A reassessment is in order, not so much of the garden, as the gardener. If you'd asked...ooh, a year ago, "Are you a person who welcomes hanging baskets?" you'd have seen a flinch of pain and a headshake. How twee! How surburban! How very...not Proper Gardening!
Now I have an inkling of Sean Connery's probable sense of abashment when he ended up in Never Say Never Again, because, well, You Never Know.
Last year I received two two Easy Fill Hanging Baskets, Incredicompost, and 30 Garden Ready Begonia Apricot Illumination, courtesy of Van Meuwen. Not only would this be my first experience of hanging baskets, but it was only my second run-in with begonias - plants which really didn't perform well for me a few years ago. Still, nothing loath, I planted them up when the begonias arrived in May. Nice healthy plants, and the hanging baskets were very easy to deal with. You just fill them up to the level of the lower holes, feed the rootball in from the outside, clip in the gate that half fills the hole, so preventing the plant from falling out, and then fill up again to the next level to do it all over again.
I could have left them to sit on the ground. They have a nice flat bottom and, with no hooks fixed anywhere, I was tempted, but they left on a journey for my father-in-law's where the frame of a pergola provided a nice easy position. It also meant that someone else would have to remember to water them.
And boy, did they grow. Husband's pa is not known for effusiveness, but I was heaped with praise for the gorgeous display (did I say I didn't do the watering?). And it was astonishing value for money. In full bloom from July, the baskets continued in profusion until late autumn. Leaving the baskets on the ground would have been a shame, as they grew into a huge ball of sunset-intense colour. They were an absolute magnet for the eye, and I spent ages just drinking them in.
Quite obviously I had to do it again this year and the great thing, I discovered, about hanging baskets is that you can just take them down and leave the compost to dry out and the plants to die down. In fact, I only unearthed the tubers this spring, when it was time to plant up the baskets all over again. Out of the original thirty, three weren't up to replanting.
How's the display this year? Every bit as good! I'm buried even deeper in my father-in-law's good books. At least, for the basket dedicated to begonias. A complete mental aberration resulted in my mistaking pinks for petunias. Now that basket's a peculiar-looking affair - plants all straining upwards as Nature intended, while the pinks themselves disappear into the background. At least they smell nice.
Meanwhile, the begonias that were ousted from the second basket are in my garden (you thought I'd want to miss out again?), in pots. However, either it's me (more than possible) or they just prefer hanging baskets. They've grown, but have hardly bushed out to the same extent, so I'm still not getting the display to which I think I'm entitled. In fact, it reminds me of why I didn't bother with begonias again the first time.
The plan is already clear. I'll make sure I get them out of the pots in good time, dry them off, and put them all ready to take their rightful place in the other hanging basket next year.
Do I like hanging baskets? Oh, come one! Who doesn't?
NB Although Apricot Illumination doesn't appear on the Van Meuwen website this year, Apricot Shades looks like exactly the same plant.