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Timeline Through Landscape Design

A blog to guide home gardeners with seasonal landscape improvements.
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Holiday Beautification for Winter Container Gardens


By now you may be getting tired of looking at your remaining spent plants or bare container gardens. Why not spruce them up for the winter with some greenery, twigs and other holiday decorations?

When designing my home landscape, I considered planting evergreens and shrubs that I could cut for use in my winter container garden designs. Not only do these types of plants provide interesting winter landscape characteristics, they also help me save money when it comes to incorporating greenery and twigs into my winter designs.

When late fall comes around, I can inexpensively and properly prune particular landscape plants in very little time. Specific evergreen plants that I like to use include but are not limited to, pine, spruce, juniper, yew, boxwood and holly. Particularly worthy deciduous trees and shrubs may include yellow-twig dogwood, red-twig dogwood, cork screw willow, pussy willow and white birch.

If the above plants are not in need of pruning or not available one must get creative. I typically improvise by using any deciduous branches that are in need of pruning and spray paint them to make them more interesting. As a last resort before purchasing greenery and twigs, I look to my neighbors to see if they would like me to prune their landscape plants. Often times it helps them out and they do not mind sharing the cuttings.

Let me take you through the process that I recommend using. I follow the same concept for the majority of container garden designs: incorporate a spiller, thriller and filler, and then follow the steps below.

The first step is to identify the plants that you will be pruning (Photo 1). Typically, I use a combination of evergreens and deciduous branches.

Then prune (cut) branches back to just above a node on the stem at a 45 degree angle (Photo 2). Late fall/early winter is a proper time to prune most woody plants.

Evergreens can be used as fillers and spillers around the edges (Photo 3).

Use longer deciduous twigs for height, as fillers and/or as a centerpiece (Photo 4). If you are lacking a centerpiece, one option would be to purchase discounted dwarf evergreens, such as, dwarf Alberta spruce for a focal point if the container is large enough to support the small tree. If you plan to keep the tree long-term, be sure to keep it watered well before the soil freezes over.

Additionally, I use pine cones and dried flowers such as, hydrangeas and lotus pods for fillers or as mulch (Photo 5).

Lastly, I may use ornaments, lights or other holiday decorations as a thriller (Photos 6).

Get inspired this season and get outside on a sunny day while the soil is still warm enough to incorporate a quick fix for those dull containers. Containers don't have to by empty just because the growing season has ended.

Happy Holidays!

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