For years Sunset's garden staff lined hanging baskets with dry sphagnum moss. When coco-fiber inserts became available, we switched to those.
Then last spring, Bud Stuckey, our test garden coordinator, began experimenting with living plant materials. He used a variety of ground covers to form leafy liners for wire basket frames.
Then he filled the baskets with potting soil and planted seasonal flowers, ferns, and succulents. He discovered that the living liners worked instant magic on hanging baskets, freestanding baskets, half baskets, and hayrack planters.
The ground cover-lined baskets are very easy to assemble. The secret is to start with a mudflat (a nursery flat with no dividers) of one of the ground covers from our list below, left.
The roots of these plants form well-knit carpets that fill the flat. Carefully cut to fit baskets, they make nearly seamless liners. Hang the baskets in partial shade. With regular water and minimal care, they will last for months.
Seven living liners
• Baby's tears (Soleirolia soleirolii)
• Blue star creeper (Laurentia fluviatilis)
• Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)
• Creeping thyme (Thymus praecox articus 'Elfin')
• Irish moss (Arenaria verna or Sagina subulata)
• Scotch moss (A. verna 'Aurea' or S. subulata 'Aurea')
• Sedum spurium
Most local nurseries or garden centers stock wire basket frames, but you may have to ask them to order mudflats of ground covers. For a wide selection of wire baskets and hayracks, call Kinsman Company; (800) 733-4146 or www.kinsmangarden.com.