And a pretty trivial one it is, I am sure, to many of you. I do a lot of container gardening though, to soften the edges of my hardscape-filled space, so this is the type of dilemma I frequently ponder.
A few years back, mixed containers were IT; all the garden magazines gave instructions on color and contrast, while such vendors as White Flower Farms offered premixed groups of plants and the containers to put them in. One of the common formulas one heard (and hears) a lot was/is the “thriller, filler, spiller,” with one dramatic plant in the center, a bushy plant around it, and trailing plants falling over the edges of the pot. This makes sense, design-wise, but can look boring. Also the dramatic plants must grow dramatically and look spectacular and that doesn’t always happen.
We know now about how smart plants are; they consciously protect themselves and compete with each other. In this scenario, one plant falling by the wayside really hurts. So you have to choose really tried and true cultivars; little, delicate, iffy, or rarified types probably won’t survive the competition.
Now I am hearing and reading that a container well-filled with one great plant might be the way to go. Two plants that I think would fill that bill are a gorgeous coleus variety or maybe the fusion impatiens, which has orchid-like flowers and fast-growing, multi-branching stems, almost bush-like.
I meant to try single varieties or even single-colors this year, but I forgot. And the dramatic plants I often use really do need other plants around them; almost every one of my containers has either (for sun) oriental lilies, or (for shade) various elephant ear (Black Magic is shown above, though in a raised circular bed that acts as a container and also has impatiens). What I have given up on in some cases is the “spiller” concept; if you’ve spent a lot of money on a gorgeous container (like those we saw in Austin at the Natural Gardener), shouldn’t just a little bit of it show? On the other hand, overflowing plants are a great way to disguise cheap plastic containers.
Got a great container formula or a mix that’s worked perfectly for you? Do tell. I’ll send at least TWO new Timber Press titles to the most interesting or novel container solution (exact books to be a surprise).
I HAVE TWO WINNERS. I loved the comments from Chuck B. , Ginny Stibolt, Michelle D., and Mr. Subjective (ha!), but I only have two books, so Chuck and Ginny win. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on containers. I can see now that I really suck at them, but I have learned a bit here.