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Pots and pots of basket cases; gardening.

Byline: Janice Casault

THERE are few shabbier sights than hanging baskets and tubs full of dead summer flowers. With September almost past it's time to fight back that nostalgic feeling and empty them on to the compost heap in readiness for a grand winter display!

For hanging baskets it is necessary to use a denser liner to protect the roots of the plant from freezing - that old sweater that is no longer worn would come in handy here or add a few sheets of newspaper to give added protection.

Use a good quality multi-purpose compost for hanging baskets as it is less heavy than soilbased compost when wet. To plant up, rest the base of the basket on top of a reasonably large pot so that any trailing plants hang down as you fill the basket. Place the liner into the basket and half fill with compost. Gently push smaller plants from the outside through the gaps in the side of the basket taking care not to damage their roots.

Top up with compost, firming it as you work up the basket, adding plants, placing them alternatively to the ones below. Round off the top of the basket with one larger central plant and working outwards with smaller plants.

For completion top off with moss weaving it around the plants gently firming as you go. Hang the basket into position and water thoroughly.

Many summer flowering baskets are overflowing with different varieties of colourful blooms, however why not consider using either a single species or one main colour, which gives as much, if not more impact?

The brilliant autumnal fruits of Gaultheria procumbens (formerly known as Pernettya) almost glow against its dark, shiny foliage and look superb in a hanging basket. , with an overall height of four to six inches. Once winter has finished plant them up in the front of a border where they will form a carpet of colour for the following year. As they prefer natural to acid soil, use a peat-based compost and work in plenty of peat into the soil before situating in the garden.

If, like me, you are partial to heathers, by careful selection from the many cultivators of Erica carnea with different flowering periods, you can have colour from November right through to April. Interplant the basket with dwarf Irises or the narcissus Tete a Tete for an absolutely splendid show. Alpines look particularly attractive in baskets, sedum spathulifolium 'purpureum' forms a tight mound of burgundy rosettes. Companion plant with sempervivum tectorum (houseleek) and sedum spurium, which will tumble over the top of the basket.

If aromatic plants appeal, fill your baskets with varieties of thymus (thyme), which is low growing and evergreen. Hang near to a door and you will have one of the most delicious herbs at hand to pick throughout the winter to add to any number of culinary delights.

For tubs and container planting, use soil-based compost if you are going to plant more 'permanent' shrubs, firming it well to ensure good contact between the compost and the inside of the pot, especially if terracotta is used. Skimmia japonica 'rubella', makes for a beautiful outer display, bearing clusters of blood-red buds that burst into white, red-anthered flowers in early spring. If you prefer a berried skimmia, choose 'reevesiana' which does not need an additional male plant in order for it to produce berries.

Of course, the ever-popular winter flowering pansies, early flowering primroses and cyclamen are still firm favourites for winter colour. Remember to dead-head the former for continuous blooms.

Pay a visit to the garden centre, where you will find a range of baskets, tubs, containers, shrubs and winter bedding to choose from. Whatever you select, planted baskets and tubs bring much needed vitality and sparkle into the garden.


GET LINING Get your winter hanging baskets at the ready.
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 29, 2001
Previous Article:Top tips; gardening.
Next Article:Uncle's Royal bungle.

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