What do you do in the fall when your hanging baskets are spent? You can throw them out or compost the plant material and old potting soil, saving the pot for reuse next year. And while recycling the pot is great, repurposing it and getting another use out of it is my preferred choice.
Last year, Woodward Gardens, the school garden where I volunteer, started to repurpose the old hanging baskets which had been used to decorate the garden into table decorations for Christmas. It is simple to do and a great project for children and adults alike. Better yet, we asked the purchaser to bring the pots back after the holidays so we could repurpose them again.
Below are the five steps to create a holiday table decoration from a hanging basket:
Step one: Remove the hanging device from the baskets. These devices are usually make of plastic or metal wire and are easily removed. Save the hanging device so that in the spring the baskets can be replanted.
Step two: Cut off all of the dead plant material leaving only the potting soil and root ball. If the plant material is not diseased, put it in the compost bin. Otherwise, destroy the plant material so as not to spread disease.
The root ball left in the pot becomes the substrate that holds the greens in the table decoration. It replaces the green floral foam that is so often used in floral arrangements. The plant stems are then inserted into the root ball which provides structure to the arrangement by holding up the foliage. It will also keep the plant material hydrated with a light watering.
Step three: Gather greens to make the arrangement. Evergreen branches with needles make a great choice. These would include spruce, cedar, yews, fir, juniper, chamaecyparis or pine. Evergreen broad leafs will add another texture to the arrangement. Consider using rhododendrons, mountain laurel, evergreen magnolia, Oregon grape, boxwood, holly, salal or eucalyptus. We use red osier dogwood and berried branches as well for interest and color. Get creative!
Step four: Making sure the root ball in the basket is moist, cut the stems at a sharp angle to make it easier to pierce the root ball and enhance water uptake. Begin by placing the branches horizontal to the table surface. This will form the base of the arrangement, hide the pot and define the shape of the decoration. Then build toward the middle and create the height you are looking for. According to Dale Rohman, America’s Flower Man, the height of the arrangement should not exceed the distance from the tip of your fingers to your elbow. This insures that you can look over the arrangement while seated at the table.
Step Five: Add some bling for interest. This could be anything from a large candle in a glass hurricane placed in the center to red bows, silver balls, etc. Make the arrangement reflect your personality and have fun.
Before placing the completed project on your table, you will want to put a water tray beneath. With frequent light watering, it will last the whole Christmas season. And when the holidays are over, get ready to repurpose it once again by composting the plant material and root ball, putting the hangers back on and planting it as a spring hanging basket. In this way you will be able to recycle it for years, enjoying it indoors and out.