Connecticut Garden Journal: Tips for decorating outdoor containers for winter
When I was a boy growing up in Waterbury, each November my mom would send me “into the woods” of my grandfather's farm to gather branches of mountain laurel. Mom had a brick planter box as part of our front porch and she liked to decorate it for the holidays. Mountain laurel was perfect because this broadleaf evergreen shrub grows in abundance in Connecticut and lasts into winter. It got me thinking about decorating outdoor containers for winter.
Broadleaf evergreens are a good place to start. Kalmia, or mountain laurel, Pieris, evergreen holly and rhododendrons all make nice evergreens to fill an outdoor container. Try not to cut the flower buds of the rhodis, though, so you'll still get flowers in spring. Evergreen boughs, such as spruce, pine and cedar, are nice green backdrops as well.
To add splashes of color include some berry plants. Some shrubs and trees with nice berries are winterberry holly, red or yellow crabapples, beauty berry or callicarpa and cotoneaster. You can add color with branches, too. Red and yellow twigged dogwoods, paperbark maple and red barked Japanese maples all add brightness and texture to compliment the evergreens.
Once you gather the branches, take a large plastic container filled with potting soil and decorate the container. Recut and place tall branches in the center with smaller and cascading branches along the edge. Don't be surprised if the birds find your creation and help themselves to some berries over winter. Place the container out of the wind and within view of your windows so you can see the beauty you've created from inside the house.