Updated 21 hours ago
In a few short weeks, it will be time to start planting garden containers with summer annuals and tropical plants. I’ve written about designing beautiful container plantings before but wanted to offer some extra tips and tricks for creating well-designed plant combinations.
Follow these five design “plans” to create garden containers with good proportion and balance. With them, you’ll achieve beautiful results.
1. Thriller, filler and spiller style
This design technique combines three heights of plants together to fill out a container on every available plane while still maintaining balance and proportion. This is a particularly valuable design plan for containers that are meant to be viewed from all sides.
First, a single “thriller” plant is selected for the center of the pot. This is typically a large plant with bold foliage, interesting flowers or some other eye-catching feature. Then, the space around the “thriller” plant is filled with a layer of “filler” plants to accent it. Finally, the “spiller” plants are placed around the outer edge of the container. These plants cascade, or spill, over the edge of the pot, draping it with colorful flowers or interesting foliage
2. Flat-backed style
This design technique is perfect for containers that are tucked against a building and are meant to be viewed only from one side. Rather than thinking about top-to-bottom layers like the previous technique, flat-backed style adds layers from back-to-front.
Begin by selecting a tall, upright, narrow plant for the back of the container. Position it a little off center, in the very back of the pot. Once you’ve planted this backdrop plant, select a slightly shorter plant to create the other half of the back layer. This plant should be more branched and less upright than the first plant.
After the back layer is selected, create a second layer of plants just to the front of it. The plants in this layer are slightly shorter than those comprising the back drop. The third and final layer at the front edge of the container consists of two or three low-growing plants that cascade over the lip of the pot.
3. Featured specimen style
This design technique is the perfect way to feature a single, unique, large-statured plant. I love to use it when creating containers that include a really special plant I want to show off.
With this design technique, the large-statured plant I want to highlight gets placed smack in the center of the container. Then, I surround this featured plant with a “skirt” of plants that compliment it but don’t distract from its beauty. These plants are low-growing or cascading and are chosen to highlight the central plant.
4. Monoculture style
There’s not much design involved in this style of container planting, but it makes beautiful containers. It involves using a single plant to fill a container. Whether it’s one plant, or three to five plants of the same variety, the container is filled with only one species.
I like to use this style with groups of containers of differing heights. Each container houses a different plant, but together, they make a cohesive collection.
5. Pot-hugging style
The final container garden design style I’d like to share with you is pot-hugging style. It involves using only extremely low or cascading plants in a container.
Though it isn’t for everyone, this design technique makes for some visually stunning displays. Perhaps it’s a big bowl of moss or a planter box filled with ground-covering succulents; the idea is for the plants to sit tight against the container. I find that with pot-hugging designs, the entire container becomes a focal point.
As you design and build your garden containers every year, keep these five design tricks in mind. With a little experience, you can build on these techniques and come up with some gorgeous combinations.
Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio with Doug Oster. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is jessicawalliser.com.
Send your gardening or landscaping questions to email@example.com or The Good Earth, 622 Cabin Hill Drive, Greensburg, PA 15601.