Designing your container for winter

Beckie Fox

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Beautiful holiday container with berries, greens, pods and curly branches. (Garden Making photo)

It’s time to bid farewell to our displays of mums and ornamental cabbages and think about designing winter containers. Whether you cut boughs and branches from your own garden or buy them at the local nursery, here are a few design ideas and practical considerations to keep in mind.

“Designing a beautiful winter container” offers creative ideas for container choices, as well as practical tips for placing cut branches in soil or florist foam.

“Make your own winter arrangements” and “Cutting your own boughs for holiday decorations” include more suggestions, especially if you’re cutting branches from your own plants.

Beautiful holiday container with berries, greens, pods and curly branches. (Garden Making photo)
Beautiful holiday container with berries, greens, pods and curly branches.

Time to tuck in those woody plants for winter

It has been a glorious fall here in Southern Ontario, but who knows what winter will bring? Newly planted or borderline hardy conifers may benefit from a little extra protection — namely a protective covering — to get them through a harsh winter. “Winterizing woody plants” describes the best way to do this.

Developing a new Canadian apple

“On a mission to find Ontario’s apple” is an update on Vineland Research and Innovation Centre’s efforts to develop a new apple for commercial production. More than 28,000 unique apple trees are in the program, which began in 2011. The goal is to have a commercially viable apple exclusive to Ontario growers by 2028.

Most of the apples we buy were developed in the U.S.; the popular Canadian-bred ‘Ambrosia’ is an exception. “Some varieties imported into Canada can only be grown in the U.S. and can be accompanied by high royalty fees,” according to the article. “Last year, 206,252 tonnes of apples were imported into Canada…compared to 36,772 tonnes exported.”

Survey says you had a good season

Thank you to everyone who took the time to fill out our short survey in last week’s newsletter. I truly enjoy reading your accounts which are full of enthusiasm, positivity and experimentation. Not everything worked out, you say, but making the best of it with good humour is the overriding theme in your responses. It just confirms what we all know: gardeners are resilient and optimistic.

In the first batch of entries, 175 of you say the new plant or technique you tried this season was wonderful, while 52 call it so-so; only 11 of you say “never again.”

Generally, many of you grew more vegetables than ever before, expanded perennial and shrub borders, or made raised beds (because you had the time!) and tried different container plants. Several of you mentioned adding more pollinator and native plants..

Here are a few of my favourite comments:

• “I planted three pink turtleheads in a newly dug garden bed. I saw the plants at the Royal Botanical Gardens and loved how the bees went right inside the flowers. As soon as I planted them, the bees found them.”

• “We grew heirloom tomatoes for the first time this year. Had a great yield and enjoyed some delicious tomato soup.”

• “My morning glories get terrible spider mites, so I swapped them for passion flower vines on the same trellis. They are still flowering in November on my southern sixth- floor balcony in Toronto. What a great success!”

• “Mixed in veggies with my perennials in locations that were handier to access and had lots of sun.”

• “Started my dahlias in pots in the spring and then planted them out. Very successful.”

• “Tried the “Florida weave” to support my tomato plants. I found tomato cages weren’t strong enough, so this method of posts and string worked very well.” [I looked this up—I may try this myself next year.]

• “Espaliered fruit trees. Easy to care for. No climbing or high reaching for care. Great for aging gardeners!”

And possibly my favourite:

• “I haven’t changed my technique for a number of years (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it), but I do try different plants each year. 2020 was the year for trying Ricinus communis ‘Red Giant’ [castor bean] just to see what would happen. It practically took over the raised bed. My husband was so taken with it, that there will be more of them planted in 2021.”

Next week, I’ll cover your responses to the other question in the survey: “In the years you’ve been gardening, what has been the highlight?” Many of these answers were especially heartwarming.

If you haven’t yet done the survey, there’s still time. Go to the survey now.

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