The following article, written by Jerry Finzi, appears on GrandVoyageItaly.com.
Whether you’re Voyaging through Tuscany, Lazio, Campania, Puglia or Sicily, you will inevitably come across the most beautiful floral displays in hanging wall pot gardens.
The kaleidoscope of colors is often dizzying, and the collection of interestingly shaped terracotta pots along with the texture of old stone walls.
Although many plants are hung in more common hanging baskets from metal arm brackets or on balconies, the unusual thing for Americans to see is pots hanging directly on the walls of houses.
And it’s not just one pot but often dozens creating texture and color on the side of a home. It’s easy to get this look in your home garden, if you use the right brackets and choose plants carefully.
Geraniums are one of the more common plants you will see on walls and balconies in Italy. They continue to bloom until frost arrives. In southern Italy, the plant continues to thrive and bloom year-round. Able to grow in most soil types, geraniums have few problems and will give even more blooms by picking off spent blooms and keeping the plant fertilized, so don’t plant them too high.
Dahlias grow from tubers that must be dug up and stored during very cold winters. They come in a kaleidoscope of colors with the shorter varieties doing very well in pots (they love well drained soil). Just don’t let them dry out repeatedly and remember to regularly fertilize during the growing season.
Petunias grow very well in hanging pots, especially the trailing types. They will need water every day, lots of fertilizer and benefit (like most annual flowering plants) from pinching off the dead blooms (which prevents them from going to seed, which takes energy from the flowering process). And don’t forget to plant some Calibrachoa, which look like small petunias but are a different genus. Like petunias, they come in a wide range of colors.
Fuchsia is a wonderfully varied flower to grow in wall pots, its bell shaped pods dangling and opening to reveal a very complex flower shape. They come in many different types, from pastels to powerful blues and reds, some ruffly and others like delicate butterflies. And if you want to attract hummingbirds, this is the flower to grow.
If you cook with herbs
(as any good Italian does), planting some of your favorite herbs in your hanging wall garden is a great option. Many herbs require good drainage and soil that’s not too high in nutrients, like sage, thyme, or oregano. The wall is a perfect environment, in fact, many herbs in Italy grow naturally in cracks in craggy walls. Since mint is usually a runner, often turning into a garden weed, growing it up on your wall is a great way to control its rambunctiousness. For things like basil or parsley, which need more nitrogen (for leaf growth) and water, plant them in a richer, water retaining soil. You can even add some Soil Moist water retention crystals
to your soil mix. Plant these pots lower down so you can easily snip what you need before preparing dinner.
- Depending on the type of home you have, make certain your pots are going to be draining out and away from your wall, especially if you have wood siding.
- If you are reusing old clay pots, brush them clean in a solution of water, detergent and a teaspoon of bleach.
- Even if your home has brick or stone walls, be careful when watering. Use a long hose wand designed for watering hanging plants and perhaps keep a step ladder nearby to help access higher plants for feeding and pinching back spent blooms.
- If you have vinyl siding, screw brackets onto the flat area of the siding and make sure you screw into woo behind the siding. If you have stone or brick walls, you need to buy a carbide bit for your drill–drilling pilot holes that fit plastic or fiber wall anchors. Drilling into mortar joints is preferred. You want brackets solidly mounted to prevent heavy pots from falling.
- Consider using bottled, liquid plant food that attaches to your hose, or use slow release fertilizer or feeding spikes. Remember that blooming plants need lots of potassium (K).
- Use a product like Soil Moist (see below) to increase the water-holding capacity of your pot’s soil. Use very few crystals per pot–perhaps a sprinkling of less than 1/2 teaspoon. If you make a mistake and add too much, the crystals will swell into a gelatinous mess and possibly pop out of the top of your pot.
- Other plants to try: Begonia, Lobelia, Portulaca, Sedum (there are many trailing ones), Black-Eyed Susan Vine, Alyssum, Sanvitalia, Perlargonium peltatum, Scaevola, Ipomoea, Lantana, Verbena, Coleus,
If you don’t have a sunny wall or expensive terracotta or ceramic wall pots, be creative –use a fence or put your plants in other things that can make a fun plant container.
Here are some hanging pots, brackets and other things to get you started.
Click on each photo to see them on Amazon.