Choose Your Plant Materials
– Will the container be in the sun or the shade? How much
are you willing to water? During hot and dry summer months,
daily watering may increase to twice daily.
– “Thriller, Filler, and Spiller.” The Thriller is the
largest plant positioned in the center or back of the
container. The Filler is a smaller and rounder plant that
fills in the space nearest the Thriller. Lastly, the
Spiller cascades over the edge of the container in the front
and on both sides. This is the technique used by the
Missouri Botanical Gardens and also by P. Allen Smith in his
container design book.
At Sugar Creek Gardens, we go crazy with our containers! We
carry hundreds of varieties of Fillers, Spillers, and
Thrillers. The size of the container will dictate the number
of plants that you need – three or thirty! Ask yourself:
Will containers be arranged in a group and complement each
other? There may be a specific plan for each container so
that colors, textures, shapes, and sizes of plants and
flowers -- and even the color of the containers -- all
relate to each other and are part of an intricate design.
– Contrasting colors -- red and yellow, purple and orange,
yellow and blue, and pink and white, create interest.
Monochromatic arrangements, all one color on several
different varieties of plants, will also have an impact.
Foliage plants with colorful leaves, the purple of ‘African
Queen’ Tradescantia, or the pink, white, and green of
Tricolor Sage, add color and interest. The color of the pot
can also be part of the design, complementing the plants, or
creating a clever contrast.
– Consider a variety of leaf shapes. The large, round shape
of Hosta is a good contrast with the light, airy shape of
Ferns. The tall straight leaves of ornamental grasses,
paired with round and cut leaves of Heuchera, create an
interesting fall container.
Soil and Amendments
– Start off each spring with clean pots filled with fresh
potting compound. Fertilizers and water retention additives
come in ready-mixed bags of potting soil. Compost may also
be added to the soil mixture: one part compost to four parts
potting soil. After adding the soil to the container, leave
a space of about 5,” then fill in the plants. When you are
finished, there should be a 1”–2” space between the soil and
the top of the container.
Spanish moss may be added to cover any exposed soil. This
will add another texture to your pot, while helping with
water and soil overflow. If fertilizer (Bloom Booster
Miracle Gro) is used, be careful not to over-fertilize. The
first application should be full strength, and then apply at
half strength every two weeks after that. Another choice for
fertilizer would be Osmocote. It requires only one
application at the time the pot design is put together.
These Principles, Create Containers for Spring, Summer, Fall
– Pansies, Linaria, Dianthus, forced bulbs, Ferns, and Ivy
fill our spring pots. Spring is a wonderful time to add
colorful herbs and leafy lettuce, a practice Allen Smith
noticed in England.
– Delicate spring blooms roast in the summer heat. Summer
annuals are joined by tropicals and house plants to create
interesting containers. The varieties are endless: Pentas,
Cleome, Angelonia, Sweet Potato Vine, Melampodium, Wave
Petunias, Million Bells, Scaevola, and Cannas! Herbs and
vegetables may be planted in large “salad bowl “shaped pots
to sit outside the kitchen door -- easy access for the
gourmet cook! Always
remember your “Thriller, Filler, and Spiller” technique when
combining your plants in their containers.
– Remove tired and fried summer annuals. Add a new
mixture of potting soil to the container. Happy fall
include Pansies, Dianthus, Ornamental Kale,
Variegated Ivy, and
Snapdragons. These are complemented by perennials,
Mums, Dianthus, Heucheras, Ornamental Grasses, and
– Remove plant materials and replace with an interesting
arrangement of evergreens, branches of red berries,
pinecones, and red bows. Fresh fruit (pineapple, oranges,
lemons, and pomegranates) will create a Williamsburg look.
Some of the evergreens, like Boxwood, Spruce, Balsam, Holly,
Pine, Southern Magnolia, and Cedar, may be left in
containers and window boxes until spring. Then the process
starts all over again!
– Large pots and
bird baths that have sprung a leak may be used to create
unusual miniature fairy gardens. Plant material may include
tiny miniature shrubs, creeping Thymes, Mazus repens,
Steppables, and Moss. There are delightful little garden
features – fairy houses, bird baths, garden benches and
chairs – that are just the right size for fairies!