Daphne Ledward, Garden Planner, Gardener, Author and Broadcaster



It takes a long time to teach an old dog new tricks, but it can be done. Take hanging baskets, for instance.

For years I’ve planted my pansies, forget-me-nots and daisies for spring colour in solid-sided baskets as I found the plants could suffer badly in wire ones in a bad winter. The secret, I discovered, was to choose baskets as attractive as their contents, then if the plants didn’t take over entirely there was still something good to look at.

Solid baskets have improved tremendously in recent years from the basic plastic-plant-pot-type-on-a-hanger. Natural finishes like wicker and other woven materials combine well with the plants they contain, and styles have deviated so widely from the standard round basin shape that sometimes I wonder if they can really do they job they’re supposed to do. Pockets of stagnant or bone dry compost that may occur in a conch shell or long, conical basket will do nothing to improve the welfare of the plants therein, but, nevertheless, they’re fashionable, and new styles are always worth experimenting with.

Above all, though, they’re all so easy to plant up. They why on Earth have I continued to struggle with my old, out-of-shape wire baskets that saw better days many seasons ago? Maybe it was the challenge of squeezing little plantlets through orifices they were never meant to encounter. Or maybe there was an element of masochism in the annual struggle with liners and old saucers to conserve water.

This week – my week for tackling my summer hanging baskets – I finally saw the light. Did I really need to wrestle to create traditional plantings when I could make life so much easier for myself by going ‘modern’?

I planted twenty-seven baskets of various sizes and styles in two afternoons, using half the number of plants and effecting a considerable saving on liners. They are now settling themselves down in the greenhouse, and although I say it myself, they look as good as ever.

Meanwhile, the Fen Bank Greyhound Sanctuary charity shop is soon to be the proud recipient of a huge collection of rusty wire receptacles – they have been warned.

Daphne Ledward

This piece originally appeared in the Spalding Guardian