Many gardeners pack away their container inspiration when they empty and store their outdoor pots for the long winter. When days shorten and grays and browns dominate our view, color and plant form (height, shape, texture) are vital to four-season interest in our gardens and landscape. A perfect way to brighten our front doors, patios, and sidewalks is with a seasonal arrangement that’s intended to be outside.
My piano teacher, Andrea (If you're need an amazing piano teacher in Pittsburgh, visit her website.) greets her students with seasonal decorations and tastefully decorated pots. I have always admired her beautiful and creative front porch inspirations. Her pots are coordinated with her handmade wreath and entrance decorations creating a welcome and seasonal vignette.
Creating a winter container is not difficult and can be inexpensive if we incorporate cuttings from our garden. When choosing plants for winter containers, the general rule for plant survival through the winter is to use plants hardy to at least two zones colder than your USDA Hardiness zones. Many trees, shrubs, and perennials that are hardy in your zone will live and even thrive in containers through all four seasons. A frost-proof pot, like fiberglass, lead, iron, heavy plastic and stone will work. A drainage hole is necessary. Terra cotta is not advisable because this material eventually expands and cracks with repeated freezing and thawing.
Assemble your designs early enough for plants to acclimate to new pots before freezing. Also, winter containers usually need to be checked monthly for water. When soil is frozen solid, watering is no longer necessary. Apply an anti-desiccant such as Wilt-Pruf to broadleaf evergreens and branches of cut greens to protect against drying winds.
If you prefer a low maintenance pot, select non-living elements such as branches, dried or silk foliage, mosses, orbs of a variety of natural materials, and artificial embellishments such as holiday ornaments, ribbon, and fairy lights.
Cool Winter Container Design Tips
When it comes to design consider these tips:
Strong lines and architectural forms: Sheared boxwood or topiaries create living architectural forms.
Contrast Shapes: Spike and round (Yucca & Berries) or geometric and loose (sheared round boxwood and grassy leaves of dried grass or sedge).
Strong Vertical form: Young columnar arborvitaes or junipers act like an explanation point and draw attention. Mix in boughs of pine or cypress greens as contrast. Strive for complementary colors and textures.
Mix dark and light foliage: Plant a young holly and add branches from a white birch. The white birch branches will pop against the dark holly branches. Add seed pods, pinecones, or any natural elements to make the pot your own.
Silver hues and whites shimmer with night lighting. Lambs ear or a silver-leaved coral bell (Silver Scrolls), reflect light.
Attractive containers provide mass, bold texture and color. This grouping makes a tasteful statement.
To make a pot stand out, add reflective colors such as silver, gold, and even white. It is easy to spray paint pine cones, branches, and twigs of artificial berries. Add cuttings with contrasting leaf shape, such as large magnolia leaves and cypress for an eye-popping arrangement.
Monochromatic colors are a calming approach to container designs.
Don’t forget to repurpose your hanging baskets and window boxes for winter container gardens.
Choose a focal element for the eye to rest and to attract attention. A focal element can be a plant, added greens, pot...have fun.
Transform potted evergreens with holiday decorations, bows of evergreen magnolia, holly, or pine branches.
Mix in fruit (preferably fake to deter animals and rodents).
Embellish with oversized seasonal ornaments.
Architectural accessories give structure and prominence.
We’ve scoured the internet for inspiration and created a list of plants and decorations to use in your winter containers. Use them as guides for your own creations.
Fresh Cut Boughs—Seasonal branches and berries:
Hopefully these pictures and the ones below will inspire your next cool weather container garden! For even more examples check out my winter container garden board on pinterest .
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Gwen Wisniewski: Landscape and Garden Designer. Contact me. Let me help you integrate these garden inspirations. Choose the links below to find out more about my landscape design service or to make an appointment.