I had a client in the store a few days ago, needing some help with planting a pair of containers. She told me she needed a thriller, some fillers, and some spillers for her pots. ??? I was at sea. This sounded like some popular container composition slang; I asked for an explanation. The explanation was as follows. A tall center of interest plant, with some slightly shorter supporting cast plants, and trailing plants to spill over the edges of the pots. Voila-a perfectly designed and beautiful pot. Formulas-I instinctively have an aversion to them. The pot pictured above looks like a mess with no discernible design, but give it a few weeks. The “spiller” plants are planted in the center. The “filler” plants are planted on on the edge. I abide by the natural order of things when I need to. The seasons change-I get behind that. The west sun is merciless, unlike the life giving east sun. The natural order of things apply to natural phenomena. All else-whatever idea you have, try it out. Be confident enough to try things out of order.
This may be my most favorite container planting of this season. A purple spike may bring the thriller status to mind-I had another idea. What happens when I plant the thriller plant, in multiples, in the spiller slot? We’ll see how this planting matures-but I like the idea that I have dwarf and luminous white and green caladiums in the thriller spot. The button ferns-they defy categorization. They do not spill-they are drapy. I promise to take another picture in 6 weeks or so.
Last year I planted white mandevillea vines in the front of the shop. No stakes, no trellis. I let them grow as they would-my thriller became a spiller. They were beautiful. How they looked encouraged me to be free of an outline about the natural order of things. Gardens that I see that are free-free from popular sentiment, free from formulas, free from preconcieved notions-are they not so beautiful? I pin my climbing roses to the wall, and I stake my mandevillea. I give my clematis a trellis on which to climb. I follow the rules-mostly. But there are those times when a preconceived order of things may not be the most interesting solution.