Saturday, 20 April 2013

Sheep Fleece Hanging Basket Liners

Rumour has it the Bedding Plant Growers Association have been threatening to kneecap Monty Don, since he wrecked Easter sales by saying on Gardeners' World that it was too cold to plant out tender perennials.  Like anyone hadn't noticed!  Mind, he is a God among men, I too hang upon his every word.  If not balmy, the weather has finally got that damp, expectant air.  This week and the next, the moon is right for planting and transplanting.  This is just as well, as we spent a bomb at the Cardiff Spring Flower Show yesterday.

Raw sheep fleece is supposed to make a good liner for hanging baskets.  My large remaining bag of spongy, springy Zwartbles fleece suddenly seems a real gift.  It should be a good insulator against any more bad weather and is both cheaper and more attractive than the basket liners you can buy.  

My first basket of the year is now planted up with red geraniums - apparently, you can make a dye from the petals, so this is utterly on song for a gardening spinner/dyer wool enthusiast.

Last year, on the TV coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show, they showed an exquisite Japanese garden with hanging balls of moss with ferns growing out of them. 2012 was a very wet summer here, no shortage of moss and ferns.  The correct spelling for 'kokedama' escaped me, but Youtube came up trumps with a video tutorial called How to Make a Moss Ball: Emmymade. A charming young lady shows how to use neat packets of moss and compost to make tiny decorative delights.  My results were much more agricultural, but they have survived the winter.

Why not substitute wool for moss?  Please note, this is not a kitchen table project.  The way I did it required a bucket of old tomato bag compost, refreshed with a handful of fish blood and bone powder and some cow manure, another bucket of heavy clay garden soil and a willingness to get muddy.
Add a bit of water to the clay soil and mix well.  Splot a large trowelful into the compost and squidge to mix a soft clay/compost compound that holds its shape.  Get thin garden wire, the really cheap, flexible kind, and a small plant.  I had kept some self seeded karvinskiana daisies in pots over winter, which were badly root bound and screaming to come out.  Since they grow out of cracks in walls, they ought to cope with dry conditions and exposure.  Also, I bought a tray of saxifrages which I thought would make pleasing clumps spreading over a wool ball.  Wrap a couple of turns of wire round the root ball, then add balls of the clay/compost mix as you continue wrapping in wire, moulding it til you have a ball shape. 

This is where it got a bit experimental.  Disintegrating mud and wool down jumper.  Last year, the green garden wire disappeared as the moss grew.  Since it will remain visible on the wool, I thought galvanised fence wire might look better.  Unfortunately, this is not nearly as flexible, the coil springs out and would rather have your eye out than wrap nicely, lumps of wool keep falling off and the final result is more bondage than pastoral idyll.

I found the best way to wrap the ball involves teasing out some flat locks of wool and laying them fanned out in a circle, overlapping thickly at the base.  Sit the ball on top. Prop up a thick circle of locks around the outside and tie round the middle.  

Garden string is much easier to handle.  Tuck the tips of the side fleece under the ball then get your hand under the base, clutch it tenderly to your bosom and wrap the string round til all the fleece is secure.  You can make a U shape of wire and push it through the ball from the top until the ends come through the base, then twist the ends together to leave a hanger.
The string looks ok, when the saxifrage grows, much more of the pot will be covered up.  Still, I decided to spin a bit more of that Zwartbles, just to see if I could get a better result with matching wool.

I thought this would be a perfect project to do with my smallest neice, Emelia.  While very happy to collect daffodils for a dye bath, she was kind, but firm about the mud.  It would be preferable if daddy came to sit in the swivelly chair, so that she could play hairdressers, thank you very much.  

Well, I am pleased with the effect of  Zwartbles wool tying up Zwartbles fleece.  I've done three herb baskets for outside the kitchen door and a couple of primula pots.

My brother and my nephew were also happy to have a go.  I still think it might be a good project to make offerings for the plant stall at the school fete, but you should check that with your kids, before making assumptions.  

1 comment:

  1. Interesting diversion this one for the Wool enthusiast/gardeners - I like it.
    It also amuses me the way you placed Robins picture next to mine seemingly looking my way. For me it conjures up a slight feeling of contempt, mixed with a certain "K-sara-sara what ever dad!" or is the way the angle makes it look like Robin is reading the words on my T-shirt and thinking "yep dad, just about sums you up... ... oh well at least your harmless!"
    Loving your work Fran

    Matty x x x