From fragrant conifer branches and glossy evergreens to jewel-like winter berries and decorative baubles, winter container arrangements can be lovely additions to bare winter landscapes. With the holidays around the corner, you may have only enough time to hang a few baubles on a potted plant in your entry or tuck some pine cones around the base. To get you started, here are nine inspiring winter container designs ranging from easy, no-soil-required arrangements to more intricate potted compositions.
Berries and baubles. Add a bit of shine with Christmas ornaments tucked in among fat clusters of red winterberries (Ilex verticillata, USDA zones 3 to 9; find your zone) and fragrant conifer clippings. To get a diversity of conifers — fir, pine and spruce — as shown here, ask for clippings at the Christmas tree lot when you’re picking up your tree. Often they’ll let you take home a bundle for free or for a couple of dollars.
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Wavy branches. Bare willow branches in aged terra-cotta pots add interesting texture to the crisp white walls of this traditional home. To get the look, pick up about three bundles of curly willow (available from florists) per container and set them into sand, gravel or floral foam placed at the bottom of the pot. Top with pine cones to hide the base, then string the branches with white lights for an inviting evening glow.
Festive top-dressing. Just a few seasonal accents around the base of an already potted dwarf white spruce (Picea glauca ‘Conica’, zones 2 to 8) transform the container from plain to festive. Pine cones will last for ages, while bright red pomegranates and clipped conifer branches will stay looking fresh for a few weeks.
Artful simplicity. Glossy magnolia leaves paired with a few pale birch branches create a sophisticated composition. Using bronze, green and white, instead of the typical Christmas colors, makes the container composition carry on past New Year’s.
Christmas vignette. Gussy up existing outdoor containers without repotting by adding holiday-themed accents, such as ornaments, glittering orbs or a plump faux cardinal. Reserve any fragile accent pieces for decorating indoors, or bring potted containers under the eaves, away from rain and snowfall.
Elegant evergreens. All-green compositions look refined and can be much less effort to maintain year-round than containers with seasonal berries or blooms. Focus on a subtle contrast of textures and shades of green by selecting evergreens with different foliage types, such as cypress, spruce, boxwood and weeping juniper.
Icy accents. Highlights of white brighten winter container compositions like a dusting of fresh snow. Choose plants with pale-streaked foliage, such as ‘Silverdust’ English ivy (Hedera helix ‘Silverdust’, zones 5 to 11) or variegated winter daphne (Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’, zones 7 to 9). Or tuck in decorative branches painted white or silver.
Classic boxwoods. Boxwoods are about the easiest container plant around, providing four seasons of medium green foliage. Clipped into cones, boxwoods could be decorated with lights and ornaments as miniature Christmas trees or just left naturally for a welcome hit of green on each side of the front door.
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