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In the garden: Planting containers for sun and shade! (And Succulents!)

Gardening expert Anne Boulton returns to Sudbury.com with a new column on all things greenthumb
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You only need to remember three words when planting a pot for sun or shade: Thrillers,  Fillers, and Spillers. (Supplied)

This weekend saw me running three gardening workshops at the New Sudbury Shopping Centre. We were building planters for sun, for shade and succulents. 

At 6 a.m., my partner and I were hauling bags of rich potting soil and flats of riotous begonias into the empty mall. We were ready for the day, but what we didn’t expect was the excitement of unsuspecting shoppers who had happened upon our set up. When we reached capacity, which we did for each session, I began with this: 

You only need to remember three words when planting a pot for sun or shade: Thrillers, Fillers, and Spillers. 

Thrillers are the drama of your planter. It’s what gives your planter some height. We planted a tall sedge for the sun, which had a lovely lime green edge that curled as it grew. 

For the shade planter, I introduced the dramatic Pegasus begonia hybrid with deep mahogany and silver overlay on its spiky leaves. These thrillers were placed in the centre of each pot, a bold statement to ground the arrangement. 

Next we move onto the Fillers. These are the little beauties that will grow in and create mass. For both, I offered wax-leaf begonias. These are oldies but goodies, and with varieties for both full sun to partial shade, and leaves in the brightest green to deepest burgundy, you really can’t go wrong. 

Depending on the size of the pot, you’ll want to plant them with enough space so they don’t overcrowd and then wither. You want them to fill the pot, but only to touching slightly. It’s tempting to shove too many into place for an immediate effect, but this will only cause problems later. Patience is key and so waiting for them to fill in is a must. 

Finally, we add Spillers. These crawlers will cascade over the sides of your pot. I tend to plant spillers in threes, so you get a balanced look from any perspective. For the sun planter, we used Lysimachia, or Creeping Jenny, a delightful bright green spreader that is also a useful perennial groundcover. 

The shade planter hosted a staunch German ivy, or Delairea, which thrives in lower light conditions. It can also be treated as a perennial climber. With each planter, I chose plants that had similar watering requirements. 

The succulent planter was also a success. Succulents are becoming more sought out, since they require less care than other varieties. They come in an amazing array of shapes, sizes and colours. 

From deep rose, to pale green, to cool blue, the combinations are really endless. We used a saucer-shaped pot, since depth is not an immediate requirement. In fact, planting succulents in a variety of vessels is part of the charm of cultivating them. 

From tin cans, to chipped china tea-cups, these cute as a button plants can thrive in small containers. They look great planted in groups, or as singles. They require little water and a good deal of light. They’ll tell you when they’re thirsty as their skin with wither like a dried grape. Another tell-tale sign of thirst is a deepening of colour. 

We had such a successful day at the New Sudbury Shopping Centre that we’re already planning the next workshop. This time, we’re thinking fruits and herbs. Hope to see you there!

Gardener Anne Boulton takes you outside to expand your gardening knowledge or pick up a few helpful hints or ideas with In the Garden, Sudbury.com’s monthly gardening column. Anne is the owner of Greenboots Gardens, a landscaping company in Greater Sudbury. For a free estimate, call 705-507-6851 or email anne@greenbootsgardens.ca. Visit her website GreenbootsGardens.ca for more information.



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