Learning French Gardening

AKA Container Gardening

Our local florist, Sturtz and Copeland, offers a variety of gardening classes. This week we took the French gardening class. We learned that there are three fundamental aesthetics for plants in container gardening: thrillers, fillers, and spillers. The thrillers tend to add height and interest to your pot and can be positioned in the center or off-center, depending on the pot. Fillers, like they sound, are the meat of the arrangement. They add volume, color, texture, etc. to your container. Fillers can be chosen to complement your container, the surroundings where your pot will live, or the other plants you are using. Spillers are what they are: trailing, pretty, cover the pot a little and soften the edges. The first decision you have to make is where your pot is going. This will dictate what kind of plants can live in your area. You can play around with containers that fit your space and taste. Most containers use annuals, but you can certainly play around. Basically, you can be as creative as you want with these guidelines in mind. Some of the best tips we learned were:

  • In order to keep the weight of a large pot down and not waste “good” soil, you can use large pieces of Styrofoam as filler in the bottom of the pot. Start with a few pieces of terracotta for good drainage and then add the Styrofoam. You really need about 12″ of soil for annuals.
  • Use good potting mix and remember to water and fertilize your pots. If you feel comfortable, you can mix water crystals and a time release fertilizer like Ozmaocote at the root level into the soil. Or, if you are like us, you might go to Costco and get the giant size of Miracle-Grow potting soil and the fertilizer that attaches to your hose. I would love to feel comfortable mixing my own soil concoctions, but getting the pots done at all is an accomplishment.
  • Utilize the rule of three. Think three fillers, three spillers, and alternate them. Really, when it comes to plants, remember to use odd numbers.
  • Don’t be afraid to spread out the roots of your plants! You need to make sure they are ready to grow normally and not in circles like when they are root bound.
  • Read the tags on your plants so you know which ones to choose. Just knowing what size your plants will get will help you to gauge how many and what types of plants you need.
  • Lay your plants out in your pot once the soil is prepped to gauge the best composition. Play with it and have fun!

These are our creations in progress:

We will post updates as our French Container Gardens fill in and mature!

Mary & Kelly


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