How does your garden grow?


Louise Grabell, Pinal County Master Gardener

There’s a “thriller” in your garden! Well, there should be. Thrillers are flowers that stand upright and call your eye to their display of blossoms. Thrillers demand your attention. Like irises, Echinacea, penstemon, tall zinnia, etc. I am mentioning this because you will need to understand the function of thrillers, fillers, and spillers when creating micro-gardens in a container.

Container gardening is so much fun, and, except for regular watering, requires little attention. Containers filled with flowers can brighten any area around your patio, entranceway, walkways or any place that needs a splash of color and interest. I suppose the first thing you need to do is select the right container. If you are going to follow the thriller, filler, spiller rule, you will need a large container, one that measures at least 14 inches across. Larger is better. Small containers will dry out very quickly and cause you more aggravation than it’s worth. I like a mixture of containers in my patio area, tall ones with shorter ones, but always large enough to hold sufficient soil to keep the blooming beauties looking good on even the hottest days.

For three-season flowers, try a favorite thriller called angelonia [summer snapdragon]. They come in pink, red, purple and white. They have long upright spikes of flowers that are long-lasting and which can be cut away when finished only to be replaced by new spikes of flowers. And while we are on the subject of color, try to create a pleasing combination of blooms keeping the color of the container in mind as well as the other nearby plantings you may have.

After selecting the thriller, go ahead and pick out the “filler” which should be a plant that has a mounding characteristic like marigolds or star zinnia or any low-growing annual that pleases you. For the “spiller”, my favorite is calybrachoa or supertunia [a cross of calybrachoa and petunia]. They are available in almost any color or color combination and will grow over the sides of the container like waterfalls over a cliff. They will perform amazingly for months and can be sheared back when not looking so good, only to produce new trailing branches covered with flowers. Sweet potato vine doesn’t produce many blossoms, but its chartreuse or deep purple leaves will trail forever.

On average, one thriller, two or three fillers, and three spillers will make a good container planting. You can see why, with around six or seven plants, your container needs to be somewhat substantial. Fertilizer will be needed every six weeks…or use those time-release pellets for less bother. The pellets will also need replacing during the summer. And as I mentioned previously, regular watering is essential for a beautiful little garden in a container!

Your Master Gardeners invite you to visit their website for all up-to-date information and events for your community. Garden questions? You can reach our very own Garden Helpline by calling Pat at 407-6459.

Remember, nothing brings more tranquility to the heart than a beautiful garden.