There are several things that Lake Oswego is famous for: the Lake, beautiful homes, great schools, and the glorious flower baskets. The baskets have been hung annually on the main streets of town for many years. They are spectacular with both great size and great color. As someone who loves flowers and working in my garden, I’ve wondered how they do it. What are the secrets that make the LO baskets thrive? They start out pretty and of good size, but by summer’s end they hang about 6 feet down and are a profusion of color that is just amazing. Last Saturday I attended a class put on by the City Park’s and Recreation Department where I learned how they do it. So here it is: the secrets of Lake Oswego’s famous flower baskets.
Start with a 12 inch hanging pot that is nearly as deep as it is wide. The city uses 16 inch pots, but those are much too large for the scale of most homes. 10 inch pots can also be used, but they require watering twice daily, whereas the 12 inch pot can get by on once daily watering. Also recommended is a pot with a straight side. This allows as much soil and water as possible for root development. These instructions are for a 12 inch pot. If you use one that is either larger or smaller, please make your own adjustments.
Fill the pot about half full of soil. The recommended soil is NW Best Soil Potting Mix. This is what is used by the City. It is the choice because it contains “Sirfactin” which allows the walls of soil to expand so water doesn’t run around the planting mix and out the bottom of the container. To this soil, mix in about 1/4 cup of Plant-Tone, a fertilizer to get the plants off to a good start.
Before adding any more soil, remember the planter is only about half full, place 7, 4-inch plant starts. If they are in plastic containers, pull them out. If they are in the kind that are made of compost you can just set them into the planter in the container and the container will decompose as the roots develop. Think about putting a plant that will grow tall in the center such as a geranium. Then place the other 6 plants around the perimeter that will hang as they spread and grow. Think about having a variety of colors and textures. The planters made for the city are designed to be hung in full sun. You can design your own flowers based upon where you intend to hang your planter. Using a 12 inch planter and 4 inch plants you will find that this really packs the pot completely full of plants. The 7th one has to be pretty much squeezed into the planter. This will leave just a few areas between the edges of the plants that need to be filled with dirt. Find those spots and gently fill dirt in around the plants. When you are done the level of the top of the dirt should be about one inch below the rim of the pot. (It’s a good idea when testing the first plant you put into the container to eye-ball the level and see if you need to fill your planter more than half full when you add the initial soil).
Water immediately and really let the water run. The planter needs to be watered DAILY, even on days that have rain. Rain will not be enough to thoroughly saturate the soil. It is not possible to over-water this planter. Yes, you really have to water it every single day. When you water, let the water gently run and then keep the water going. Count to 50, sing a short song, whatever you can do to force yourself to stand at the planter and thoroughly water the planter. Do it every single day and on those days with really extreme heat, do it TWICE.
Once a week fertilize with Proven Winners. This is a fertilizer that is widely sold in the area. You mix it into a big gallon watering can with water and poor it into the planter. It has a balance of fertilizers that is 24-12-17. It contains 15 nutrients, not just nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, but trace elements as well.
When you hang your planter remember a couple of things. This planter is going to get very large. This means that it will be very heavy so make certain that it is on a hook that will hold the growing weight. Also hang it where it has room to grow. By the end of the season it will hang 4 to 6 feet long. It will be a total show piece in your garden.
If you have questions or need help, or want to buy any and all of the materials listed above, the place to go is The Garden Corner in Tualatin. Located at 21550 SW 108th Ave in Tualatin, this garden center has been the birthplace of the LO hanging baskets for many years. They are proud of their participation in the LO hanging basket program and are happy to be of help to you when you grow a basket of your very own.
I’ve got my basket hanging at my home. I am eager to see just how big it is going to get. Let me know if you do one too. Maybe we can share some photos in September!
Remember, gardening is great therapy for your soul.