You could simply stuff a bunch of plants in a pot and call it good, but your garden containers will look much better if you take time to create a pleasing composition.
Planting a garden container is like creating a floral arrangement. Think of the following when planning your container: proportions, color, and three different types of plants – a focal point, fillers, and spillers.
Choose a container that is in proportion to the space in which you will use it. If you have a large garden space, a tiny 18-inch pot is not going to be large enough to make a visual impact. The same goes for small spaces. A container that is too large can quickly overwhelm and constrict a small space.
The plants should be in proportion to the pot. In general, you don’t want a plant to be more than twice as tall as the container or one and a half times as wide. If you’re using small trees like Japanese maples in pots, make sure you provide adequate space for the root ball and stand back and look at how the container looks with the plant. If the composition looks top heavy, your proportions are off and you will need a bigger container.
To create stunning garden containers, it is important to use colors that both complement each other and provide contrast. Flower color is important, but foliage color is important too. When the flowers fade, it is the leaves that are left to do the work. Monochromatic color schemes are lovely, but so are complementary colors. Combine light and dark colors like chartreuse and burgundy for contrast.
A Focal Point
When designing a garden planter, provide a focal point. In a large pot, you will need one large plant that can serve this purpose. If you are designing a trio of pots, place your focal point plant in the largest pot. The other two pots will act as minor companions to the large pot. The focal point plant should have an upright form and can be up to two times the height of the container. Upright evergreen shrubs, tall ornamental grasses, and small trees all make good focal point plants.
Fillers are the plants that get planted around the base of the focal point plant. They make the planter look full and vibrant. These should be plants that provide interesting color and textural interest. Annuals with brightly colored flowers, herbaceous perennials with interesting foliage color, and small ornamental grasses that can provide textural contrasts are all suitable choices as fillers.
Include at least three spillers in your garden container. Spillers are trailing plants that spill over the edge of the pot and soften the edges. Common garden plants used for this purpose are variegated ivy, ornamental sweet potato vine, and trailing lobelia.
Finally, purchase enough fillers and spillers to fill the pot, leaving no bare soil. By using the above design elements of proportion, color, a focal point, fillers, and spillers, your garden container will turn out beautifully.