By Jane Milliman
When gardeners talk about decorative container design, they tend to use the words thrillers, fillers, and spillers. This simply refers to the idea that a good-looking container garden includes something tall, something short or round, and something that drapes over the sides of the pot. This container illustrates the concept perfectly.
But sometimes we don’t want a formula. Sometimes we like to innovate or add a little drama. You can do this in many easy ways. Look around for unused objects you could turn into planters, like this funky toolbox. Just remember to add drainage holes.
Use a bold container. This can feel like a splurge, but the perfect, big, brightly colored or patterned container calls attention to itself. Make sure the plantings harmonize and don’t compete with the planter. You could switch out this gorgeous example, potted up with a blooming Pieris japonica, with another interesting shrub later in the season.
Planting a single specimen or species adds a formal, dramatic touch. This urn isn’t much to look at on its own. But planted with a large fern and placed at eye height, it says, “Check me out!”
How about changing up the texture? You can make your own hypertufa troughs. They’re a delightful way to highlight diminutive plants. Or use them to grow alpine plants that would not survive in your perennial border. These hypertufa planters may be tiny, but they pack a lot of punch.
There’s strength in numbers. Grouping containers — especially when they complement each other in color or material — is an easy move a lot of gardeners overlook. Unless you’re aiming for formal symmetry, odd numbers are most pleasing to the eye. Take note of the four small pots in the front of this arrangement: They have been split into one cluster of three and one lone specimen. To the eye, that translates into odd numbers.
Bright colors are a great attention-getter. Orange calibrachoa and variegated fuchsia are ablaze in this otherwise neutral hanging basket.
Finally, the easiest way to embolden your containers is with big plants: Bananas (pictured), cannas, elephant ears, bougainvillea, etc. Evoke the tropics and the “wow” factor in one fell swoop!