Container gardening is definitely all the rage, and judging by the number of pots, the bags of outdoor planting soil and the flats of “basket stuffers” that are moving out of the garden centres in the past few weeks, valley decks and patios will be looking spectacular this summer.
You can create fabulous container gardens by remembering three words; thrillers, fillers and spillers. Every successful container starts with the thriller, around which you plan the rest of the plantings. The thriller is ideally no more than twice the height of the container, and it should have either a strong vertical growth habit and/or interesting foliage. Thrillers can be situated in the middle of the container, or moved toward the back and put off to one side.
Some examples of good thrillers are-Purple Fountain Grass, Phormium (New Zealand Flax), Cordyline (Dracaena Spike), Coleus and Angelonia.
Fillers take on a supporting role by filling out the space at the base of the thrillers. They can have colour either through blooms or foliage. Look for fillers that either contrast or compliment the colours of the thriller.
There is almost an endless list of suitable fillers, but here are some good choices-Heuchera (Coral Bells), Scirpus (Fiber Optic Grass), Osteospermum, Gerbera daisies, geraniums, gazania, brachycome and argyranthemum (Marguerite daisies).
Spillers, of course, spill over the side of the container, taking their colourful blooms or interesting foliage over the edge. They can again compliment or contrast with the fillers.
Once again the possibilities are almost endless, as so many of the new generation plants, like the supertunias that I wrote about in last week’s column, have a trailing habit. Good choices include, but certainly aren’t limited to-Bacopa, Helichrysum petiolaris (Licorice Vine), Calibrachoa, Lamium, Bidens, Lysimachia, Ipomoea (Sweet Potato Vine), Ivy Geraniums, and trailing lobelia.
Regardless of which thrillers, fillers and spillers you decide on for your containers, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of fertilizing these plants on a regular (weekly) basis. Potting soils contain no nutrients, you have to provide them, and with the kind of growth most of the new plants are capable of, fertilizer is vital.
A slow-release granular fertilizer for hanging baskets and containers, usually found in a 14-14-14 formulation can be mixed into the top few inches of the soil when you plant your containers. This will provide a gentle feeding for a few months, but you need to provide a water soluble fertilizer like 15-30-15, mixed in your watering can and applied to moist soil every week to really make the thrillers, fillers and spillers perform their best and look spectacular. Looks like we’ll be spending more time at home this summer as well; might as well make your outdoor patio space even more inviting with beautiful container gardens.