Burnett: Extend the life of a hanging basket

Gardening columnist Don Burnett offers gardening tips.

What do you do with a hanging basket once it has finished its duties of providing colour and beauty to your outdoor environment?

Why not turn it into a winter masterpiece by using easy to find materials that likely won’t cost a penny.

Cleaning up the old basket or planter is a simple matter of cutting off the plant material to the soil surface with hand pruners leaving the root system intact.

One of the advantages of using a previously planted container is the remaining root mass provides a good anchor to hold the greens firmly in place.

One of the enjoyable activities when creating your work of art is searching out the materials to use.

Don’t hesitate to think out of the box when doing this because quite often something as simple as a twig will look great when combined with other materials.

The main thing is to gather as much variety as possible to have a nice assorted pallet to choose from once you get started.

There is a tendency to lose focus if the process is broken up into segments by looking around for things to use.

Look for a variety of textures and colours taking larger pieces if possible; it’s easy to cut these into smaller pieces rather than trying to make a small piece larger.

Gathering these materials can often be accomplished in one’s own yard.

Sometimes, a hunting expedition around the neighbourhood is in order but before you start pruning the neighbour’s trees and shrubs it is imperative that permission is given. Stick to large plants that won’t miss a snippet or two.

A nice selection may consist of Gold Coast juniper, Oregon grape, blue spruce, rhododendron foliage, hemlock, filbert, pyracantha, maiden grass plumes and curly willow or filbert branches.

Once you have your materials arranged and your prepared basket is placed at a nice working height you can begin to create.

You can start just about anywhere but don’t think too much about it or it just seems to get too complicated.

I believe starting with a crown at the top perhaps with some golden juniper makes sense.

The key to avoiding a busy look is to have something repeating throughout the piece such as Oregon grape.

Some colourful and rigid blue spruce can be cut into smaller pieces and used as fillers.

Work your way downward to give it the cascading look of a hanging basket using rhododendron and hemlock foliage.

Always be careful your enthusiasm doesn’t take over to the point of sticking in more and more materials.

Take frequent short breaks to re-group your thoughts. Keep in mind an important creed of the accomplished jazz musician— it’s not just the notes played but the spaces in between the notes that are so important in a melody. Place some pyracantha clusters here and there and finish it off with a few sprigs of curly willow or filbert branches.

This is a project that is easy, inexpensive and fun and I’m sure it will rival the pleasure you have each year decorating the Christmas tree.


Tune in to The Don Burnett Garden Show on AM 1150 Saturday mornings from 8 to 10 a.m.



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