Garden Detective: Containers bursting with color

The Betsy Ross arrangement includes Petunia Suncatcher Midnight

The Betsy Ross arrangement includes Petunia Suncatcher Midnight Blue, Petunia Suncatcher Red and Petunia Suncatcher White. (Credit: Handout)

Jessica Damiano

Jessica Damiano, Newsday columnist Jessica Damiano

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This is the time of year when we find ourselves strolling nursery aisles, gawking at their beautiful pre-planted containers and deciding whether to buy them or create our own.

Some of us will opt for the professionally arranged designs, thoughtfully planted by talented nursery personnel, while others will devise their own container recipes and group smaller annuals purchased separately into one pot, either following the tried-and-true "thriller, filler and spiller" method (see below) or going a more free-spirited route.

Professionals put a lot of thought into their container ingredients, carefully considering simultaneous bloom times, mature sizes and aesthetic appeal. You should, too, if you decide to venture out on your own. Here are five of my favorite container recipes to look for this year, regardless of who's doing the planting (all are suitable for sunny sites). (In all cases, call ahead to check availability.)

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You're So Fresh (recipe courtesy Ball Horticultural Co.)

Osteospermum Voltage Yellow

Diascia Romeo White

Lobelia Waterfall Blue

Plants available at Home Depot stores

Betsy Ross (recipe courtesy Ball Horticultural)

Petunia Suncatcher Midnight Blue

Petunia Suncatcher Red

Petunia Suncatcher White

Plants available at Home Depot stores

Bermuda Skies (recipe courtesy Proven Winners)

Supertunia Bermuda Beach

Superbells Yellow Chiffon

Laguna Sky Blue

Plants available at Atlantic Nursery in Freeport, Prianti Farms in Dix Hills, Martin Viette Nursery in East Norwich, Dodds & Eder in Oyster Bay, White Post Farms in Melville, F&W Schmitt Brothers in Melville

Glory Days (recipe courtesy Proven Winners)

Supertunia Royal Velvet

Diamond Frost Euphorbia

Superbena Large Lilac Blue

Plants available at Atlantic Nursery in Freeport, Prianti Farms in Dix Hills, Martin Viette Nursery in East Norwich, Dodds & Eder in Oyster Bay, White Post Farms in Melville, F&W Schmitt Brothers in Melville

Tropical Punch (recipe courtesy Ball Horticultural)

Calibrachoa Cabaret Cherry Rose Improved

Calibrachoa Cabaret Purple

Calibrachoa Can-Can Orange

Plants available at Home Depot stores

 

Container planting tips

Choose a container that will accommodate plants at their mature sizes. Ensure there are drainage holes on pot bottoms. If not, drill them in.

Never use soil from the garden; it can harbor diseases and weed seeds and is too heavy for pots. Instead, use a potting mixture that contains a combination of peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, nutrients, limestone and, if available, fast- and slow-release fertilizers.

Group together plants that have similar light and water requirements.

Fertilize when planting (but not if potting mixture contains fertilizer) and again six to eight weeks later.

Thrillers, fillers, spillers

Remembering this cute, rhyming threesome is an easy way to ensure you plant the three components of lush, abundant containers. Here's what it all means:

THRILLERS An upright plant that will provide vertical interest. The thriller should be planted first, in the center of the container.

FILLERS Shorter plants with a spreading habit. Fillers fill in the space between thrillers and spillers.

SPILLERS Vining plants. Spillers are planted around the outer perimeter of containers and grow to cascade over the edges.