ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN
Other plants besides petunias can be used to create stunning hanging baskets. Here fibrous begonias put on a colourful display.
Inspiration comes to us in many different ways. We attend open gardens during the summer and glean ideas from other people’s gardens.
Trailing petunias, like this coral beauty, create giant balls of colour. (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)
Here several large hanging baskets of petunias have been used to create a unique display in a public space. (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)
We wander through public gardens, such as I did two weeks ago when I was in Winnipeg and took advantage of the trip to visit the English Garden in Assiniboine Park.
If you are like me, just taking a walk around the block, whether here at home or in the city, will bring me face-to-face with some unfamiliar plants or fresh ideas. I photograph or file away these new ideas in my mental memory bank for future reference.
One inspirational idea that I have encountered several times this year is the use of large hanging baskets of petunias — full to overflowing with brilliant petunia flowers that just seem to go on and on, blooming throughout the entire growing season.
I marvel at the size of some of the baskets used by towns and cities in their streetscaping. They are immense and pack such a visual impact that they are all that is needed to add colour and beauty to the urban landscape during the summer.
Although few private gardens can accommodate such huge baskets, the smaller versions are equally as stunning and more in scale to the size of the ordinary garden.
What I have noticed over the course of the last couple of years is that more and more gardeners are adding such baskets to their gardens, creating stunning focal points. These baskets sometimes are hung in the usual location — under the eaves of houses — but increasingly I have noticed their being used in flower borders or other locations in the landscape.
Quite a number of gardeners use short shepherd’s hooks to display large hanging baskets in just about every location you can think of in their gardens. One great advantage of these baskets hung on shepherd’s hooks is that they can be moved from one location to another very easily.
If a bare spot develops in a border, a basket on a hook can be placed to fill in the spot, adding brilliant colour to an otherwise nondescript spot. Even placed on a turf area, such a basket is quite stunning.
Although in days past the petunia most commonly used in such baskets was the Wave petunia, plant hybridizers have developed quite a number of new trailing petunias varieties, many of which are more compact than the Wave types, which makes them better suited to the smaller sized baskets that home gardeners might use.
I have grown the "Ramblin’" variety and found they trailed down about 60 centimetres and were quite a bit earlier to bloom than the Wave types. "Avalanche", another recent trailing petunia introduction, is similar in size.
Hybridizers are also continually improving the Wave series, with "Tidal Wave" and "Easy Wave" both having more a compact growth habit than the original wave — plus, they flower weeks ahead of the original Waves.
Petunias, including these various trailing varieties, come in a wide range of colours, from the deepest purple through lavender and lilac to rose and pink, peach and white, as well as red and salmon, plus many shades in between. My preference is a huge basket planted to a single colour but I also have admired various colour combinations in baskets I have seen.
Although there are other plants used in large hanging baskets on streetscapes, including the ever-popular dragon wing begonia, I still think petunias give the biggest bang for the buck. They bloom non-stop all summer until fall frost cuts them down — and they will even survive the first light fall frosts with little damage.
Some garden centres still have a few hanging baskets on hand. If you think your landscape might benefit from the addition of a large hanging basket of petunias, get a short shepherd’s hook, select a hanging basket that suits your taste, and try one in your garden.
Move the basket around until you find the perfect spot for it — or continue to move it here and there in the garden to add new life and interest as the summer progresses.
A large petunia hanging basket is indeed a beautiful thing.
Albert Parsons is a consultant for garden design and landscaping who lives in Minnedosa.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 19, 2012