Hanging basket harmony

One local expert weighs in on what it takes to make overflowing potted arrangements

A sure sign of summer, besides the lovely long days, is the bright spots of color that pop up all over town.


That potpourri of color adorns eaves, porches and decking. It springs forth out of window ledges and neatly arranged pots on entryway steps.

Juneauites seem to choose the brightest colors in Mother Nature’s palette — fuschias, yellows, bright whites and vivid red, to name a few — for these potted arrangements.

So, how does one go about creating these masterpieces? Certainly there must be a trick.

I turned to Cindy Bowhay, who has been gardening with her husband, Steve, in Juneau since 1985. The couple runs two successful local businesses: The Yard Doctor and Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventures.

It’s fair to say Bowhay knows a thing or two about successfully growing potted arrangements; each year she estimates they grow around 5,000 hanging baskets. She said some of those go into the gardens at Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventures, about 4,000 are sold at their nursery on James Blvd. and they overwinter about 1,300 baskets for locals.

“It’s become quite an ordeal,” Bowhay said. “(But,) it keeps us busy and out of trouble all winter long.”


Location, location:

The most important thing to take into consideration, she said, is location.

“You want to plant things where they like to grow. People who have a lot of sun, always want the shade-loving plants, people who have a lot of shade, are always drawn to the sun-loving plants,” she said. “But that’s the most important thing — where you’re going to put your pot.”

Then, it’s looking at whether or not it’s a hanging basket or a deck pot, she said.

“That dictates what kind of height you’ll have and what you’re going to do as far as trailing accents,” Bowhay said.


Potted is a plus:

Potted pants are a great option for Juneau because the weather can be quite unpredictable, Bowhay said.

“It’s such a good way to go and with the weather as it’s been, you can move them in and out and people are being successful because they can zip them back under the eaves or with these colder temperatures, sometimes they go in the garage.”


Cindy’s popular picks and tricks:

As far as types of plants, Bowhay said annuals are the way to go, for most uses, but perennials can also be incorporated.

Some of her picks for shade-loving annual plants include double impatiens and begonias.

“(The double impatiens) are so tender, but they are susceptible to cold,” Bowhay said. “But they are so colorful for a partial shady basket.”

Begonias are also a very popular plant for many hanging baskets, she said.

“These are wonderful. When you choose a trailing variety, you get these big beautiful flowers and when I do begonias alone in a pot, I avoid doing one lone soldier in the middle. The trick is to shape them in a triangle, and that rounds your pot out.”

Bowhay said she often uses the rule of thirds.

“It doesn’t matter which way you view, you’ve got something coming out of your pot,” she said. “Even when I use my little upright begonias, I still use three. That way it’s a mound in the center.”

She pointed to a pot overflowing with foliage. In the center was pile of begonia spilling out among a handful of other plants.

“Then you want to add your trailing accents. So you make a second triangle,” she said.

Bowhay likes to use odd-numbered plants.

“I almost always plant in ones and threes,” she said.

She picked out a pot different pot.

“Here I have my drasina ...”

She fingered long strands of a grass-like plant.

“ ... A geranium, with big foliage, so it covers a lot of area ... then, my strawflower, that makes three. Then my four, five, six is three bidens (which trails and blooms with a little yellow flower) and rosy and purple verbenas, and because this is a 16-inch pot,” Bowhay said. “We have seven, eight, nine, lavender becopa, and because it’s so huge, lobelia makes up 10, 11, 12, and that acts as the baby’s breath to fill it out.”

Of course, color is hugely important when it comes to a planted arrangement. Bowhay said she likes to add surprises and things that catch the eye.

“I try to add just a little splash of yellow, because yellow draws the eye. And the pinks, purples and lavenders are the most popular with the ladies,” she said. “The men are always drawn to the reds and the oranges.”

Another trick is texture, Bowhay said.

“Straw flower is really cool for texture and color. When the flower opens it feels like straw. You pick them when they are in the bud stage and then they open to the most perfect little flower,” she said.

Other good choices for texture include geraniums because of their large leaves, variegated foliage such as lamium and dainty flowers and filler like lobelia.

In the end, Bowhay said she always goes for the “wow” factor.

“This is what people want, they want it overflowing,” she said.

Of course, these are only the ground rules. There many varieties of plants suitable for such applications.

Whether trailing or upright, large or small, smooth or rough, it seems Bowhay’s tips are enough to get a person off on the right foot when it comes to creating their own baskets that are bursting with color.

Now, to get planting.


• Contact Outdoors Editor Abby Lowell at abby.lowell@juneauempire.com.


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