Winter Planters: A Quick and Easy Guide

Yank those half-dead mums and fill your planters for winter before it’s too late and you have to look at brown lumpy things all winter long. Too hard, you say? Nonsense.

This is the perfect DIY project. Low time commitment, and a high probability of success.

Easiest Ever
Marni Wilson, garden specialist for Mariani Landscape recommends planting one live evergreen in each container for quick, easy beauty all winter. Her picks: Columnar Juniper, Alberta Spruce or boxwood. Water until the dirt freezes and the plant should be good until spring. As a bonus, you can transfer the evergreen to your garden in the spring.

Slightly More Ambitious
If you want to put a little more effort into your containers, Cathy McCulloch, a landscape designer in Wilmette, recommends varying the height of materials. “Place tall evergreens in the middle, with low flowing greens around the base.” Also, she uses several kinds of evergreens. Her favorites: fir, spruce and boxwood, but also winterberry and English holly for a little shine. Buy more than you think you’ll need. Overfilled looks better than sparse.

Add the Bling

Both Wilson and McCulloch recommend looking around your yard for accents that can make your container more than just evergreen: dried hydrangea, redwood or dogwood branches, and crab tree branches with red berries. Want more bling? Spray paint pinecones gold or silver (or purchase, we won’t tell) and then twist them into the branches with a little florist wire. Lights are a nice touch and if the electrical outlets are inconvenient, they make battery-operated strings. Who knew?

Think Proportion
What separates the pros from the wannabes is often proportion. Wilson recommends plants should be 2.5 times the size of the container. So for an urn, use tall twiggy branches to give you that height. For window boxes, you can stay lower and use more weeping plants to keep the proportion correct. Take a look at the gallery of pictures and you’ll see tall plants in tall containers.

Beyond Pine
If you don’t want to go the evergreen route, you can still decorate your planters. Wilson likes moss covered spheres or a pyramid of pinecones. Old Christmas ornaments? Put them to use. Think architectural and modern, versus kitschy and jumbled. McCulloch recommends large birch logs, which you can wrap with lights.

So get busy before that snow flies and you’ll enjoy looking at your gorgeous planters from now until it’s time to plant the pansies.

Lead photograph courtesy of Every Green Plant in Barrington.