Lots of people planted their front-entry and patio pots recently. I wasn’t one of them, but I’ve started buying plants and thinking about how I’m going to combine them to make this year’s container gardens my best yet.
There seem to be three types of gardeners when it comes to container gardens:
1. Creatures of habit. These folks plant the same old reliable plants every year, such as petunias or impatiens. They know what to expect, and they can count on their favorite plants to deliver it.
2. Strategists. Many gardeners start with a plan or formula for designing beautiful containers. One of the most popular is the “thriller, filler, spiller” strategy. Pick a showy plant to be the star of the container (the “thriller”). Add some plants with a trailing growth habit to soften the edge of the container (the “spiller”) and then finish with the “filler” — attractive foliage or smaller flowers that complete and complement the other plants. Works every time!
3. Spontaneous optimists. Sometimes it’s fun to let yourself get carried away. If you’ve ever gone to the garden center or farmer’s market with a wide-open mind and bought whatever struck your fancy — maybe big flowers in an amazing color or some unusual foliage you’d never seen before — you know how fun spontaneity can be.
I’ve been all three of these types at various points in my life as a gardener. Early on, I planted the old-reliable standby plants. Then I started letting spontaneous impulses carry me in new directions. Then I learned the “thriller, filler, spiller” formula and followed it religiously for a few growing seasons.
Now I practice a hybrid approach. I always use a “spiller” — my go-to plant is goldilocks moneywort, which trails so beautifully down the sides of containers.
I usually add something tall, such as a spiky ornamental grass, to add height to my container.
And then I browse what’s available and pick out something that strikes my fancy. Some years it’s a big, bold tropical plant. Other years, it’s something I can count on to add a lot of vivid color, such as bright begonias.