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With the fast-paced environment many of us live in today, we find ourselves yearning for a pleasant distraction from the stressors of everyday life. For many of us, gardening is a joyous outlet that we just can't get enough of. Not only does it make the world around us a more beautiful place, but it allows us to express ourselves unlike anything else.
Container gardening, in particular, provides endless opportunity to express creativity and experience new things. Situating your favorite plant into a pretty pot and calling it a day is one way of doing it, and can certainly be appreciated for its simplistic beauty. But strategically combining different plants will help you achieve that perfect statement piece you're looking for. From plans to plants to pots, here are some of our best container garden design tips.
Like any kind of design project, there are certain techniques that can make it easier to build an attractive container. There are three roles that plants play in containers: thrillers, fillers, and spillers. While the thriller is what draws your attention, the rest of the plants provide emphasis and encourage your eyes to linger for longer.
Start with the star of the show, your thriller. This is the plant that's going to grab your attention, providing a focal point and setting the tone for your design. They're bold and interesting, creating contrast with their unique shapes and bright colors. Good thrillers tend to add a tall, vertical element to your container. Most flowers can serve as thrillers, but dramatic plants like dracaenas or canna lilies are especially good at it.
Once you have your thriller, you can then build your design around it. Fillers are used to surround the thriller, filling in the gaps and adding mass to your container with more delicate textures. Medium-sized, mounding plants are great at this, effectively emphasizing the thriller without detracting from their own wonderful presence. If you're going for a multi-floral container, trailing petunias, heliotropes, and other small-flowered plants are great fillers. For interesting foliar fillers, try coleus or Persian shield.
Finally, add spillers to anchor the container design. Plant them near the edge of the pot, allowing their trailing stems to flow over the edge, softening any harsh edges. Spillers should still harmonize with the rest of the plant collection by echoing or contrasting shapes, colors, and textures. Sweet potato vine, vinca, ivy, and Creeping Jenny are some of our favorites.
Remember, you don't have to narrow your container down to just three plants. While it's more effective to have just one thriller, you can include as many fillers and spillers as you like, as long as they compliment the design and all have similar sunlight and moisture needs.
Thrillers, fillers, and spillers might be the essentials of container gardening, but not just any combination of the three is going to look good. When it comes to really pulling together a design, thought and planning doesn't go unnoticed. The key to a cohesive container is finding the right balance of harmony and contrast. Your details should catch the eye without causing a tension headache! Plan carefully and you'll turn your collection of plants into a piece of art.
Both harmony and contrast play vital roles in design technique, but you can lean one way or the other depending on what aesthetic you're going for. A harmonious garden design evokes a sense of calmness and serenity, perfect for a relaxing backyard oasis. Harmony is achieved by pairing elements like colors and textures that are similar. In this case, you might want to create a symmetrical container design with colors that are all within a shade or two of each other.
However, too much harmony can lead to a boring container, and that's the last thing we want! Contrast, which is the pairing of two strikingly different elements, is still needed to grab your attention. If you're looking for something to make your garden pop, you may be a little more adventurous in your plant pairings. Using a variety of different elements and many layers of contrast, you can create a playful and entertaining design that catches the eye without overwhelming it. Try some bold shapes and textures, but add in some soft, finer ones to balance it out.
One of the hardest parts of DIY container garden designs is narrowing down the perfect combination of colors. Understanding the basic design principles of color schemes makes creating your own theme much easier.
Before jumping into crazy color combos, consider what look you're trying to achieve. If you're going for a pretty and peaceful container, opt for a harmonious pairing of colors. Analog colors, which are close to each other on the color wheel, end up melting together to create a mesmerizing, cohesive design. For example, green, blue-green, and blue are analogs and create a sea of similar shades when blooms of these colors are planted together.
For a more lively container that radiates charisma and fun, go for colors that are complete opposites of each other instead. Shades that oppose each other on the color wheel, like purple and yellow, or orange and blue, are actually complementary to each other. The stark contrast they provide is what makes them look so great paired together! You can always tone it down a bit with a split complementary scheme of two hues and a complementary color. For example, pair two shades of purple with a bright yellow accent for a striking, yet balanced design.
Container Design Inspiration
If you're still a little lost on the whole color combination thing, don't worry. While some people have the creative mind to start from scratch, many of us need a nudge in the right direction. Get inspired by some of these classic container designs that never go out of style:
Bold and beautiful containers: For a bold, regal container that's sure to rule your yard, pair violet blooms like purple petunias and salvia with some yellow daisies and include a foliar spiller like creeping jenny. If you're feeling especially bold, try adding in some red annuals, too.
Spring containers: Bright and cheery blooms bring the warmth of spring and cleanse the palate after months of bleakness. Many spring containers are filled with shades of pink, purple, blue, and yellow. Spring bulbs like tulips and daffodils are great focal points for containers. Plant varying shades of pink tulips paired with some simple foliar fillers for a simple design. You can also mix purple-yellow pansies and violas with sunshine yellow daffodils to create a gorgeous split complementary scheme.
Succulent container gardens: While bright blooms certainly have their spot on the stage, succulents have also risen to stardom in recent years. Most succulent containers provide a stunning array of bright greens, frosty blues, and modest purples. Even better, succulents allow you to play with shapes and textures unlike any other plant. Place your larger, "thriller" succulents first, like large rosettes or spiky aloe. Fill in the space with smaller plants of different shapes and patterns. Spill with trailing succulents likes string of pearls or string of hearts.
While most of your time and effort goes into planning the contents, the container itself is just as important to your overall design. Whether its classic terra cotta, elegant porcelain, or rustic wood, consider how your pots fit into your container garden aesthetic.
Sometimes it's easier to choose the container first since it could influence your selection of plants. For hanging baskets, you have the option of long, trailing spillers that dangle elegantly over the edges. If you're working with a very large container, you might have room for multiple thrillers and even more fillers!
With endless possibilities, even experienced gardeners can become overwhelmed with container design. If a gorgeous container garden is what your heart desires this summer but your lack of design skills is leaving you overwhelmed, let Plant Perfect do the work for you! With our wide selection of plants and gorgeous pottery section, we'll send you home with the container garden of your dreams.