George says: Plant a hanging basket

When I worked for the Evening Standard in London, our offices were opposite Kensington Church Street. At the other end of Kensington Church Street - at the Notting Hill end - was a restaurant called Kensington Place, which was a favourite lunch venue for Standard hacks. (Those were the days ...)
On the way to Kensington Place, you passed the Churchill Arms pub, which has to be London's most beautiful hostelry. It's shut at the moment, of course, but normally it has the most spectacular display of hanging baskets I have ever seen. I always had to be dragged past it by colleagues who were less horticulturally obsessed.
I love hanging baskets, but I am useless at looking after them. I once bought one of those gadgets that raise and lower them so you can water them more easily, but even that didn't help.
However, this year I have no excuse. I have all the time in the world to water, and even though my garden is shut to visitors, I can enjoy my hanging baskets and so can my neighbours. So I'm going to follow George Blackwell's advice and see if I can rival the Churchill Arms.

Gorgeous rainbow colours with descending elegant trails  – that's the beauty of baskets. 
First, to enjoy a summer of colour with your hanging baskets, there are choices to be made. Do you want to have a wire basket, or a plastic, or even wooden type?
Will you line the inside with moss, or add fibre mat or a plastic insert?
Then you need to consider your colour scheme. Will it be a basket of mixed annuals or a single colour basket of one choice variety?
Whatever you choose, the compost to use is 50% general compost and 50% John Innes number three which has a high base fertilizer content. 
 I like to use moss and before I line the basket, I go through it to remove any bits of stick etc. Put a nice thick coating around the rim of the basket, because this will allow for shrinkage during the season. Then pour in the compost and press against the moss wall of the basket. 
Now it's planting time. Whatever your choice of plants, put five into the basket, with one placed in the middle and four around it in a circle.  
Place the basket on top of a large flower pot (which will provide a stable base) in a sunny area, water well and let the plants begin to establish before hanging up. 
During the season, be sure to water on a regular basis. If you allow it to dry out, this will shrink the compost and harm the plants. It will also create a gap between the moss and the compost, which means that any water will run straight through and not be taken up by the compost. 
When the compost is full of roots, feed with a high nitrogen fertilizer (such as Miracle-Gro all-purpose plant food or Maxicrop seaweed extract) every time you water to maintain continuous flowering. 
When planting mixed baskets, it is advisable not to use small shrubby plants, as these will take the nutrients from your annuals.

Plants to use 
Petunia 'Surfinia', all colours 
Trailing fuchsias (the single types tend to produce more flowers) 
Begonias, such as 'Apricot Shades' 
Impatiens, available in mixed colours 
Calibrachoa 'Million Bells' 
Bacopa blue and white 
Be proud of your baskets - they'll put on a glorious show.


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