I'm up north this week, and maybe you thought I'd be putting together some sort of up-northy post for today. But no. It's raining up here (because of course it is; it gets cold or rains EVERY time I come up this year). And there is some sort of issue with the motor on our pontoon (because of course there is; the motor is over 30 years old and deserves to be somewhat cranky). And we're not going to town (because of course we aren't; the vax rate is low up here, and the transmission rate is high).
But . . . no worries. I planned ahead for a little garden post for today!
A few weeks ago, I did a mid-summer compare-and-contrast post analyzing my front porch container . . . and I got several comments from readers alluding to the fact that they have a hard time figuring out what to plant in their containers to make them look nice and balanced. So I thought I'd share my not-so-secret (like . . . not secret at all) formula for putting together nice-looking container gardens.
Winning containers = Thriller + Spiller + Filler
It's really that simple.
When you put together a container, start with your thriller -- a focal-point kind of plant that will be tall and showy. For my front porch planters, I chose those big, leafy things (which I can't remember the name of now; they are not elephant ears, but something along those lines). Definitely a focal point sort of plant, though.
Next, choose your spiller -- a plant that's going to trail over the edges/sides of your planter. Ivy/vining kinds of plants work well in this role. This year, I chose trailing verbena -- those white and pink blooms you see there -- which was a new variety for me this season. I also stuck in a marjoram plant (the lime green leaves there on the right) because I didn't have room for it in my herb garden. Turns out it spills, too! (I will definitely be using marjoram in my planters in the future. I like the way it's behaving. Not so sure about the verbena, though. It's not trailing as much as I'd hoped.)
Last, find a filler -- plants that will just mound up, enhance your thriller in a supporting role, and pull the planter together in a pleasing way. In my front porch planter, I used some of my tried-and-true fillers: a Boston fern, a sun coleus, and lantana. I also stuck in some some yellow straw flowers (but I'm not particularly pleased with them; they need a lot of deadheading and look bad much of the time).
And there you go!
That's the basic formula for a gorgeous and well-balanced container: Thriller. Spiller. Filler.
A few other considerations for a successful container: Make sure your thrillers-spillers-fillers will perform well - together - in your particular container conditions. Like . . . make sure all of them are sun-lovers, for example. Or shade-friendly. Think about your bloom colors and how they'll look together. Consider a good mix of foliage shapes and color. And then water the heck out of it. . . all summer long!
My front porch containers are HUGE, and I need to use quite a few plants to get it fill out like this (so . . . multiple spillers and fillers). But even for small containers (or indoor plant gardens or even cut flower arrangements), if you just mix one thriller, spiller, and filler . . . you're going to have success!
Here's one of my smaller patio containers . . .
Just three plants . . . a thriller, a spiller , a filler.
Here's another . . .
Again, just three plants. This one . . . didn't follow the rules, though. The spiller . . . decided to take over as the thriller! (The geranium was supposed to be the thriller in this particular container -- but the spiller didn't get the memo and turned out to be a bully. I'll remember that for next year.)
Which is a good seque here. Unless you're following a "pattern" for your containers (and there are plenty of those to choose from out there), this is really just a great way to experiment and have some fun in your garden. Sometimes things will work out really well. And sometimes they won't. It doesn't mean you don't have a"green thumb" -- it just means that your container didn't quite live up to your expectations. (Which happens.) Remember what works - or doesn't - for next year. And then try again.
And also know that by this point in the summer? You may just end up with a jumble!
This . . . is two containers that have merged and become one. When I planted them, there were thrillers, spillers, and fillers. But now? It's an explosion of foliage and blooms. EVERYbody is happy. (Especially the hummingbirds.) Is it the look I was going for? Nope. Do I care? Nope.
Plants . . . don't always follow the rules.
But in August, all plants get a pass (in my book).
Have a great weekend -- and I'll see you on Monday.