I had been wanting to write a few posts this year that documented what flowers are growing locally here in which months in North Carolina.  I am going to seperate them in to a well-known classification of:  Thrillers, Fillers, and Spillers.   Most commonly known as a way to fill containers in the garden, I think it holds true for most flower arrangements as well.

The current garden I am in this is my sixth summer here.  Slowly with each year, and especially after we got the fence put in, I have been working to try to add plants from each of these categories to the garden.  I had a tendency to only focus on Thrillers the first few years and again this year, but I really try to use this guide when I see new plants at the nursery or am picking up new seeds.  I love findings new things to add through people’s Instagram posts, blogs and Pinterest.

I am going to start the series with May.  By  May in North Carolina, even this year when winter went so much longer than usual, the garden really comes alive.  By Mother’s day all the early spring flowers are in full bloom and we can look forward to both the peonies and roses finally blooming and most of the perennials flowers and bushes will come back into bloom.   Some of the cool flower seeds that were planted in the fall also start blooming (such as nigella and orlaya and poppies).


BlossomandBranchNC- anemone

(pictured: ranunculus and roses)

The Thrillers for May include:

  • Anemones
  • Ranunculus
  • Roses
  • Peonies
  • Clematis

I leave my anemone corms in the ground each year and cover in the coldest months with a light row cover.   Last fall I also planted ranuncula corms and the wintering over seems to have provided them with the head start they needed for our hot summers.  In the past I had planted them in the Spring and they never grew, I think because they didn’t have enough chill hours.  Peonies have been a lesson in patience.  They usually take three years to bloom.  I have had two Festiva Maximas plants for almost five years and this year they finally provided me with a great show.  Last fall I added 4 more plants (1st years) and this spring I picked up three more at Lowes (though those barely grew, so I hope next spring will be their official 1st year).


(pictured:  peonies, orlaya, and anemone the bride, roses)

Roses and clematis are two more favorite Thrillers in May.  This year I decided to get seri0us and planted around 20 new roses in the garden.  It has been an amazing Spring watching each new plant bloom for the first time and getting to see and smell all the flowers I chose from catalog pictures and recommendations I had seen online.


(Pictured:  Clematis, orlaya, Sweet Juliet rose, veronica, allium, armeria, honeysuckle branches, lambs ear)

Above was the much anticipated Sweet Juliet David Austin Rose and below is the ever popular Distant Drums.   The bud opens this color, but then the orange will eventually fade to the pale pink in a day or two.


(Pictured:  Distant Drum rose, and Target copper mule mug)


The Fillers for May include:

  • Orlaya (white flower that looks like Queen Anne’s Lace).
  • Veronica (spiky flower)
  • Alliums
  • Armeria
  • Nigella (Love in a Mist)
  • Poppies
  • Irish poet/tasselflower

As you can see by my photos, my favorite filler this spring has been the orlaya.  I planted this last summer from seed and got a few blooms, but it then wintered over and came back with a bang.  Huge plants.   I also think this might self seed, because I had way more than I remembered.  Veronica is a perennial here in zone 7 NC and the second year plants came back great.  I picked up a few more this spring (pink and purple).  Each fall I also plant  lots of the smaller allium bulbs, I believe called Graceful,.  They make adorable little pompons.  This spring I also came across the perennial Armeria.  I had never noticed these in the nursery before.  I don’t know if they were just in vogue this year or what because I ended up seeing them everywhere.  They look similar to the small alliums, white pompons on good stiff stems.  I wish now I had picked up a few more.  As you can see many of my Thrillers and Fillers are perennials.  I try my best to focus on those if I can, that way I plant them once and they provide year after year.  This year I branched out and tried a few new seeds.  I had gotten a free packet of Nigella and saw it on the cool flowers (seeded in the Fall) list so I planted it last fall.  I was really surprised how much more I loved them when I saw them in person.   Apparently their  pods (after the petals have fallen off) are also a sought after dried flower.


Another favorite annual from seeds was Irish Poet/Tasselflower.   They are just adorable and add such a fun pop of orange as Fillers in the arrangements.


Lastly, every year I try to plant poppy seeds.  They have always been hit and miss with me and I am always so excited when they actually germinate and bloom.  This year I was pleasantly surprised by some Shirley Poppy  Angel Choir seeds that germinated at the end of May.   They don’t last very long in a vase, even after searing the stems with a lighter, but they are just so cool, I can’t  resist adding them to the Filler list.  I usually add them to arrangements, and then just pull them out when I change the water on the second day, as they will begin to crumble.



The Spillers for May include:

  • Honeysuckle vine
  • Jasmine vine
  • Eucalyptus
  • Lambs Ear
  • Dusty Miller
  • Peony leaves/branches
  • Clematis vines
  • Rosemary

Spillers, in my definition, are the base of the flower arrangement, the greenery.  They are usually the elements in the arrangement that spills over the side of the vessel or gives dimension to the sides and top of the arrangement. This is probably the hardest one for me to find new plants for.  I also think the addition of these  plants is what makes arrangements go from novice looking to advanced.


(pictured: Lambs Ear, Eucalyptus, and Dusty Miller)

I hope you have enjoyed the list for May of the Thrillers, Fillers, and Spillers.  I will be back with the June list next month.  To see which roses I am growing, click the roses tab up top or click here.  I also did a post earlier this year on the types of anemones I grew in the garden this year, click here.