What’s Rob Been Up To?

hanging baskets

What Rob has been up to involves some steel, some shade plants, and the airspace.  Before I say more, I should make it clear that I have always detested hanging baskets.  I would only purchase one to plant in a container.  Under no circumstances would I hang pots of plants in the air.   Why anyone would think this is a good look is beyond me.  A planting disassociated from the earth or the ground plane- is this innovative-or is it just plain silly?  The usual white plastic baskets with zinc wires terminating in a reinforced coathanger hook-they do not help the hanging basket cause. I get that growers choose a hanging basket that reflects heat, and conserves moisture. Why wouldn’t any garden center grow a second crop, in their greenhouse airspace?  A garden center is all about delivering a fresh and lustily growing group of plants to a consumer.  They have nothing to say about the look-but I do.  Suffice it to say that when I see white plastic hanging baskets fresh from the nursery summarily hung from a hook on the porch-this idea about gardening makes me wince.  However, Rob is up to gardening in the air in a way I find incredibly appealing.

hanging baskets

What has Rob been up to?  He ordered a series of sizes in steel spheres.  He ordered a series of fiber pot bowls.  Once planted, his grow spheres were hung from the branches of the big lindens at the shop.  Having had no end of requests for perennial or annual plantings underneath and in the shade of big trees, I applaud his idea.  A fiber bowl can be folded in half, and wedged into the sphere.  Shade loving plants can be planted in great soil, in that fiber bowl..  The bowl breathes. The plants live, and thrive.

alternative hanging baskets

Every gardener I know has that dead zone.  Deep shade cast by a tree.  The soil underneath that tree is congested with roots that require an axe, and infinite effort to penetrate.  Endless articles have been written about what to plant in the dry shade under an old tree.  Work and more work-and to what good end?  Are your plantings in the deep shade cast by an old tree thriving and newsworthy?  Mine are not.  I am starting to like these grow spheres, hung in the lower branches of a shade tree.  These Miss Muffet caladiums in a mossed basket hanging from a branch of our lindens-I am beginning to get interested in his particular take on the hanging basket. 

birds nest ferns

Rob’s planted spheres are remarkably original, and remarkably lively.  He dispensed with the white plastic, and the coathanger. His idea is both sculptural, and natural. He took great pains to hang the spheres at different heights via a hank of jute. 

hanging baskets

The shop has nothing planted in the ground, save our trees.  Every square foot of the ground is gravelled.  This makes it easy to display all manner of ornament for the garden.  What a relief to see his shady basket creations hung high and low, under those trees.  I would certainly recommend that if you plan to add hanging baskets to your garden, figure out how to hang them at a level that makes sense to your eye.  A white plastic basket in the air is a visual tutorial in a lack of gardening effort.  Moss baskets, please.   


vinca maculatum

 I do have a great fondness for vinca maculatum.  The variegated leaves are substantial.  They keep on growing, late into the fall.  They are easy to winter over.  The vines drape down, and keep on draping.  Baskets of them hung high will eventually make for a curtain of green that goes to the ground.  The plastic baskets here are entirely hidden by the vines.  We hung them very high in the grape arbor.  Julie insists she needs a ladder to water them.  These hanging baskets are ok by me.

green plants

Just inside the shop door is a sky light.  Rob has hanging baskets of pothos cris-crossing that 6′ by 6′ light space.  I would think by fall his hanging garden will provoke a great deal of comment.  In conjunction with his hanging shade gardens, his selaginella brick constructions.  He has planted a number of containers with shade plants set way above the rim of the pots.   

birds nest ferns

Selaginella, or club moss, is a densely growing shade loving tropical plant.  A four inch pot of club moss is a 4″ square brick-green on the top, and heavily rooted on all of the other sides.  Rob has been planting shade pots-in this case, a birdsnest fern, in a mound of selaginella.

green container planting

OK, I usually plant 4″ pots with the rootball cube in the ground, and the top side facing the light.  Rob has a different idea.  Any plant can be planted on the 45-by this I mean, on a 45 degree angle.  Those rooty soil cubes can make a wall.  This selaginella has no problem living,  planted on the slant.  This French concrete pot is all the better for a planting that lifts off.  The plants are beautiful.  The planter is equally beautiful.  The sum total of the two-all about Rob.

club moss

This planting of his is extraordinarily beautiful.  I just noticed it a few days ago.  What Rob is up to is so quiet, so self effacing-and so so and very very very good.  The rooted bricks of selaginella planted on an angle enabled him to present a single bird’s nest fern high off this French terra cotta pot.  Beautiful, yes?  His grow spheres, beautiful too.