Let’s Contain It

” The Thrillers, Fillers, and Spillers “

This month is very, very busy as so many outdoor tasks and household must-dos are crying for our attention. It may mean painting, cleaning out garages for that sale, power washing the deck, cleaning windows and putting in screens, retrieving outdoor furniture from its winter storage location and the list goes on and on. Memorial Day is on the horizon and many of us anticipate the arrival of guests and planning for those festive cookouts.

In the garden, things are really “revving” up. Our lawns need weekly mowing, the weeds are showing up and most of our perennials have made their appearance and perhaps you have already harvested some of those cold hardy lettuces in your vegetable garden. May is the month we look forward to planting the beautiful color that annuals bring to our gardens and containers. The excitement of choosing those perfect pots, urns, and flower boxes to fill with a profusion of bloom is perhaps the most welcomed gardening task for me. Every year we are presented with new selections and it is like looking at a litter of puppies_I want them all! How do we select from all these choices and what cultural practices will ensure months of enjoyment from these displays?

If you are anything like me this is a real seek and find adventure for rarely do I find all the right plants in the right combination of color, texture, and habit at one nursery. So it usually takes me over a week to gather the palette for this season_usually a revision from last year’s display. Select a container(s) that you positively love, the bigger the better or opt for a grouping of three in varying heights, purchase quality potting soil ( Miracle Gro is good ), select plants that reflect your color scheme and have contrasting textures and heights; i.e. tall thrillers, lower fillers and trailing spillers. After planting sprinkle in some granular slow-release fertilizer like Osmocote and remember to use a water-soluble liquid fertilizer at least twice a month to keep those flowers popping. Some plants need regular deadheading and I usually do some serious pruning of more aggressive plants by mid-July. If you want to simplify maintenance, group your containers, and design a convenient watering system because by August the ‘bucket drill’ will become a daily necessity.

The flower box here (above) was designed for the Centerville library and features a beautiful ‘azak’ box from Walpole Woodworkers filled with a combination of dwarf boxwood and cascading juniper for all-season interest. After the summer show, it is refreshed with fall flowers and then ultimately decorated for Christmas. The ‘thrillers’ here are tiny “Italian Cypress trees and Mandevilla vine. Geraniums, supertunias, bacopa and ivy ‘fill’ and ‘spill’. This combination was a great performer and greeted visitors all Summer long.

Here is some eye candy to tantalize and get those creative juices flowing.

Please visit these resources for more ideas on designing your containers on the Proven Winners web site.

This lovely grouping was designed by Christina Salwitz, a talented container designer and co-author with Karen Chapman of Fine Foliage. I am a big fan of theirs and I suggest you start using beautiful foliage to a good advantage in your creations.

I invite you to visit my web site for more inspiration on the use of containers in your landscape.

Also please visit my blog post on Speaker topics as I enjoy presenting a Keynote on Container Gardening.

Want more eye candy? Check out some of my designs here.


About the Author and Photographer: Elaine Johnson has been designing residential landscapes on Cape Cod and the South Shore for over 25 years. She has a very strong background in creative design and project management for all phases of construction and installation. With an extensive knowledge of plant material suited to local growing conditions, she designs landscapes that have lasting beauty and integrity. To learn more about Elaine and see a portfolio of her work please visit her website at Elaine M. Johnson, Landscape Design.