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Hanging Gardens

Want to create a garden out of thin air?

Then consider having hanging gardens.

Since time immemorial people have raised hanging gardens –in whatever form they could. Indeed among the Seven Wonders of the World are king Nebuchadnezzar’s hanging gardens which grew in Babylon around 2500 BC. The gardens- a gift to his Persian wife – weren’t suspended like your typical hanging basket but rather spilled out from containers on a terraced hill.

The practice of hanging gardens was well established in ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt. Urban folks desiring to savour  and grow things up close  tended plants in raised pots and trailed them along walls and trellises.For both amateur and professional gardeners, the hanging basket presents an appealing prospect; to raise plants  at low cost  with minimal time input, and yet  still be able to  enjoy the glories of a lovely border  as the basket  spills forth  its treasures .

Though installing a basket may seem a simple, straight forward a fair to most people for the discerning gardener this is hardly the case.  Before hanging out any thing, you need to know the the purpose each basket is to serve and the space available.One question that should exercise your mind is, what design effect do you wish to create? Do you want a splash of colour to add some excitement to a dull spot? Are you out to screen out unsightly utilities like piping with colourful foliage or flowers? Or perhaps you want to soften the rugged finishing of the house?

Based on your specific need, move to assemble the desired materials. Galvanized steel baskets are the most common containers. However, any creative gardener will find a world of choices at his or her feet- cleaned paints cans, copper buckets and the ubiquitous plastic cans-as long as he/she can drill holes.

What do you need?

Once you have your container, you will need to get the plants, potting soil, lining for the baskets and hooks upon which you will hang the baskets eventually. In Nairobi,  the practice nowadays to use wire baskets that have been lined with reed and then painted or varnished.

In filling hanging baskets, soilless potting compost like coconut fibre, fir bark, sphagnum moss or organic compost is preferred. Charcoal is mostly used for orchids. These are preferred over ordinary garden soil because they are clean, light and easier to use. Besides they retain moisture and provide good aeration. Their main drawback is that unlike soil, they do not provide minerals. So regular feeding is necessary.

Line your container with perforated plastic sheeting to retain moisture and heat. Backfill halfway with compost. Insert the plants, adjusting where necessary to ensure that the whole basket appears well filled out and balanced. Backfill with more compost .Water the basket thoroughly. Let the plants settle in and hang the next day and then wait to enjoy the exubereance of a garden swirling from a chain

What to grow?

As with gardening enthusiasts, disagreements abounds as to which plants are the best and how many should be used per basket.  While three to six are considered reasonable, some people will use even ten plants, space allowing.  Of note is that the design principles of balance and unity used in ordinary landscaping still apply here. In addition place plants with similar requirements ( e.g. watering and light ) in same baskets.

The genera rule is to mix annuals and perennials in your basket. Annuals have bold flowers and they flower longer. However they fizzle out and this could leave you with a bare basket. Perennials will come in handy, with foliage filling out the gaps left by annuals, and coming into flower at their own appointed time-much to your surprise and delight.

How long should a basket last? Forever. Generally baskets are dynamic with stuff dying as new ones come up. Uproot any dead plants, and cut back those that overgrow.  Feed regularly with a balanced all purpose fertilizer every two weeks besides regularly adding more compost.

You can switch over your baskets to create a completely different look without acquiring new plants.

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