1. Select Your Container
Finding a good container that you’d like to use is half the battle. This planting style can be applied to any size of container. I often like to use a basic terracotta pot (maybe I’m not as adventurous as I think I am!) to allow for the plants to take centre stage.
2. Colour Consideration
3. Create a Base to Save Soil
This trick will vary depending on the size of your container. For small containers, you’ll want to skip this step and fill it full with soil.
If you are using tall or oversized containers, unless you are planting plants that have a large root ball, they need A LOT of soil. Often the roots wouldn’t penetrate down to the bottom anyways. So, a really great trick is to build up a base at the bottom of the container using empty plant pots. Placed upside down, fill about halfway up your container with various sized empty plant pots. Adding those plant pots upside down is key. Otherwise you’ll just be filling those with soil too! Once that’s done, fill the remainder of the container with soil. It is inevitable that some soil will slip down the sides. Don’t worry. Don’t have extra containers on hand? You can use the containers of the plants you’re using that day. I always keep containers of all sizes and reuse them year after year for this very reason. Otherwise, you could also reuse a cardboard box or anything large that will keep some shape to create a base for the soil to sit on.
4. Take A Deep Breath
If you haven’t been having fun yet, it’s about to start. This can be a meditative process.
5. Add The "Thriller"
This will be the focal point of your container and where the eye will go to first. I often place it in the centre of the container, but feel free to be creative. If your container will be placed in front of a wall, you could put a tall “thriller” at centre back. The thriller should be different and unique from the other pieces in the container. Pick out a plant that excites you! If you are just starting out with container design, grasses are a great place to start. There are many different colors and heights and they can be easily styled with a large variety of flowers and vines.
Great spring “thrillers” that you can mix and match with any of the fillers and spillers: daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, stock, geranium, muscari, hellebores.
6. Add The "Filler"
The thriller and the spiller are the eye catching components of the container that receive all of the credit, but the filler is your workhorse. This is where plants that bloom are fun, where you can add in some color. Select plants that take up volume. I often place them all the way around the “thriller.”
Great spring “fillers” that you can mix and match with any of the thrillers and spillers: primrose, pansies, violas, heather, ranunculus, sage, lavender, rosemary (yes! You can add edibles to your ornamental containers).
7. Add The "Spiller"
Spiller refers to plants that drape over the edges of the container. They create a look of abundance. Find a type of plant in a color that compliments the thriller and filler that is described as a “trailer.” As you work, keep in mind the shape of the container. Step back often and observe what the container looks like from different vantage points.
Great spring “spillers” that you can mix and match with any of the thrillers and fillers noted: ivy, dichondra, sweet potato vine.
8. Add An Accent
Accents somewhat live in the “thriller” category but they’re often not plants but branches.
Great accents that go with any of the thriller, spiller and fillers listed above: dogwood, pussywillows, curly willow.
9. Add, Revise, Experiment
Take your container to another level by adding fancier thrillers. Add as many bells and whistles as your design taste desires.
Play around and experiment with different textures, heights, and colors. The most important part in creating your own container is to enjoy the tactile nature and creative freedom of it. It’s a bonus that you end up with a beautiful arrangement that will be a conversation point during the season.