by germinatrix | October 25th, 2009
When I look around my garden these days, few things make me happier than my containers!
Containers are no-brainers. Every garden needs them, wants them, HAS to have them! They are an opportunity to inject a little bit more drama into a landscape, one that I will happily take, every time.
When I use containers in gardens, I always think of glazed ceramic first. I mean, who can pass up the opportunity to get a big dose of happy color into an outdoor space? Certainly not me, but then again I am a fiend for the colorful and the dramatic – give me a cool pot in a jewel tone with a big amazing plant in it and I’m thrilled! Or better still, give me a dozen and I am in heaven!
Recently on twitter, garden pros/writers/bloggers Susan L. Morrison, Kerry Michaels and I were discussing the gardening catchphrase that inspired many a confused container – Thriller, Filler, and Spiller. What is THAT, you ask … well, this rule states that when creating a planting in a pot you should use 3 plants. The first: a “Thriller” – a focal point; something great. The second plant, a “Filler” – a plant that gives you some mid-level volume; something puffy and leafy. The third, a “Spiller” – a drip; a lax plant that spills over the lip of the pot.
All of these are good things! I have a few pots that have thrillers, fillers and spillers in them, but I also have pots with millers and grillers and every once in a while I even use a chiller. I mean… come on…
Now, of course I understand that people like easy formulas to simplify complicated things like, um … putting plants in a pot … but really! Do we need a rhyme-y singsong ditty to make people feel like they’re “Doing It Right”? I say NO!!! Because there IS no WRONG when it comes to gardens – if you love it, and it’s thriving, RIGHT ON! It’s a success! The only thing that reads ‘wrong’ to me is when things seem forced and contrived, like what happens when the ThrillerFillerSpiller rule is applied across the board. Sometimes it’s fantastic to have a spill over the lip of a container; sometimes it’s completely weird. The ‘Filler’ is what REALLY gets me – why encourage someone to stick a random mid-level element in a container just to fill a perceived void? Why not encourage people to step back and look – to use their eyes and brains and intuition? Why give them a shortcut? Do we even WANT shortcuts when we garden? One of the things I love BEST about gardening is that I am usually thwarted when I try and take the easy way out – usually it’s time, patience, and thoughtful planning that is rewarded.
I get the fact that gardening can be tough at first, and that a little quip like thrillerfillerspiller can help to give those just starting a kind of ‘scaffold’ to hang a design on – but what that phrase doesn’t take into account is that containers have a relationship to each other, and you might want to play with that. If you follow a rule, it lets you off the hook. It short circuits the whole exciting THING about designing – which is looking, thinking, and playing! Making surprising decisions! Making a mistake that you absolutely LOVE!!!
So don’t give me RULES, whoever you are that made up this bogus planting trick … give me permission to HAVE FUN!
That is where the magic happens…