Delight of hanging baskets

Placing the basket on a bucket makes a good support around which to work
Placing the basket on a bucket makes a good support around which to work
Image: Julia Smith

It was great fun playing toktokkie as a child. We’d knock on a neighbour’s door and then quickly run away.

In huge delight, we’d watch from the shadows as the person who opened the door, would close it with great irritation upon finding no-one there.

Well, a couple of hundred years back, on the first day of spring, a similar game played with hanging baskets was a romantic affair.

After dark, potential suitors would tiptoe to hang a basket of flowers on their fancy’s front door, and then hastily run away.

In the case of the girl being the object of romantic intention, should she see the boy before he darted off, he would be disgraced.

However, if a young girl was spotted on the doorstep basket in hand, she would be in luck, as the boy would chase after her.

It was to his dishonour if he did not catch her.

This ritual has long since died, but the delight of hanging baskets lives on.

Today we are inspired by picturesque scenes of hanging baskets adorning buildings where there is no garden frontage, and suspended from poles and trees and underneath lampshades in city streets.

As hanging baskets are like mini gardens, they are ideal for bringing colour and greenery to restricted areas. If you are hanging a number of them in the same area, do make sure that they are linked in some way with similar plants and colouring.

My success with hanging baskets has taken a bit of trial and error.

The most important factor is that they cannot be allowed to dry out.

You will need:

A hanging basket with coir lining

Plastic garbage bin liner

A pair of scissors

Liquid manure

Bone meal


A garden trowel

Choose plants for their attractiveness .

Make sure they enjoy the same growing conditions.

You will need plants that will drape over the sides of the basket: alyssum, petunia million bells, erigeron, lobelia and ivy pelargonium are suggestions.

They should also be plants that will bring continual colour: begonias, petunias (Daddy petunias have the best draping quality), pansies and marigolds.

And there should be a central plant: a zonal pelargonium or fuchsia.

How to start:

It is best if you rest the basket on an empty bucket to support it, allowing you to workaround it easily and ensuring all spaces are filled in satisfactorily.

Spread out the black plastic bin liner on the table top.

Remove the coir lining from the basket and lay it on the plastic.

If the coir holds its inverted bowl shape and cannot lie flat, allow an extra 10cm to the edge of the circle when you cut around it.

Slit about six to eight holes at regular intervals in the plastic circle to allow for drainage.

Fit the circle inside the coirlining.

Attach it firmly to the coir using a stapler.

Once filled with soil, trim off any edges that stand proud of the coir.

Make a soil mix with compost, about two handfuls of vermiculite (to lighten the soil),a handful of bone meal and an organic fertiliser such as StarkeAyres 3:1:5.

Fill the basket about ¾ full with soil.

Place your central plant in first, then firm the soil around it.

Place the “draping ” plants around the edges at equal distances.

Add the petunias and smaller annuals in between the central plant and trailing plants.

Water the plants thoroughly.

Hang the basket on a bracket.

You will mostly likely find these at your local hardware store or nursery.

I prefer to hang the basket at a height which makes it easy to water and to take care of ailing plants, or within reach from a reasonable height when standing on a ladder.

Caring for the plants in the hanging basket:

Water the basket once a week, preferably in the early morning or late afternoon.

 In warmer weather you may need to water it every day.

Feed it with liquid manure(such as Seagro) every two weeks .

Remove the dead flowers to increase the proliferation of flowers .

Sometimes stems become leggy.

Cut them off and keep trimming the trailing flowering plants to keep the basket looking neat.(Erigeron, alyssum and lobelias respond well to a good trimming).

Another option as an alternative to a traditional hanging basket is to fill an old colander using the instructions above.

Plant it up with herbs you use in minimal quantities such as thyme, chives, oregano, parsley and basil, hanging it outside the kitchen door for easy access .

On a visit to Babylonstoren outside Stellenbosch, I noticed the gardener had grown strawberries in a number of large hanging baskets.

The advice is to grow them in full sun where they should produce fruit for at least three years.

Take care not to overfill the basket, planting just three plants in an average-sized basket.

They need frequent watering, but avoid getting the fruit wet.

Do not use artificial hydrating products to keep the soil moist




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