Dahlberg daisy is a good filler because it blooms all summer. (ALBERT PARSONS/BRANDON SUN)
Sweet alyssum is often used as a filler. (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)
Annual verbena has a trailing habit and comes in various bright colours. (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)
Small flowered zinnias can serve as colourful fillers. (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)
When creating a growing arrangement, whether it is a window box, planter or other container, I think one of the key ingredients is the filler.
Sometimes we get so caught up with the showy specimen plants that will act as the thrillers and dazzlers of our creations, that we do not give enough consideration to choosing the best fillers to complete the arrangement — and that is the exact function of fillers, and an important function indeed.
An arrangement of growing plants would look incomplete without filler material to close the gaps and to tie the whole arrangement together into a unified display. Fillers also add texture and mass to an arrangement.
Many fillers also trail down over the edges of containers to further enhance the beauty of the growing arrangements. There are myriad fillers available — some of them are rather exotic tropical plants or patented plants that are quite pricey.
After careful consideration, sometimes a simple annual that can be grown from seed will be the best choice — and a more frugal one at that.
One such plant is the Dahlberg daisy, which sometimes goes by the common name ‘golden fleece". It is easy to grow from seed, although the seeds do need to be started indoors eight to 10 weeks before planting out time to get good-sized transplants.
Plants are available, often in six-packs or in individual pots, at most garden centres. When choosing fillers at a garden centre, the Dahlberg daisy is easy to overlook as it doesn’t show at its best when jammed in among other plants on the display bench and it might look rather scrawny and non-descript.
However, given space and proper growing conditions when planted into the garden, it is a most attractive plant. The foliage is heavily divided, having a ferny bright mid-green appearance.
The flowers are small, one centimetre daisy-like blooms born in profusion atop the foliage. Both the rays and the centres of the flowers are yellow, a pure lemony yellow that is a nice contrast both to its own foliage and to companion plants.
Dahlberg daisies are profuse bloomers and the plants will be covered with bloom all season long; they have a long bloom season and require no deadheading.
Although not a true trailing plant, when planted near the edge of a window-box or container, Dahlberg daisies will spill over the edges of the containers to create a pleasant effect. We say that such plants have a "spilling" habit.
There will be enough vertical growth, however, for the plants to act as a filler between other plants. The plants get about 15 centimetres high and wide.
Dahlberg daisies are sun-loving plants and perform best when given a full sun exposure. They are not at all fussy about soil type.
They will grow well in alkaline soils, or soils that are not particularly rich. In their native habitat, they grow in gravel-based soils. Their native habitat is northern Mexico and southern Texas, where they bloom profusely in the hot, arid climate.
Preferring heat and sun, the plants will deteriorate if they are subjected to several rainy days. They require excellent drainage, so when used in window-boxes and containers, the planting medium must drain well.
If Dahlberg daisies do not suit your purposes or you cannot find them, there are other annual plants that are relatively inexpensive and make effective fillers.
Verbena, some of the small-flowered zinnias such as ‘Persian carpet’, sweet alyssum, and the small-flowered marigolds such as ‘tangerine gem’ make great fillers.
I wrote about lobelia a week or so ago so I will not dwell on it except to include it as a distinct possibility when choosing an annual filler. Available in dozen packs, these annual plants are a frugal choice as a dozen pack of plants will go a lot further than a pot containing a single plant of a designer filler.
One of my favourite seed-grown fillers is the Swan River daisy. Similar in growth habit and size to the Dahlberg daisy, Swan River daisies have blue flowers and ferny foliage and planted near the edges of containers, the plants will assume a trailing habit.
If you are adding fillers to your containers or creating a window box or growing arrangement, give ample thought to your choice of fillers. Keep in mind that some of the best fillers are common annuals grown from seed not the expensive designer plants that retailers would prefer we use.
Sometimes the ordinary, when used right, becomes extraordinary!
Albert Parsons is a consultant for garden design and landscaping who lives in Minnedosa.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 5, 2014