Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Perennials
Hanging Wire Baskets
by Kim Haworth
Ferns planted in sphagnum will last many years. Violas and alyssum add color until the ferns fill in.
The purpose of planting with moss in wire baskets is to have plants growing on all sides of the container. Balls, pillars, and wreaths are common forms of sphagnum moss plantings. Succulents are very popular to grow in moss because they don't mind drying out between waterings.
To create your own hanging basket, first you need the plants. I recently put together a simple basket with several 4-inch ferns, a cell pack of violas and one of alyssum, some lobelia for color, and some cuttings of a rabbits paw fern (Polypodium aureum) that a friend had given me. The plants you select should have the same growing requirements. Impatiens work very well for this project.
Second, you need moss. Sphagnum moss is actually the living top layer of a sphagnum bog. (Peat moss is dead residue beneath the live layer and is harvested and used as a soil amendment.) Sphagnum is available in small bales, if you can find them. The bales will expand into quite a lot of moss and are more economical than buying bags of loose moss.
Third, you need a basket. You can purchase specially made baskets and topiaries, or use "found" baskets. If you find an interesting basket but the wire is spaced too far apart to use as a planter, you can add some extra wire.
Planting the Basket
Here's the method I used recently to plant a basket. I soaked the moss in a bucket, set the plants around my work area, opened a new bag of potting soil and went to work. I alternated layers of moss, plants, soil, and moss again and again until we reached the top of the wire basket, finishing with an alyssum and moss.
One tip when planting in wire baskets: The instructions on the bag of moss say to insert your plants from the outside in, root first, through the wire opening. I have found it much easier to bundle up the foliage and insert the leaves through the wire, from the inside out. This way you don't have to disturb the roots to squeeze them through those little holes. It is much less damaging if leaves poke through several openings, especially ferns and other plants with tender foliage.
photography by Kim Haworth