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More help please

Beverly Erlebacher bae at cs.toronto.edu
Thu Sep 19 12:24:52 EST 2002

In article <3d899e71$0$185$ba620e4c at news.skynet.be>,
Barry <xbarry at skynet.be> wrote:
>LOL OK I will try this one then if no one knows about War Plants (tis the
>only name I know them by) Are they any plants that can be used for hanging
>baskets that will survive outside during the winter Sorry to keep on but I
>am not a  plant person and have just moved to Belgium to live and have about
>6 hanging baskets on a little roof garden that I would like to flower in the
>winter months if possible

Life is hard for potted plants, especially in a roof garden in winter
where they are exposed to drying winds and not just frozen soil, but
alternate freezing and thawing, which will rip up their roots.  I
really don't think you are going to get anything to survive in a
hanging basket, but if you have some large planters you may be able to
get a nice early show of spring bulbs.  It would be a good idea to
insulate the planters if you can, to reduce the freeze/thaw cycles.

There are some winter blooming plants in your climate, Hellebores, for
example, that might work with well insulated planters, but I have no
experience with them.  I have had primroses bloom during a January thaw
here in Toronto, Ontario Canada, once in maybe 15 years of growing
them, but your climate is far better than mine that way.

I wonder if your 'war plants' might be Coleus, which is now the common
name since they got a new scientific name that I can't remember right
off.  Coleus are easy to grow from cuttings, and not too difficult from
seed if you have experience with tiny seeds.  However they are very
frost-tender so are useless for winter in a climate that gets frosts.

Note that you are unlikely to get much of anything to grow from seed
outdoors in winter, due not just to the cold temperatures, but to the
short days and low angle of the sun at your latitude.

I suggest you ask around and get local advice from plant nurseries and
garden clubs, and keep your eyes open to see what other people are
having success with.  I've found that if you see someone messing around
in their garden and make an encouraging remark like "Nice garden you
have", you'll have a hard time getting away before your bladder
bursts.  Gardeners are usually friendly and helpful people, and very
generous with easy-to-grow plants!

I'd suggest that if you don't want to leave your hanging baskets bare
over the winter, you stick some evergreen sprigs in them when they
become available around Christmas.  People around here do that with
window boxes, and they look pretty good until spring.

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