Some savvy green thumbs are discovering the same containers that hold vibrant annuals in summer can be put to brilliant use in the Yuletide season, creating winter arrangements that often last for several months. And for most gardeners, you may have all the materials you need right in your gardens!
When considering your current containers, bear in mind the elements of winter. Not all containers will last winter weather extremes; plastic or terra-cotta pots will crack and shatter under the duress, so use wood, cast-iron, concrete, fiberglass or metal containers instead. But most important, do not use soil in the pot; it holds moisture and expands in freezing temperatures. Instead, use sand to anchor the pot and be sure to include drainage holes.
For a winter container garden or window box, the same basic principles apply as during the warm months: Thriller, Spiller & Filler
- Thriller Using tall boughs from shrubs with interesting texture or color creates vertical interest. Red twig dogwood, ‘Harry Lauder’s Walker’, and Curly Willow are great choices. Or use branches with colorful berries such as hawthorn, crabapple, holly, winterberry, viburnum and bittersweet.
- Spillers They’re invaluable in containers, spilling over the sides, masking the hard edges and creating the illusion that the pot does not confine the arrangement. Evergreens are an excellent choice, especially chamaecyparis, Norway spruce and low growing or weeping juniper. Select branches that will drape loosely over the exterior of the container.
- Fillers. Finally, complete your arrangements with other fresh evergreens, both needled and broad-leafed. Look around your gardens for holly, taxus, boxwood, barberry, and any other evergreens you have. And think about including dried hydrangea blooms, rose hips, pine cones, even nuts and other natural items.
Want some ‘bling’ in your container? Use metallic spray paint on the Curly Willow branches or those hydrangea flowers. With some weather appropriate spray adhesive and glitter, pine cones and nuts will sparkle. Add some colorful weather resistant ornaments for holiday cheer.
If you choose to collect materials from your garden, do so with care so as not to damage your plants or make unsightly pruning cuts that will cause you regrets in the spring. If you want to purchase greenery for the arrangement, most garden centers will have them available, or go to your local Farmers Market. If you are in the Detroit area, stop by the Christ Church Grosse Pointe Greens Sale on Saturday, December 5th for fresh cut Michigan greens (information is available at http://www.christchurchgp.org/give/gifts-greens-home).
Design your container with a nice blend of textures and colors, cutting boughs at different lengths to create a natural feel. The arrangement should be relatively large in relation to the pot, with a minimum of equal parts pot and boughs, but more properly with a 1/3-pot-to-2/3-bough ratio. If the proportions are less, the pot will dominate and undermine the overall effect of the arrangement.
With a little time and a nice pair of garden clippers, chances are you have almost everything right in your own gardens to create a beautiful, welcoming winter arrangement in some of your favorite garden container.
Happy holidays from all of us at A Southern Gardener!