The summer annuals have long gone and the fall mums are only a frozen crispy burnt shadow of their former self. If you have a spot by your front door that just seems to call out for a potted plant, consider creating your own holiday flower pot. The process is actually quite simple and will give you several months of color and beauty during the long winter months. The key to creating a holiday or winter pot is finding enough material to give a nice variation in color and texture. Many of the items I use in winter pots I can find in my yard. Cutting a few branches and stems for some late fall pruning can be done with discretion and accomplished without disfiguring the plant. Remember to use the same pruning techniques that you normally would with the goal of giving the plant a healthier shape. If your yard is bare of evergreens you can purchase material from garden centers, big box stores, or Christmas tree yards. You can also find material along roadsides and parks.
-Evergreen branches are the backbone of any winter pot, I like to work with 2-5 different types for texture and contrast. Examples would be spruce, pine and juniper. Larger pots would need at least 5-10 branches of each depending on the size.
-Red elements for color such as red twig dogwood stems, red crabapple berry branches, red Rose hips (seed heads of the flower buds), or even red twigs of a Barberry (note of caution these will have thorns as well as the rose hips).
-Brown elements for texture, color-contrast, and shape variation such as native grasses, cattails, hydrangea flowers and perennial flower seed heads.
How to do it:
Step 1: Start with an existing pot in which the soil is not frozen. Remove the summer/fall flowers and break up or remove any thick mass of roots. If too much soil is removed in this process, add some more or add some play sand instead of soil. If the pot is frozen beyond thawing, you might have to buy a new one. If that’s the case and you bought a big pot, then fill the bottom with mulch and place a 3-5 inch layer of sand on top, otherwise the pot will get too heavy with all that sand and you will not be able to move it.
Step 2: Using a trowel dig a hole into the soil for the fine stemmed material such as grasses. Position the grasses in the middle of the pot just off center.
Step 3: Using your pruners trim the longer evergreens and place in the back of the pot. Since this pot will only be viewed from one side all the tall items will be placed farthest from you in the pot. These evergreens are your back drop so they will be at least one to two times the height of the pot. Fan out the evergreens to give the pot an overflowing appearance.
Step 4: Continue to layer plant material, incorporating red twig dogwoods, shorter evergreens such as junipers or pine and perennial flower seed heads. You will be moving toward the front of the pot.
Step 5: Position the stems with any of the red berries in the front center position. If you have a large hydrangea flower it will go just in front of the red berry items. If you have floppy evergreens such as juniper or pine they will go along the front edge and under the hydrangea flower to hide the pot edge and soil. If you want to make this a Christmas pot, stick a short branch 6 inch long at the front edge of the pot, 3 inches into the soil, for an anchor to tie your red ribbon or bow to. After the Christmas season you can remove the ribbon and you will still have a decorative pot for winter.
Variations to the above: If you have a pot with annual grasses or perennials that still have good leaf color you could use them in the winter pot adding the above material around them. If you want to make the pot viewable from all sides then you have to start at the center with the taller material and work out to the edges with the lower material. A pot viewable from all sides will use more floppy material and less upright evergreens. A traditional style for this type of pot uses red twig dogwood as a vertical point in the center and floppy or horizontal evergreens radiating out from the center.
After you complete a pot or two you will find the process easy and fun. Good Luck and have a Safe and Happy Holiday Season.