Hanging baskets fall from grace as gardeners turn to terracotta

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The Independent Online

They were once the height of gardening glamour, but hanging baskets have now fallen from their elevated position and are a fading glory, experts say. Suspended wicker baskets have been replaced in the nation's affections by heavy terracotta patio pots.

They were once the height of gardening glamour, but hanging baskets have now fallen from their elevated position and are a fading glory, experts say. Suspended wicker baskets have been replaced in the nation's affections by heavy terracotta patio pots.

Phil Clayton, who compiles the Royal Horticultural Society journal, The Garden, said: "They are going out of fashion purely because of the high maintenance involved in looking after them. They require watering two or three times a day and feeding once a week.

"They can look fantastic and it can be a quick fix for the garden and a good way of showing off bedding plants. But if there's hot weather and you forget to water them, they've had it."

According to Jessica Gould, the senior horticulturist at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, hanging baskets are "definitely a bit naff".

But the issue of to hang or not hang is dividing RHS experts. Guy Barter, its head of horticultural advice services, said: "Maintenance is a problem but I think hanging baskets will always be popular.

"We run competitions for hanging baskets and I am not aware of any falling off in terms of either the number of entrants or the standard. They may be under siege at the moment because of garden makeover programmes, but new technology like automatic watering systems may see them live to fight another day." And, according to Mr Barter, size does matter. "Most people have problems because their baskets are far to small. You need a good 16 inches to make sure the plants are going to thrive and look good," he said.

While their glory may be fading in the countryside and suburbs, a new breed of hanging basketeers may make them fashionable again. Anne Lamarshe, the director of the Capital Garden Centres chain in London, said: "For people who have smaller gardens it can make sense to go vertical and having hanging baskets.

"Older customers will buy plants and bed them, but we are now seeing younger, well-off people who want the baskets but want us to make them up so they have a finished product. Rather than having lots of multicoloured flowers in one basket, they go for a single plant. The popularity of home cooking has led to a trend for fruit and vegetables."

While the world of hanging baskets may seem genteel, things are not always rosy. Last year, neighbours in Norwich went to war over hanging baskets after complaints were made that they blocked a driveway.

Suspended flower arrangements have also fallen victim to the "nanny state". Suffolk County Council banned them from Bury St Edmunds, saying they could fall from lamp-posts and injure the public. The edict was eventually reversed.

This month, gardeners in Rosliston, south Derbyshire, were told they could not use hanging baskets as part of their entry for the Village in Bloom competition because of safety fears.

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