Most gardeners have put their containers away for the year, awaiting the arrival of spring once more. But, as 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.
A winter-themed container garden composed of evergreen boughs and other accents, displayed prominently on a front porch, announces the season to all and provides a warm welcome for visitors. It’s also a beautiful way to blend the spirit of the garden with the spirit of the holiday season.
Consider the Container
More often than not, the container itself is key to creating a striking display. Pots and urns with distinctive colors or textures make a bold statement.
When selecting a container, bear in mind the elements of winter. Extreme temperatures make certain materials inappropriate to be left outdoors. Plastic or terra-cotta pots will crack and shatter under the duress, so use wood, cast-iron, concrete, fiberglass or metal containers instead.
Proper preparation is equally important. Do not use soil in the pot, because it holds moisture and expands in freezing temperatures. Instead, use sand to anchor the pot and be sure to include drainage holes.
All in the Design
Purchase greenery for the arrangement from a garden center, or gather natural materials growing in your backyard. If you choose the latter, be sure you do so with care so as not to damage your plants or make unsightly pruning cuts that will come back to haunt you in the spring.
Select your greenery using the principles of summer container gardening:
- Vertical accents. Using tall boughs from shrubs with interesting texture or color creates vertical interest. Examples include burning bush, dogwood, birch, ‘Harry Lauder’s Walker’ and variegated euonymus. Other intriguing choices that boast colorful berries are holly, winterberry, viburnum and bittersweet.
- Trailers. 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. Select branches that will drape loosely over the exterior of the container.
- Fillers. The remaining space between vertical and trailing plants should be packed with fillers. These add depth to the container and give it personality. Try fillers like white and red pine (especially attractive because of its pleasant scent), cedar, fir and juniper, with its blue, berry-like cones.
Let Your Creativity Bloom
Design your container with a nice blend of textures and colors, and cut 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.
Remember, displays don’t have to be limited to greenery. Cones and nuts can be used, too; craft stores carry a wide range of accents that may complement your creation—everything from grapevine to artificial flowers, from dried mosses to ribbons.
The key to success is not to be intimidated. Let your creativity flow, and experiment with various ideas and looks!