Branches and berries make great materials
Though the garden may be tucked into bed for another season, it doesn’t mean that your containers can’t continue to work hard for you throughout the winter.
In our climate, it’s important to choose a container that withstands freezing temperatures. Terra cotta or ceramic are not good choices because they crack in cold weather. Also, be sure that your container is heavy enough to stay upright in a good winter’s blast.
My choice is a black iron urn that sits beside my front door and stays outside year-round. When it’s time to create my winter arrangement, I get started by cutting back the plants already growing there. The remaining soil makes a perfect anchor for the materials that go into the design. If you are starting with an empty container, depending on its size and weight, you may want to put a few bricks in the bottom to weigh it down and then top it up with ordinary garden soil You can also use sand. Sand is great for winter arranging because it holds some moisture, but not enough to freeze solid.
A container garden for winter is all about using nature’s bounty. Gathering suitable materials for your creation may be as simple as strolling through your garden or a wooded area with pruners in hand. Alternatively, local garden centres are often stocked at this time of year with branches and other natural materials to fill your containers.
Evergreens form the backbone of the design. Look for branches that are bright and fresh looking. When grouped together, it’s surprising to see how many different colours of green there are...everything from the tawny, yellowish-green tones of cedar to the foggy, bluish-greens of spruce and juniper.
For height and interest, add branches with interesting colours and textures. Red dogwood, for example, has stand-out red bark that adds contrast and interest. The curly, twisty branches of corkscrew willow add yet another dimension.
Berries are especially charming in seasonal containers. Rosehips, holly and bittersweet are good candidates. Ornamental grasses add height and mix well with branches.
Finally, add the embellishments that personalize your creation. Pinecones, milkweed pods, seed heads, etc. are perfect accessories. Incorporate a string of tiny lights into the design for a touch of night-time magic.
Creating your own design is easy and it puts a personal stamp on your landscape. With very little effort, you can have a gorgeous container garden to enhance your winter garden.