Create a beautiful garden with a “thriller, filler and spiller” combinationCreate a beautiful garden with a “thriller, filler and spiller” combinationRead MoreThe Vancouver Sun – RSS Feed

Create a beautiful garden with a “thriller, filler and spiller” combination

When it comes to designing a beautiful container planting, Vancouver Master Gardener Julie Paul suggests including a thriller, filler and spiller. Photo by Getty /Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Container gardening is perfectly suited to sunny condo patios where carefully selected small-space plantings can deliver dramatic and eye-catching results.

Vancouver Master Gardener Julie Paul says a no-fail recipe for a spectacular container planting is to include a thriller, filler and spiller.

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“A thriller is the star of your planter that creates a statement; filler plants fill in the spaces in the container and complement the thrillers and spillers — think texture and variety of colour; and spiller plants spill down the sides to soften the [visual] edge of your planter,” she says.

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A colourful combination she suggests for a container on a sunny patio is Salvia Rockin’ Fuchsia, Osteospermum Bright Lights Horizon and Supertunia Mini Vista Midnight.

Many of the criteria that apply to backyard gardens, such as sun exposure, also apply to container plantings, says Paul.

Before heading out to the nursery or garden store, she suggests analyzing how much sun the patio gets.

“It’s a simple procedure. If you are home one day, just see how often the sun is on the deck. Do you have full sun — which is a good six hours of sun — partial sun, or do you have shade? And if you purchase plants that meet your sun requirement — the sun that you have — you’ve already started on a great foot. But if you put a shady plant in a sunny spot, it’s going to struggle,” she cautions, noting tags on plants from commercial growers always provide information on how much sun a specific plant needs.

A must-have is good-quality soil.

“When you go into the nursery or garden store, you want [to buy] container gardening soil because it’s got some water retention quality to it and that’s really important. It’s also a lighter soil — the soil that you put in a garden tends to be heavier.”

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The BC Home + Garden Show returns to BC Place Feb. 8 to 11 and visitors will find plenty of gardening features to check out. Photo by Supplied by Marketplace Events

The planted container also requires regular watering and needs to be able to drain, so condo greenthumbs likely need to place the pot on a drip tray to capture any extra water.

Feeding plants is important, and Paul suggests organic fertilizer, such as Sea Soil, as a good option. Mulches also help maintain the soil.

“Don’t throw out dead leaves left in the container; they become organic matter that will feed back into the soil.”

In addition to floral plantings, Paul also enjoys foliage colour and suggests grouping Coleus, Heuchera and Potato vine, which is commonly used as a spiller. Also, consider campanulas with their violet flowers or alyssum, she adds.

If you’re interested in edibles for your containers, she suggests Tumbler Tomatoes and chives, while herbs like rosemary, oregano and thyme do well. (Don’t overwater these Mediterranean herbs; they like sunny and dry conditions.) Some herbs, like mint, grow so well they can be invasive, and Paul suggests these do well in a pot by themselves.

Now chair of Vancouver Master Gardeners, Paul started gardening with her grandmother as a child. A few years ago, after retiring from her career as a marine management consultant, she was looking for a hobby to keep her mind active.

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“I found out about Vancouver Master Gardeners and took the very intense course. Then I discovered that I could continue learning and [access the] opportunities that the organization provided, and I started volunteering,” she says.

To find out more about container gardening, don’t miss Paul’s fellow Vancouver Master Gardener Catherine Skoro’s presentation on the subject, which is part of The Vancouver Sun Gardeners School on the Garden Stage at this year’s BC Home + Garden Show, BC Place Stadium, Vancouver from Feb. 8 to 11.

Vancouver Master Gardener Catherine Skoro will present on the Garden Stage at this year’s BC Home + Garden Show. Photo by Supplied

Catherine Skoro, Vancouver Master Gardeners

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