How to create your own ball of flowers

A colourful hanging basket
A colourful hanging basket

SOUTHSEA GREEN: With Irene Strange

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Why not have a great ball of colourful flowers hanging in the garden this summer?

It’s quite easy to do – all you need is a 16-inch diameter hanging basket suspended on a firmly fixed bracket, or a flat-backed one which fits on to a wall.

I saw an expert on television showing how a ball of flowers was made using two baskets, one on top of the other, with the plant roots shoved through the mesh.

I thought to myself ‘there’s no need for that, why break off all those wonderful roots? It can be done quite easily with just one basket.’

Here’s how. Place the basket on a bucket to stop it falling over and then line the basket with a layer of moss raked out of the lawn, or a liner made from a peat bag with cross-shaped cuts in the polythene to get the leaves through the liner.

The main thing is to be able to plant the lobelia and petunia foliage through the sides of the mesh as well as on the top.

If a black plastic polythene liner is used, you won’t be able to see the black plastic in a month’s time.

Once the liner is in position, put in a double handful of compost. Any potting compost will be okay. If you’d like to add some water-retaining crystals to the compost, make sure they’re mixed in well before putting the compost into the basket.

These crystals are quite helpful to keep the compost moist during the hot weather as they absorb a lot of water, which is then released into the compost when it becomes dry.

Near the base of the basket place three plants and gently work the foliage, not the roots, through the liner and mesh.

Add more compost so that the first lot of roots are covered, then place another five F1 hybrid petunias through the mesh and then almost fill to the top with compost.

Plant only five more petunias in the top and, to complete the job, place a ring of roofing felt two inches wide all round the inside of the rim.

This is so that when you water, the water will stay in the compost and not rush all over the edge.

Firm the compost. We don’t usually do this with loamless composts, but it’s important to do this in hanging baskets as the volume of compost decreases all summer.

This is one of the causes of failure as the small amount of compost dries out too rapidly.

Place a bucket on the ground underneath the ball of flowers so that when the basket is watered, the surplus will fall into the bucket and can be used again.

If you’re still celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, remember the Royal Standard colours are red, white, blue, silver, purple and gold.

A wonderful combination!