TEN years ago Stuart Lees made ten hanging-baskets for some friends.
But since then, demand for his floral baskets have increased so much, that this summer he has put up a timber frame in his garden where he is finishing off more than two hundred hanging baskets. Amazingly, most of them are sold at cost price and he gives many away for free.
The 53-year-old retired firefighter, from Ashbourne, Derbyshire, said: “People drop off their empty baskets outside my front door and I fill them up. I don’t even know who they all belong to. I love to see the look on people’s faces when they come to collect their baskets. They say ‘it’s a wicker basket about this big’ and I direct them out here so they can find it among rows and rows of other baskets. I don’t think people realise just quite how many I make.
“Some people leave notes in their baskets requesting certain colours and types of plants, but most just leave it to me. I do it all at cost price – so I don’t make a penny out of it. I love gardening so I just keep on going. Each year I say this will be my last, but it never quite turns out like that.
“I deliver some of them and even get asked to help put them up. I draw the line at going out to water them for people though” he laughed.
“I made a couple for my wife and hung them up outside. Someone came to the door and asked if they were for sale, so I sold those too.
“They can be a bit tedious to make. Yesterday I worked all day on them and only made 15 baskets, so you can imagine how long it’s taken me to make all of these.
“My friend Bob helps me. It took him an hour to water them all last night and they must be watered every day.
“The wooden beams are a little too low, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve banged my head. I’ve been sparko on my knees a few times.
“The plastic sheeting protects them from the frosts. Hopefully there won’t be any more now, but I can’t risk taking the sheeting down – one frost and everything would be ruined.”
Stuart who also grows show vegetables and dahlias added: “I give lots away to worthy causes in the town, some as raffle prizes and others to places like the town’s cricket club.
“Some I make them from scratch including the basket. The large ones sell for between £12 and £15 – they’d be £20 to £25 in the garden centres and have fewer plants in them too.”
Stuart is still taking orders for his hanging baskets but by next weekend they will have all been sold.