productive garden is now in it’s final throws.  The greenhouse is ready for a deep clean and it’s only animal resident, Trevor the tortoise, is now set for his long and peaceful hibernation, although a safe place is yet to be found.

I like this time of year.  It’s the time of year to look ahead and formulate a plan.  I do love a plan! 

Next week I’ll take delivery of a new hen house, which will mean the laying flock will move and their old shed dismantled and burned.  This will make way for the new and improved vegetable garden, something I’ve been waiting to sink my teeth in to since I moved here.  This is the next large project on my list and will see the vegetable garden more than triple in size ensuring a large and varied harvest next year and the flexibility to grow new things that I’ve been unable to grow in previous gardens and on my allotment plots.  Pumpkins, permanent crops and the weird and wonderful are all on the list along with a large cut-flower garden and an orchard.  As discussed in previous posts I’ll be using a no-dig method to establish each bed with the addition of cardboard, compost, straw and manure to what is now largely lawn.  I’m open to trying a few methods here so suggestions are welcomed and I’ll be happy to report back on my findings. 

This years hatch of Speckled Sussex and Brahma chickens
Next week, the hens I hatched this year will move in with the laying flock to bolster numbers and make up for the eggs not forthcoming from some of the older ladies and the meat birds will move on to grow in a new pen for fattening up.  At present the majority of the laying flock are moulting heavily and are in need of some TLC, so along with promises of a new home they're also being treated with lashings of poultry spice and other goodies added to their food and they’re being wormed, which any decent chicken keeper will tell you is an essential task in preventing illness or loss of condition.  You can find more information here on worming your hens.   Earlier in the week the lovely Issy from Fennel & Fern also wrote a similar post, which you may wish to take a peek at here: Porridge for chickens.

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