It wasn’t long before I noticed a pattern when creating a pleasing container. Coincidentally while leafing (if you’ll pardon the pun) through my favourite magazine Fine Gardening, I caught the article “Thrillers Fillers and Spillers” by Steve Silk who coined the term and perfectly describes this formula for successful container design in his article.
Assuming you’ve chosen a theme and picked the colours that make your heart sing, the recipe to put it all together, as the title suggests, contains three ingredients.
A thriller is the main attraction that says: ”Hey! Look at me!”. It’s the taller one and the focal point of the arrangement. Depending where the pot is placed it will be either centered for all around visibility or placed at the back of your container for a corner setting. The thriller can be a specimen flower, an elegant Canna, a showery fountain grass, or whatever you like that fits the criteria. Professionals use palm trees, long flowering trees such as Hibiscus and Oleander standards, the paint splattered foliage of Crotons, and the exotic fuchsia leaves of the Dracaena cordyline. Alternately garden trellises, and spires can guide flowering vines vertically to explode into a show-stopping thriller. When budgets are tight, here at Seasonal Expressions, height can be achieved by using curly willow twigs purchased at home décor centers painted in a coordinating colour to create focal point.
Fillers are just that. They fill gaps, create volume and anchor the thriller to the pot. While hiding less desirable thriller trunks, fillers unify by using colour, helping to accent and contrast to best show off each plant’s unique features. Fine textures are perfect at this stage and will accentuate any large leaves. Use several plants and cram them in for a lush look!
Spillers are your vines, grasses, and of course many trailing flower varieties that work beautifully to literally dress your pots! Petunias, Million Bells (Calibrachoa) and Ivy Geraniums will soften the edges of your pot and add summer long colour. Potato vines fly off the garden centre shelves with their chartreuse, bronze or dark purple leaves to choose from. Licorice vines, Creeping Jenny (Lysmachia), and Silver falls Dichondra are also available in more than one tone to best match your theme. Keep in mind that it’s ok to prune them back throughout the summer if you find them overwhelming the proportions of your arrangement.
Finally, to test ideas nothing gets my creative juices flowing faster than strolling through a fully stocked garden centre. This is where the finer art comes in of pulling colours and using texture to achieve an interesting design. The advantage of setting flowers next to different ones to gauge how they will play off each other is an exciting adventure, not to mention all that eye candy! Bring your colour wheel and take notes. The important thing is to have fun, learn new things and enjoy your creations. Don’t forget to take lots of pictures and happy gardening!