Garden Dirt: Plants add life to baskets, containers
By Mimi Saenz - Victoria County Master GardenerEdited by Charla Borchers Leon
Oct. 4, 2012 at 5:04 a.m.
Fall is the best time of the year to plant, but it's also the beginning of the big holiday decorating season. Many of us drag out years' worth of the same old silk arrangements.
If you'd like to try a different approach to decorating that incorporates live plants that can be enjoyed year-round, why not try your hand at making plant baskets?
Plants are arranged
Plant basket arrangements are made by placing potted plants in a basket or container then covering around the edges and between spaces to conceal gaps, thereby disguising the fact that the plants have been arranged. Nothing is ever buried in the ground so all plants look fresh, as if they've been growing in one spot for some time. Since these pairings are usually temporary, unusual arrangements can be made.
Many gardeners pair plants in containers and baskets for various reasons.
1. Versatility - Whatever the occasion, plants of different seasons and of different growing needs may be paired together on a short-term basis;
2. Less stress to plants than in-ground planting - When plants are separated from soil, roots are stressed causing them to wilt or even die;
3. Less mess - Since plants are not removed from their original pots there's no need to scatter soil or to dirty hands.
Plants are also allowed to be restored by moving them around your house and yard to different locations so there is more plant bang for your buck. They last longer than cut-flower arrangements, and can also be broken down as easily as they were put together and given as parting gifts or prizes.
Guidelines for making plant arrangements
As with any arrangement of items, certain guidelines may be followed to allow for maximum visual stimulus. There are no diehard rules for making plant basket arrangements. There are some simple topics to consider in advance when planning an arrangement. Refer to the list included with this article.
Start your own
After reading these suggestions and giving it some thought, you can start your own plant arranging. Use your imagination in putting them together in a favorite container.
Mix and match plants
It's easy to create looks just like those in the gardening magazines, and since nothing is permanent, you can mix and match plants as you wish until you get the look you want.
You may want to start with a long-lasting plant basket, which can literally be a woven basket, or use plastic, terra cotta or concrete containers. Magazines like to surprise readers with unusual containers such as sinks, tires, washtubs or even boots. Anything goes.
Combine evergreens and annuals
Use a combination of perennial "evergreen" plants, such as houseplants (usually indoor or patio, low light to medium shade green plants) and annuals (usually bright-blooming, in-season plants).
The evergreens will always give you a base of color, even if it is green, but the annuals will give that pop of color. Since annuals grow, bloom and die all in one season, they will have to be replaced more frequently than the evergreens.
If you're not sure of a good houseplant to use, inquire at a nursery, or if you'd like to do some online research, NASA has a site that lists plants that are not only hardy, but that are good oxygen-producers, therefore better for the environment. Look on-line for the NASA Clean Air Study or at cleanairgardening.com/houseplants.
Line container, arrange
After deciding on a container and plants you'd like to use, line the container if needed so there won't be any spills when watering.
Arrange the potted plants as desired, taking into account plant height (tallest plants should be in the middle if this will be used as a centerpiece, or arranged to one side if it will be against a back drop).
After all have been arranged, cover the gaps and overlap around the edges using sphagnum moss, mulch or rocks. Sphagnum moss holds up better indoors while mulch and rocks look more realistic in an outdoor environment. You are done.
Remember, though, to place the container in a location where the plants will receive the correct amount and type of light and to water them as required by each plant.
The hardest and most time-consuming part of creating plant baskets is deciding which plants to use. As stated before, there are no rules to creating these arrangements except to let your imagination run wild.
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.