Love Those Baskets

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

This year I am renovating and refilling a huge wire basket. It’s the classic style that used to require a bag of sphagnum moss and 2 hours to prepare by lining the wire with rows of wet moss. Thankfully, coco fiber came along. It works as well as moss and comes in handy sheets, preformed sizes, and shapes. If you need a lot or a little, you can get it. I like to wet a new coco basket before adding my own version of container growing mix. The plastic baskets are not quite as big, about 14 inches across, and use the same mix. To get a hard-working container soil mix that can grow almost anything, use my recipe: • In a large wheelbarrow or 30 gallon can: ? 1 large bag bark- or forest-product-based potting mix. Use that bag to measure: ? ½ bag ground pine bark ? ¼ bag each: sand and compost ? 2 quarts well-aged manure ? 1 cup cottonseed meal ? 1 cup granular fertilizer if base mix doesn’t have any ? 1 cup garden lime. ? Mix very well. ? Add more sand for succulents, more bark for orchids… Now the fun starts – combining plants so their colors, patterns, and shapes can dazzle us for months. Long ago, I had to learn about the color wheel and how colors relate to each other. Here’s what I remember and use all the time: analogous colors sit next to each other on the wheel, so they have to get along and they do, so long as each is equally bright or light. Examples of friendly analogous colors are yellow and green, blue and violet, orange and red. Complementary colors occupy opposite sides of the wheel and while completely different, they are good together, like orange and blue, violet and yellow (or as we call it in my home state, purple and gold), and the classic complementary colors, red and green. When filling baskets, I usually find a triad of colors most pleasing. They form triangles on the color wheel and like that geometric shape, work together confidently. My favorite triads are violet-orange-green and blue-yellow-red. Armed with color, it’s time to consider leaf shapes and the messages they send. I memorized the formal names of leaf shapes in school, but prefer to think of them like this: Leaves that are skinny and long are more uptown and can elevate any combination with a touch of class. Big, broad leaves may be heart shaped or clubby, but they are always a strong presence. Those that taper on either end from a chubby middle are the most stable. Lots of curves or cuts on leaf edges soften any scene, while sharply lined leaves make every group look more formal. These descriptions may seem odd to read, but put them in your head when you look at plants and begin to combine them in baskets. Trust me, they’ll make sense!

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