Outdoor planters offer winter long beauty

Mix textures and colours to create a captivating planter.

Bows and ornament clusters add showy appeal.

With the cold weather upon us, it is easy to neglect the outdoor spaces that we enjoy so much in the summer. This year why not compliment your festive indoor atmosphere with simple seasonal decor projects for the outside of your home too? Decorate your front porch with elegant containers, widow boxes and baskets full of fresh winter greens; they add a sense of cheer that will last all winter long.

There is nothing quite like the smell of fresh cedar, pine and fir to warm the cockles of the heart and boost your spirits. With the gardening season over we are left with many empty planters, pots and hanging baskets. Instead of packing them away why not fill them with freshly cut cedar, balsam and pine branches accented with red and yellow dogwood or birch limbs? Many local garden centres are happy to help by providing you with ideas and even classes on designing winter planters. Several also offer a large array of fresh and synthetic greens, ornaments and festive picks to choose from. So why not get creative this year and have your guests greeted by your own stunning outdoor arrangements?

When I was a child garden centres didn’t offer these services. Instead, I would go out to “cabin country” with my dad to collect pinecones, spruce branches, pine boughs and red osier dogwood stems to make fresh wreaths and pots. I have wonderful memories of these missions. We’d dress warmly, equipped with a thermos of hot chocolate, and head out to bring home some of Mother Nature’s bounty.

When creating an outdoor container be sure to use several different types of branches. Pick boughs that will add different hues of green and contrasting textures, the more the merrier! Pick up enough to create indoor baskets, for an arrangement on the fireplace mantle or as a centre-piece for the dining room and you can enjoy the wonderful scent of balsam fir or pine indoors.

Here are some easy pointers for making your own arrangements.

Any type of container will work; however, I don’t recommend using terracotta as it can crack from the cold. If terracotta is all you have, try making your arrangement in a plastic pot that will fit inside of it, that way the freezing soil is less likely to crack your terracotta pot. I use top soil in my pots to hold up the branches but sand and floral foam work just as well.

To begin, cut a fresh end for each branch, removing any greenery that will be covered in soil. Cut branches down into sizes that are manageable to work with. A good rule of thumb is to use groupings of odd numbers, threes work nicely, and to use several types of winter greens and twigs. Dogwood, bamboo, birch limbs and curly willow add height and texture contrasting beautifully with the evergreens. Branches with winter berries can also add colour and interest to your arrangement.

Once all your greens are in place, it’s time to add a pop of colour and sparkle to your masterpiece. Here the options are endless; this is where you can really show your creativity. Use a hot glue gun to add embellishments to tall branches or choose from the variety of options available at your local garden or craft store. Try spray painting pinecones or branches in your favourite colours or add a large bow or ornaments to impress.

To set the arrangement, add water and place it outside to freeze, holding everything neatly in place all winter long. Now you and your guests will have a reason to smile every time you pass by your beautiful work of art! P

Shannon Gage is a graduate of Olds College and landscape designer.