In winter, designing a beautiful container is more about artfully arranging cut branches than growing colourful plants. However, for a winter container, the same design principles apply for your outdoor planter: a variety of textures, a focal point and a well-balanced composition help make a beautiful display.
Select a container that contrasts well with what will be mostly a collection of evergreen branches. Opting for something with a bright colour or pattern is one way to introduce more colour into your design. Consider a vintage metal picnic basket or a rustic wooden box.
Use the container’s shape to help determine the silhouette of your creation. One that’s wider than it is tall needs a broad, mounding arrangement of branches, while a container that’s taller than it is wide looks best with a strongly vertical arrangement. Here’s an example of a rectangular holiday container.
Winter containers don’t need to be completely waterproof, but they do need to stand up to wind and freezing temperatures. Insert branches in damp sand or soil, or floral foam. If using blocks of floral foam, first place bricks or stones in the bottom of the container to add extra weight. Soak the blocks thoroughly, wedge them in a plastic grow pot that fits inside your container, and slip this into the opening so that the top of the foam pieces are slightly above the rim of the container. (When the foam sits slightly above the container, you can insert flexible branches horizonally, which gives a full, lush look.) Then criss-cross a few pieces of florist tape over the top, attaching ends to the outside rim to anchor the plastic pot in the container.
Start with your filler materials first, inserting the branches deep into the soil or foam to keep them stable. The most readily available filler materials are evergreen branches. Use less-expensive white pine, cedar and spruce at the back of the arrangement and save the more expensive materials, such as Carolina sapphire cypress, Douglas fir and boxwood, for the front and sides.
Once your base of greenery is in place, accent with branches of yellow or redtwig dogwood, magnolia tips, holly berries or rosehips. Search florists and craft stores for other natural dried materials, such as interestingly shaped seed pods and branches. When arranging accents, nestle them into the greenery at different heights and keep in mind that odd numbers often look more natural. Here are suggestions of floral material for winter containers.
Keep soil or foam moist up until frost to help preserve evergreens and freeze them into place. Place the arrangement out of direct sunlight; under a front porch overhang is ideal and provides good visibility so you can show off your winter creation.