Gardening – Outdoor plants: artificial v real

An artificial hanging basket
An artificial hanging basket

I’m going to introduce a controversial element this week in the form of artificial outdoor plants.

I don’t mean those hideous hanging baskets full of unrecognisable flowers that hang there, winter and summer alike, gradually fading and getting grubbier till there is no recognisable natural colour left.

I’m referring more to what started off as ‘box balls’, and have now become similar items imitating grass, conifers, heathers and even miniature roses, all geared up ready to hang on the brackets that would normally sport lovingly planted natural baskets of flowers and interesting foliage.

The first time I saw a box ball I threw up my hands in horror, as it was so obviously artificial – wrong colour, wrong leaves, wrong everything. But that was a few years ago, and travelling around trade shows as I do whenever I can find the time, I have noticed a marked change in not just those emulating box, but other plants as well, and sometimes they are so convincing you need to have a good feel to make sure they aren’t real.

I now have to admit that there are areas in our garden that used to sport magnificent hanging baskets, but in the 30-odd years I’ve been here, areas which used to be in full sun are now shaded, either by our own plantings or those of our neighbours, and, quite frankly, if it came to a choice between attractive shrubs and temperamental hanging baskets, I would always choose the former.

To me, this is where the artificial box-type ball comes into its own, providing interest while never having to struggle with lack of light or unpleasant weather conditions.

Yesterday I sent off for four of these modern-day ‘wonders’, to replace baskets on the fence we can see from our kitchen window, which after the first couple of weeks in the summer, have increasingly looked complete rubbish.

Of course, this doesn’t mean I shall abandon ‘real’ hanging baskets altogether – these will be in the best places for months of healthy interest, but I am sure that providing the artificial balls are of good quality and convincing until you look closely, there is room for both in most gardens.

What do readers think?