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Container Garden Design 101

THE TED LARE LOOK
container garden design

Container gardening is a design process that works like all art forms, when creativity follows certain guidelines. These aren’t rules, the guidelines are essentially hints on how to create a promising creation that performs well and looks its best. In container gardening, these guidelines are so broad that your imagination is the limit in creating gorgeous, statement-making designs in your own yard.

Containers are the trendsetters of gardening, they’re about creating designs that don’t have any commitments. While trees, perennials or landscaping may be about enduring statements, containers are meant for experimentation and following whatever you dream up each year.

Here are a few guidelines to have your annual statements looking their best:

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Back to the Basics:
A few guidelines to keep your designs gorgeous every year:

  • Choose whatever shape and size of container that works for you, whether that’s short, tall, skinny, or wide. To keep a good sense of scale in your design, your plants should be 1.3x taller than your container (so, the height of the container, plus another third).
  • Place your centerpiece according to how your container is going to be viewed. If you want to look at your container from all directions, the centrepiece should be in the middle, but if it is against a wall, the centrepiece should go at the back. This will drastically change how much room you have at the sides of the container for color and filler plants, so choose the width of your pot or groupings of plants to suit your ideas.
  • Remember to check how big your plants will get when you are buying and designing, so that you keep in mind how your container will mature over the season.

Container Elements:
Well-designed containers tend to abide by a rule of having elements of a centerpiece, plants for body and volume, and trailing plants. How you combine these in your own containers is very flexible, allowing for unique and personalized trendy designs that are guaranteed to work.


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flower baskets

The “Thriller”
These are your centerpiece plants. They provide a focal point and are usually the most bold architectural feature in your design. There are many different varieties of styles to consider here, ranging from straight and vertical grasses, to lush and leafy. The shape and form of your centerpiece plant will have a lot of influence over the shape of your container and the rest of the plants you consider.

container garden design

The “Filler”
Central plants can be either flowering or foliage, but they function as the body and bulk of your container design. They typically have a mounding habit and fill in the shape of your container. This is the ideal element to use for tying everything in your container together to make a statement. Keep proportions in mind to keep your fillers in synchronization with the rest of your design.

container garden design

The “Spiller”
Trailing plants provide cascades of foliage or flowers out of the container and provide an improved sense of height to your container. Including trailing plants with more volume can do double duty as filler plants as well, as they might grow both upwards and down. Good planning can make these robust plants a lush element of the design, instead of competitors for space. If you have a tall container, or a container you don’t like as much as your design, long vines are a great choice to mask parts of it. On the other hand, trailing lengths of vines might not look well-proportioned in a shorter container.

The aspects of a Thriller, Filler, and Spiller are architectural guidelines for anyone to play with in their own containers. Other aspects like texture, color, and scent are also great ways to experiment with new trends each year and craft container designs that are perfect for you and your home, every time.

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The Ted Lare Look

Our garden style and trend blog, dedicated to helping you design and shape your dream home, garden, and outdoor retreat.

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