That this is thriller, thriller night

‘Cause I can thrill you more than any other ghoul would ever dare try

Thriller, thriller night

So let me hold you tight and share a killer, diller, chiller, thriller here tonight.

Michael Jackson, Thriller 1982

Most gardeners are aware of the simple formula to create the perfect container. Thrillers, fillers and spillers is the often repeated mantra.  The thriller is the big, bold, headlining plant often found in the center. Fillers are the complementary plants to the thriller that fill out the center of the pot. And finally spillers just tumble out of the pot and help to marry the combination to the suitable container.

But I believe there are some thrillers that are so dramatic they have no need for fillers and are best complemented with only spillers. I have bestowed upon this subset of thrillers its own moniker: the ultra-thrillers. As the name implies, an ultra-thriller plant deserves a large pot for water retention on long, hot days. If you had a greenhouse you could over winter some of these your ultra-thrilling selections. But in my book, treating them as an expensive annual can be justified based on the high-impact drama they’ll deliver through the first killer frost, which if we’re lucky holds off until October.


Strap Me Down Oleanders My first experience with this when I found two standard shaped oleanders. An oleander features bold, strap-like leaves with engaging single-petaled flowers in white, pink and red. But please be aware all parts of the plant are poisonous. You mighty be able to find standard that was created by removing all the side shoots of a plant to create a solid trunk and allowing the plant to grow out on top creating “a ball on a stick” effect. Since the trunk of the oleander extended so high, no filler could do it justice. So I skipped the filler and went to alyssum ‘Snow Princess’. But the more commonly found bush form of oleander works just as well as an ultra-thriller, too.


Just Touch Me Tibouchinas Also known as the princess flower, this beauty features bold 3-inch, 5-petaled flowers with bold white stamens.  One respected blogger described tibouchinas as having the impact of an orchid on a bush with felt-like leaves that I think just scream out to be touched. According to my beloved Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, tibouchinas can be moved to a cool bright room and treated as a houseplant where they will bloom through the winter but I have not tried this but would be worth a try to create an even bigger thriller for next season. Some trailing torenia in purple tones would make a great spiller for this worthy plant.


Dare We Do a Dahlia? While I believe pink flowers are overused in general gardening, the ‘Park Princess’ dahlia is one of the exceptions every great gardener should grow sometime in their lifetime.  The daring cactus-form flowers that are around 4″ wide, sport varying pinks from pale to rich vibrant pink depending on temperature and moisture according to Brent & Becky’s Bulbs. What really sets her apart is the preponderance of blooms on the bush at any one time that you’ll be tempted to bring inside as they make wonderful cutflowers. But resist the temptation, as they’ll last longer in the container. Pair with yellow caibrachoa as there is some yellow in the center of the dahlia.


Canna or Can’t You Die From Boldness? We’re talking big pots like whiskey barrels here, but two outstanding cultivars here stand ahead of the crowd. Named after my beloved native land, Canna ‘Australia’ from Plant Delights sports 4′ leaves of deep burgundy, almost black leaves. , The bold leaves are topped with eye-catching, might I say, shocking, red flowers that are a magnet for hummingbirds? Surrounded by the alyssum ‘Snow Princess’ at the base, you could have some nice black and white interaction  before ‘Australia’ gets too tall. Heads up: ‘Snow Princess’ can be a water hog but it’s worth the effort to me.


Canna ‘Phaison’ from Plant Delights will shock and awe you in delight but it may overwhelm some topping out over six feet. But if you want real impact, she’s well worth the effort. With big purple leaves streaked in red and gold, you’ll be amazed at its potential impact. Some trailing Sunpatiens at base could be quite dashing.

angels trumpet

Angel’s We Heard On High! If you want a plant sweetly singing o’ver the (strike plains) patio, then you must try brugsmanias, or angel’s trumpets. Talk about high impact with boisterous (can angel’s be boisterous? — Hell’s angels???) blooms hanging down 10″ with a gorgeous scent. Placing them in large containers allows the fragrance to waft heavily in the night air. You simply have to see this in person just once!


Hibiscus ‘Creole Lady’ — Logee’s Greenhouse

Say HI! Again to Hibiscus! So hibiscus has lost a lot of respect since legions of people from the middle class (no knock here, never have seen to be able to get out of it myself) could afford to take Hawaiian vacations and came home and just had to have one. Odds are it was a dowdy pink one that struggled to put out sporadic blooms in a room with insufficient light. But, oh, how it loves our hot, humid summers and you can pick a stunning hybrid that will enchant you all summer. How do you like this little cajun number above?

You should be able to find plenty of large-sized selections at your favorite independent garden center. But if you want to start with a young pup from Logee’s, grow it by itself this season and overwinter it in the brightest room with next year in mind.

The scaveola (fan flower) ‘Surdiva’ and its lavender flowers spilling over a large pot would look great all summer with most of the hibiscus colors you’ll find out there.

What do you think about the concept of ultra-thrillers? 



Patrick's Garden

It’s almost that time of year when orchards will be graced with millions of simple white flowers covered in bees. Well, I have a tale worthy of the indomitable pear tree. Shortly after the first Europeans landed at ye Plymouth Rock in 1620, a Pilgrim named John Endicott was appointed as the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1629. His instructions were to establish a welcoming setting for new arrivals. As part of his “Welcome to the Neighborhood Beautification Program” (my less than official title) he planted a young pear sapling. There is a good possibility the tree came to Massachusetts from England on the ship Arbella in 1630. In the presence of his children, the venerable Governor declared  “I hope the tree will love the soil of the New World and no doubt when we have gone will still be alive.” Oh, my learned brothers and sisters, was he selling that tree short.

Already over 170 years old, the Reverend William Bentley delivered some of the pears harvested from the tree in 1809 to one of my favorite leaders of history at the time, President John Adams, as documented in a letter of appreciation from the man himself. Bentley, perchance teetering on the verge of obsession on ye olde tree, arranged to have twigs sent to the less than photogenic Mr.Adams. (One would certainly prefer a portrait of General Washington or Mr. Jefferson, but I superficially, digress again.) We know ye twigs took root cited by a letter from Mr. Adams in 1815 sharing “The hurricane of yesterday has covered the ground around me in pears.” Read more →


Patrick's Garden

Perils of A Quadriplegic Gardener (Part 3)

by Patrick on February 1, 2014

patricks flowersI don’t like to dwell on my challenges since being paralyzed 12 years ago. But the last year has been fraught with many such hurdles (love the irony of a paralyzed man jumping hurdles) and reflecting on them at this time gives me strength that I can accomplish anything, of course, through He who strengthens me.

At the end of last year, I had a bowel obstruction with sepsis and was out of it for 18 hours. Shawnee Mission Hospital protocol is to turn a person with wounds on their butt every two hours by propping you up on pillows on one side and then the other to avoid pressure wounds. At some point I was set up on pillows but I don’t believe I was turned because I went in with barely a wound and left with three on my butt as well as one on my elbow where it had rubbed against a railing. SMH has never done me wrong before but did they make up for it this time? One wound went so deep I spent a lot of time on IV meds fighting a bone infection and finally the left hip was taken out this past December.  After lodging a formal complaint with the patient advocate, insult to injury occurred when they responded “SMH had followed all necessary protocols” Read more →


Patrick's Garden

Ten Gifts for the Discriminating Gardener 2013

by Patrick on December 14, 2013

A gardener goes through withdrawal as winter sets in but a well-chosen gardening gift can help regain their passion until the catalogs arrive.. So once again, it’s been a distinct pleasure to gather candidates throughout the year and select ten for your careful consideration. According to Florence Rodale in this year’s June/July issue of Organic Gardening, the Diamond Hoe ($76.75) is “an amazing tool made by Sneeboer, which cuts my weeding time in half”. This beautiful-to-behold Dutch import of hand-forged stainless steel has sharpened blades on all four sides. gardentoolcompany.com

Diamond_Hoe_by_Sneeboer_1s__38072.1336862696.1280.1280 Read more →


Patrick's Garden

Trinity Windowboxes 2014 Recipes

by Patrick on November 26, 2013

The theme for this post, I suppose, is growing older and wiser. I’ve discovered the best time to design containers is right at the end of season when your thoughts and observations are fresh. Why did this take me decades to figure out? It’s particularly admirable this time because I want to break out of the safety of using just two varieties per box typified by three ‘Kong Rose Wizard’ Coleus separated by two Creeping Jenny ‘Aurea’. Being a creature from the often maligned advertising world, I had to create brand names for each.

Under the Sea 

1 Golden Shrimp Plant,  Justicia brandegeana

2 Angelonia ‘Angelface Dark Violet’






3 Elvolvulus ‘Blue My Mind’


2 3 1 3 2

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Patrick's Garden

The Windowboxes at Trinity 2013

by Patrick on October 25, 2013

Well my friends, once again I’m penning from my hospital bead after five days in ICU. My hip was so infected from a pressure wound gone awry that they took it out. It’s been a year in bed since this hospital gave me the three wounds that have put me in bed for the last year.  I had thought I was getting a skin graft on this final wound in January and back in my chair by end of February. But this hip is 10″ long by 5-6″ in places, so I’m fearful I may loose another year in my garden. So any prayers for recovery by frost free date (April 15) would be most appreciated.

Well seems like a great time to see what I was able to achieve from my bed with the help of the best damn gardening bus driver, Todd. So I’ll take lessons learned from these planters and the windowboxes from the previous post to craft an even better display next year. Have already captured the recipes for all these planters for planting next spring.

So for the first time ever you can see the front entrance in all its glory. Can you imagine how this looked five years ago when I started beautifying the campus. When life lands you in a nursing home at 43, one can fall into blaming God trap. But I choose to believe his Hand was at work when he placed me in a gardener’s paradise and the means to improve year after year as evidenced here:

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Patrick's Garden

Trinity Front Containers 2013

by Patrick on October 25, 2013

Well today is a real milestone in the development of Patrick’s Garden. My regular readers have heard my laments that the quality of the imagery, presented here to date, can’t hold a candle to that of you, my able-bodied friends. Until now…When the going gets tough, the tough have to think smarter. So I approached the local high school principal to see if some your photography students would like to do some community service and in turn I could mentor them based on my many years in advertising management. As you can see here we’re off to a fast start.

 So courtesy of Kale Williams and Kristy Mo of Shawnee Mission North (I’m a proud graduate of Shawnee Mission West), I’m prouder to give you more of the experience of visiting my humble abode. To Kale and Kristy, you don’t know how much joy you’ve given me with the gift of your talent. But while we’re doling out gratitude, let’s not forget about our beloved gardener/bus driver/man amongst men, Todd.
You may recall this is the planter I worked with my buddy Dan on to cradle one of the 2′ wide Kinsman baskets. I thought it was too risky to hang the baskets on trees near the entrance in our Kansas winds. So Dan outdid himself with the design. Am planning on contacting Kinsman this winter to see if they’d be interested in retailing the stands in cedar. As I can’t accept income on Medicaid, I’d only ask for a check for $1 and they be marketed under the brand name Patrick’s Garden. Would you be interested in buying one if it was on the market? Read more →


Patrick's Garden