Winter Compositions: Bringing Life to Container Gardens When It’s Too Cold for Plants


Winter Compositions: Bringing Life to Container Gardens When It’s Too Cold for Plants
  • Posted November 24, 2014

Imagine bold red berries and cabernet-colored branches mingling with forest green foliage and ghostly white tree trunks, all standing guard over a fairy land of moss and lichen. The fluffy seed heads of dried grasses, decorated with flakes of drifting snow, are twinkling in the moonlight.

These compositions would be difficult to achieve in a small container garden with live plants, but can be created in under an hour as part of a winter display on the front porch or backyard patio. By working with the parts of plants that show their best face during the coldest time of year, you can build striking arrangements that showcase the quiet beauty of the season.

Miniature Winter Wonderland

Some of the ingredients for your outdoor winter arrangements may be found growing right in your yard. Others can be picked up at a local florist or garden center. All can be stuck into, on top of and around existing containers of soil. Aim for a loose, naturalized look, rather than symmetry. Use some or all of the following to create a dazzling display:

project animated gif

1. Install limbs cut from birches or other trees with whitish bark as vertical anchors in the largest pots. Use pieces about 2 inches in diameter and up to four times the height of the pot. Push several into each container, tapping them with a hammer as deep as possible into the soil so they don't wobble.

Birch Limb Placements

2. Add sprays of red-twig dogwood branches, arranging them in front of birches so they show up well against the white. These need to be pushed just a few inches into the soil to be steady.

Redtwig Dogwood

3. Mix small branches of pine, cedar, spruce or other trees with needle-like foliage below the level of the dogwood branches at varying heights.

Greens

4. Carpet the base of the pots with moss, lichen or straw, allowing the materials to spill freely over the edge of the containers. Alternatively you could use a second group of evergreen branches to spill over the edges. (as shown here)

additional greens

5. Clusters of pine cones nestled into this base are a nice additional touch. Place clusters of berries amongst the branches. Holly, highbush cranberry, Virginia creeper and chinaberry all colorful have fruits that persist through the winter.

pinecones and berries

6. Add a string of lights to carry the display into the evening hours.

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Brian Barth
About the Author

After 15 years as a professional landscape designer and horticulturalist, Brian Barth embarked on a second career to share his passion—and the knowledge he's accrued—through writing. His love of plants is all-encompassing, but he has a particular soft spot for culinary crops.


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Winter Compositions: Bringing Life to Container Gardens When It’s Too Cold for Plants

winter interest ingredients

Potential Players

  • Birch limbs
  • Red twig dogwood branches
  • Mixed Evergreen boughs
  • Branches with berries
  • Pine cones
  • Moss, lichen or straw
  • Twinkle lights

A few more tips

  • Cut stems overly long, then trim for the best height once arranging
  • Groupings of 3, 5 or 7 of each “part" look best
  • After the uprights are placed, fill in the largest gaps around the base first, then back fill with smaller bits