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How-to Create Container Groupings

Clusters of pots offer immediate impact and unrivaled flexibility

Fine Gardening - Issue 123

Container groupings are an ideal solution for all kinds of problem areas. Groupings of pots can soften the geometry of a scene or create dramatic entries, hallways, and outdoor rooms. They can also teach you a lot about combining plants because you can move things around until you get it just right. In this video, author Steve Silk explains how he has adapted his “thriller, filler, and spiller” container recipe to container clusters.

Steve’s Container Strategy

For a lush container that is sure to dazzle, use three types of plants that perform different functions but work in harmony.

One of my favorite garden pastimes is cooking up new ideas for planting containers. I’ve never bothered to count just how many pots I plant each year, but the number easily tops 100.

But no matter how many pots I display, I’ve come to realize there’s no mystery in making a scrumptious container planting as long as I follow a simple three-ingredient recipe. First and foremost is what I call a “thriller,” a centerpiece plant with star quality, something big, bold, and beautiful. Then I add a few spicy “fillers,” foliage or flowering plants that will complement but not overwhelm the main player. Finally, I add a savory splash of mischief, a “spiller” that just tumbles out of the pot. As long as I use each of those kinds of plants—in various proportions—and take care to balance colors and textures, I can create a pot with pizzazz.

I also bear in mind that the boundaries between my three basic plant types aren’t fixed. Depending on the arrangement and scale of a planting, some fillers might get promoted to thriller, some fillers—many kinds of verbena, for example—might spill a little, and some thrillers might serve as fillers when paired with something larger and even more exotic. But it’s not necessary to overthink the process. No matter what the specific plant, using a thriller, a filler, and a spiller is a sure recipe for success.

Previous: Designer Secrets for Over-the-Top Pots Next: 8 Ways to Create Crowd-Pleasing Containers
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Container Gardening

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