Think inside the box: Make your own flower boxes, hanging baskets
Gardening doesn't only have to happen on the ground. There are many ways to bring color to windows and porches with flower boxes and hanging baskets.
The first step to putting together a box or basket is to determine what kind of sunlight is available. Some plants don't do well in shade, while others may not survive intense, summer heat.
Kate Annichiarico, owner of Mount Williams Greenhouses in North Adams, Mass., suggests incorporating a few different colored flowers with ones that will hang down, such as a combination of begonias and impatiens or million bells.
"Geraniums are easy for sunny spots," she said. "A sweet potato vine will hang down and you can pair that with million bells."
For shaded areas, there's not much plant variety, Annichiarico said, but a little creativity can still make a statement. Foliage plants that do well in shade include perennials like English ivy and periwinkle, or New Guinea, pansy, silver bells and fuchsia for flowering plants.
A fairly new technique for hanging plants is a vertical bag with T-shape slots that hold the plants and can be watered from the top down. The bags often hold petunias, herbs, impatiens, begonias, verbena, pansies and trailing lobelia.
"People aren't crazy about them," she said. "You can hang them at any level, sunny or shady. But, it's too late to get them started."
Ed Maroney, owner of Willy's Variety Store in Bennington, Vt., uses flower bags to line the fences on his home property.
"Impatiens will do well in the bag," Maroney said. "I'm at the end of the road, so I often see people catch an eye of [flowers on the fence] and hit the curb before they turn because they keep looking."
Maroney said it is common for people to let their hanging baskets dry out, especially with the hot weather at the end of July. Even with rain, it's important to make sure baskets and boxes are watered twice a day to get it soaked and allow it to drain through the holes at the bottom.
"People will go to work all day and come home and [the baskets] dried out during the day," he said. "You can get them to come back eventually, but they have to get watered. You can do yellow tomatoes or tumbling toms. If you like cherry tomatoes, they'll go all summer long."
Even though it's not typical for vegetables to be grown in baskets or boxes, Maroney has a basket someone gave him with two heavy cucumbers hanging from it.
"I figured it would just weigh it down and snap the branches," he said. "The guy wanted to do something new. It's just too heavy."
Larger vegetables and tomatoes should be planted in pots on the ground for ideal turnout.
Other options that Annichiarico suggested for baskets and boxes include plants with leafy textures alternated with bright-colored flowers and foliage house plants, like Boston ferns. She also said to check with where you're buying the plants and soil from if you decide to make your own basket or box. Some garden staff know more than others.
Maintaining the buds is part of the process as well, Maroney said. Some plants will have buds that stop flowering and they need to be picked or cut off to extend the overall life of the plant.
"The big baskets have so much foliage," he said. "They suck up so much water and you need to feed them, as well and dead head them, like petunias. Keep picking the dead buds off, otherwise it will stop flowering."
—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.
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