Preparations for spring are underway at Skylands, my home in Maine.
There is still snow on the ground on Mount Desert Island, but last week, my gardener at Skylands, Mike Harding, began potting some of the ferns in hanging baskets for use on my Western Terrace. I always hang a series of fern-filled planters under the pergola - it adds such a lovely touch of greenery to the space.
The hanging planters are first lined with sphagnum moss. Sphagnum is a genus of about 120-species of mosses known as peat moss. It works great to store water, and helps to keep the potting mix inside the container. Here are some photos - enjoy.
This is my Western Terrace – on this day, it was just 12-degrees Fahrenheit, but Mike was very ready to start preparing for spring.
During the warmer months, hanging ferns adorn the entire perimeter of the Western Terrace.
Here is one of the hanging wire baskets we use every year for our Boston ferns. It is from the greenhouse supplier Griffin, and measures 18-inches across. http://www.griffins.com
The sphagnum moss is very dry when it arrives. Here, Mike is preparing a section to soak so it softens and molds to the wire planter. Each hanging basket needs about a cubic-foot of sphagnum moss.
Sphagnum moss is available at garden supply stores. Mosses are small flowerless plants that usually grow in dense clumps or mats in dark, or shady locations.
Mike let the sphagnum soak in warm water for a few minutes. Here, he pulls apart the moss and works the water through it until it is completely wet through and through.
Once it is wet, Mike squeezes the excess water back into the bucket.
Clumps of sphagnum moss are pulled from the water and placed into the basket. Starting from the bottom, Mike creates a layer about an inch-thick.
The goal is to prevent any soil from falling out, so Mike makes sure the moss lines the bottom of the basket well.
Mike presses the moss firmly along the sides, creating a one to two inch wall on the inside of the basket.
Here, it is easy to see how the moss molds to the wire frame.
Mike soon works his way to the top.
At the top of the basket, Mike places additional handfuls of moss over the top rung and squeezes the wet moss around the edge – the top wire rung will be completely surrounded by the moss.
Next, Mike lines the sphagnum moss with a piece of black plastic – the bottom of a black garbage bag. This prevents the soil from drying out.
Mike then cuts several drainage holes in the plastic.
Mike uses a good potting mix combined with compost made right here at Skylands.
The white specks are balls of perlite – a non-organic additive used to aerate the media. Mike fills about a third to a half of the basket with soil mix.
Mike takes down a Boston fern to plant in the basket. These ferns, Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis’, are among the most popular varieties with its frilly leaves and long, hanging fronds.
The fern is placed into the container and more soil is added.
This fern was in an eight-inch pot – it will certainly grow into its new space – about twice its size by the end of summer.
We always prefer using organic fertilizers at Skylands and at my Bedford, New York farm. Boston ferns responds well to fish emulsion. For outdoor potted plants, mix one-tablespoon fertilizer in one-gallon of water to treat one cubic foot of soil.
Mike uses Organic Neptune Harvest fish emulsion – made from fresh North Atlantic fish. It is made by a unique cold process that protects the vitamins, amino acids, enzymes and growth hormones.
The hooks for the hanging planter are attached to the wire – this basket has four hooks.
This Boston fern looks perfect in our hanging basket. It will be hung up in the shop until all are ready to move to the Western Terrace pergola – usually the second week of June when temperatures are in the upper 60s or low 70s.
Mike gives all the ferns a good drink. Don’t worry, fortunately, this shop is equipped with floor drains.
This summer, the ferns will look like this hanging from the inside of the pergola.
Here is a sunny summer glimpse of the Western Terrace in June with the hanging baskets of ferns, and urns planted with farfugium japonicum and cycads – so beautiful.