The Thrill, Fill and Spill of It 4

Pink Grizzly give us the scoop on how to arrange a flower garden to go gaga over

Keep three things in mind with regard to your flower garden: thrill, fill and spill. Thrill plants like petunias and marigolds are typically very showy and colorful while spill plants such as alyssum are the low-growing flora found around the edges of your garden. Providing texture are fill plants such as dusty miller (Senecio cineraria). Here are some tips about how to create a flower garden that thrills, fills, and spills. All of the plants mentioned are affordable and easy to find in large quantities in the Missoula Valley.

The Thrill Ain’t Gone

Petunias are one of the most diverse annuals for a garden. They can be found in almost every color of the rainbow and can survive a frost. The latter is important for the gardener with “cabin fever.” You know, the one who can’t wait to get some color in their landscape. At our nursery, we began putting petunias outside in April once the nighttime temperatures were staying above 28 degrees. Varieties such as Ultra, Madness, Dreams, Tritunia, and Bravo have a nice mounding and upright habit, are grown from seed, and are typically very affordable. Mounding/trailing petunias such as Supertunia, Wave, and Surfinia both thrill and spill, although they are mostly grown from rooted cuttings and are typically licensed products, making them more expensive.

Marigolds have a delicate, feathery green texture to their leaves and come in rich shades of orange, yellow, cream, and red. Most varieties, however, are not frost hardy. Be sure to plant them after the last frost, typically mid-May. Petunias are a natural deterrent for insects and pests such as deer, which typically don’t eat marigolds, but they have been known to pull the plants up and spit them out.  If you have the patience to replant, the deer will eventually learn that marigolds do not taste good and they will leave your marigolds alone. Also, it is easy to save the seeds from marigold flowers and use them to replant the following year.

Fill It to the Brim

Fill plants are often underrated because they don’t have the rich colors of thrill plants. Texture plants like dusty miller provide height and depth to a garden, and they tend to bring out the colors of the other plants around them. Dusty millers live up to their very descriptive name. They feature a dusty white or silver color with velvet-like hairs along the leaves and stalk, and their leaves are serrated much like those of a daisy. The gardener can use this plant as a focal point, mixed evenly throughout with other plants, or as a border plant. This plant is extremely cold hardy and nearly deer proof, which makes it one of our top recommendations for any Western Montana garden.

The Spill-Way

The attributes of alyssum make this an ideal spill choice. Found in bright white, pink, and violet, alyssum is very cold hardy and has a strong honey fragrance that will make you stop and smell the flowers. And because of its distinct, sweet smell, alyssum is a great friend to pollinators in your garden. Lobularia, a variety of alyssum on steroids, is an impressively tough and drought tolerant flower, but be warned it can tend to compete (and win) against other plants in the garden, so give it plenty of room.

Mix It Up

When putting the thrill, fill, and spill together in a container or garden, strategically add plants according to their size and place in the garden. All of the aforementioned flowers will tolerate partial shade to full sun, and they enjoy a slightly acidic soil with plenty of iron. Tip: To achieve this, just ask your garden center for fertilizers with iron. Plant your taller plants (marigolds and dusty miller) toward the back, the petunias in the mid areas, and alyssum along the borders. Mix and match these annuals to develop an eye-catching, peace-inspiring garden.