The lone voice of horticultural reason

Holiday Containers

11-18-09 – Hello comrades, sorry for the delay on this post, as usual things are a little topsy-turvy in Renegade Gardener land. So I’ll get right to it, a friend of mine asked for help creating a holiday/winter arrangement in a large container she had outside the front door of her condo. This is a cool thing to do, most of you have a large container by the front door that was recently blasted by a hard frost, or, if you live in southern climes, the plants you were growing in it are looking like hell now that it’s November.

Here’s how to go at it. First, remove the dead/dying plants. Get the perennials back into the ground, water them in well, and toss the annuals into the compost bin. Leave the potting soil, that’s going to hold up your holiday arrangement. So to start, my friend’s container looked like this:

It’s a fairly large container, approaching two feet tall, so at the nursery I was looking for something at least four feet tall (twice the height of the container) to serve as the center pillar. I’ll let the captions take over from here:

A slender, 4’ cut spruce goes in first.

Next I circled the spruce with cut, 3-4’ red-twigged dogwood branches. I have no idea why the chair in the background has morphed into a broom.

OK, call me a hypocrite, the next thing I added was some variety of gaudy, 3’ cut twigs that had been painted with a sparkly silver. She liked them, it’s a nice contrast, and the thing is going to have a spotlight on it, so I figured what the hell.

Next step, give it some base weight, nothing easier than poking various lengths of pine branches into the soil around the edge.

I’m including multiple steps here, next I added three cherry ball twig thingies in with the pine boughs, to give the base more oomph and to get some contrast, then attached cut holly branches and pine cones onto the spruce trunk and branches with green twist-ties.

Close-up of the base. Should have purchased five of the cherry ball thingies to go evenly all around the base, but I had only three so they were placed in the front half.

Base to middle.


So that’s that. I’m by no means the greatest in the world at winter/holiday arrangements, but I hope this gives you enough inspiration and knowledge to develop your own style and grand level of expertise.

The trick is to choose materials that give the arrangement strong, pleasing contrast.

I have a good article, with lots of photos, on summer container design espousing design principles that apply to winter arrangements—you can access it by clicking here

Don Engebretson
The Renegade Gardener