There are a number of small plants that make a small space look good.  I like at least 3 of each when planting so it doesn’t look “patchy”.  Even there I like at least one tall plant, much like you are planting in a container. My favorite lately has been Mandeville and even in a corner I sometimes plant it in a pot for background.  The brightest red or pink I can find is my favorite.  Full sun, plenty of water, plus a high trellis will keep it happy. It never gets very wide but does go up to 5 to 20 feet.  This summer I have had to cut that tall wandering top off twice, hoping to make it branch more below.  I have in years past cut them off after frost and dragged that big pot into the garage. However, the price has dropped in the last few years so will get a new small one next spring.

          Coleus usually don’t get too tall, but if you nip the highs out, the base can get very wide. Any color you like is probably available even an orange (Sedona).  On a south exposure they droop easily without plenty of water.  The two biggest ones I have had (in a container) are “Fish Net Stockings”, an amazing color combination that looks like a net with its black veins.  A plant many times mistaken for a Coleus is the Perilla padella.  Both grow three feet tall and wide and work very well for your big plant.  This Perilla is not the hardy one that seeds all over your yard and is deep purple.  It is not hardy in Southeast and South Central Nebraska.

          A few years ago several garden writers on container gardening had three necessities:

(1)  A thriller-the big, outstanding center piece or background.  Some use an evergreen for this;

(2)  A spiller-a plant that droops over the edge;

(3)  Filler-these are plants in the majority of the container.

This plan could work just as well for a small space. If it is just a corner, that small evergreen as the thriller would prevent winter from being bare.  The Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Picea glauca) does well here. I have one forty years old but only 6 feet high so it can be in a container for years.

          The spiller can be your favorite short plant to edge the area. It probably cannot “spill” very far or get in your path. If you are a Rose fan and the space is very small, miniature Roses can make an edging.  But be careful as “Mini” is talking about the flower size.  There are some rather tall ones so read the labels! Pansies are fun in spring but can not take the hot sun in summer but there are always Geraniums to replace them. They tend to get “root rot” if watered too much but love that hot sun as natives of Africa and Mexico .  With them you can have nearly any color scheme you would like.

          If your edge is sunny then Moss Rose (Portulaca grandiflora) blooms from early summer to frost with many colors, some double and some single, 4 to 6 inches high. They will reseed your area for years to come.  When I pull plants in the fall I generally shake them to loosen the seeds.  You will probably get too many plants when you do this but they are easy to thin. Or you can use Impatiens that get 6 to 12 inches or Alyssum (Lobularia sp.) that get 4 to 6 inch and blooms all summer if you have a sunny border.  The Alyssum requires a little more water.

          Now the fillers!!! They can be almost any of your favorites that don’t get too big. You can find a Zinnia of any height for the dry spaces with many colors and blooms.  There is even a creeping one!

          Many people prefer perennials in their beds to avoid replanting every year. I like a mixture so it is different every summer. Perennials usually don’t bloom as long as annuals and a clump of brightly colored Swiss Chard (Bright Lights) is always in color to liven things up. 

          My tallest pot plant this summer was a deep purple Russian Kale.  It grew about 4 feet tall and 1 1/2 feet wide with curly leaves. In its pot I also had lavender colored Osteospermum.  After the Pansies retire I like a pot or two of Brassica plants (cabbage, brussel sprouts, kale, etc.). The prettiest to me is the flowering cabbage with its red, pink, or white centers. Just one makes a table centerpiece as it looks like a big Rose about 18 inches across. Ordinary frost don’t touch them so they are around for Thanksgiving.  My tallest garden plant was the 7 foot tall “Love-in-a-Puff”, also known as “Hairy Balls”. It is a tall rather slender plant that was so heavy with hairy balls I had to prop it up.

          Now the task is to get the yard cleared enough so that nothing suffocates, especially next spring when the residue is wet and heavy.  I try to get it pulled away from my little trees so it doesn’t make a home for mice or moles or other creatures who like to eat bark.  The birds haven’t gotten the Hawthorne berries yet so the tree is a gorgeous red.  Cedar Waxwings or Robins usually have them gone by now.

Copyright 2010