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Garden magic in baskets.

Ground covers create living liners for baskets and hayracks

* For years Sunset's garden staff lined hanging baskets with dry sphagnum moss. When coco-fiber inserts became available, we switched to those. Then last spring, Bud Stuckey, our test garden coordinator, began experimenting with living plant materials. He used a variety of ground covers to form leafy liners for wire basket frames. Then he filled the baskets with potting soil and planted seasonal flowers, ferns, and succulents. He discovered that the living liners worked instant magic on hanging baskets, freestanding baskets, half baskets, and hayrack planters.

The ground cover--lined baskets are very easy to assemble. The secret is to start with a mudflat (a nursery flat with no dividers) of one of the ground covers from our list below, left. The roots of these plants form well-knit carpets that fill the flat. Carefully cut to fit baskets, they make nearly seamless liners. Hang the baskets in partial shade. With regular water and minimal care, they will last for months.

Tropical basket

TIME: 30 minutes

COST: About $60

MATERIALS

* Knife

* One piece of cardboard or coco-fiber liner

* One 16-inch-wide wire half basket

* One mudflat (at least 16 by 16 inches) of baby's tears (shown) or other ground cover

* 1 cubic foot potting soil

* 1/4 cup organic fertilizer

* One 6-inch bird's nest fern (Asplenium nidus)

* Two 4-inch mother ferns (Asplenium bulbiferum)

* One sixpack pink polka-dot plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya)

* One sixpack violas

DIRECTIONS

1. Cut a piece of cardboard or coco-fiber liner to fit inside the flat back of a half basket (it will hang against a wall or other surface).

2. Set the flat back of the basket diagonally on the mudflat. With a knife, trim a top corner of the ground cover flush with the top of the basket (photo A).

3. Remove the ground cover from the flat (B) and set it inside the front of the basket with the leafy side facing out (C). The top edge of the ground cover should be flush with the top of the basket, and the bottom corner should fit into the bottom. Press the rest of the ground cover around the front of the basket.

4. Fill the basket 3/4 full with potting soil (D). Mix in 1/4 cup organic fertilizer.

5. Set the largest plant in the center of the basket (E), 4-inch plants on either side of it, and the sixpack-size plants around the edges. Fill around the plants with soil and water thoroughly.

6. Hang the basket in partial shade. Make sure the ground cover and the soil around the companion plants stay moist. Baby's tears and chamomile can be sheared if they get too bushy. The others don't take to shearing, but they can be patched or replanted if necessary.

FOR A ROUND BASKET, omit step 1 and work the ground cover all around the wire frame. Once the basket is hanging, rotate it regularly so light reaches all sides and foliage grows evenly.

FOR A HAYRACK, construction is similar to that of a half basket, but you'll need to place cardboard or coco-fiber liner against the back and very bottom of the hayrack (it will not get enough light to support lush growth). If the hayrack is more than 16 inches long, you'll need at least two mudflats of the same ground cover and will have to cut pieces to fit.

SOURCES

Mast local nurseries or garden centers stock wire basket frames, but you may have to ask them to order mudflats of ground covers. For a wide selection of wire baskets and hayracks, call Kinsman Company; (800) 733-4146 or www.kinsmangarden.com.

7 LIVING LINERS

* Baby's tears (Soleirolia soleirolii)

* Blue star creeper (Laurentia fluviatilis)

* Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)

* Creeping thyme (Thymus praecox articus 'Elfin')

* Irish moss (Arenaria verna or Sagina subulata)

* Scotch moss (A. verna 'Aurea' or S. subulata 'Aurea')

* Sedum spurium
COPYRIGHT 2001 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:gardening
Author:Swezey, Lauren Bonar
Publication:Sunset
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Apr 1, 2001
Words:646
Previous Article:Slightly bigger and even better.
Next Article:Friendly front garden.
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