By Michelle Rauch
Being the procrastinator that I am, coupled with the earlier arrival of winter which caught me off guard and indoors instead of packing up my pots, got me thinking. Why must I pack up all my lovely pots for the winter after I empty them from summer and fall? The answer is, I don’t; and neither do you.
Bring new life to your containers with seasonal fillings. I would be remiss not to mention one thing before you get started. Not all containers should be left outdoors during the winter. I’ve learned that the hard way. Last fall when I was sidelined with my torn Achilles I never made it out to take care of fall cleanup. Some of my pots spent the entire winter outdoors and the terra cotta variety did not weather it well. They cracked beyond repair, much to my chagrin. So before you embark on winter container gardening make your selection carefully. Concrete, cast iron, fiber glass, and metal will be able to withstand the harsh winter elements.
Vessel carefully selected, now it’s time to start planting. Use the same theory of container gardening that you use in summer design: thrillers, spillers, and fillers. Evergreens are not only crisp and beautiful, they add a seasonal oomph to any container. Burning bush, dogwood birch, holly and winterberry are excellent choices. Mix up the texture and put in some trailing branches. Fillers add that depth needed as well as, you know, fill in the empty spots. Consider adding white and red pine, cedar, fir and juniper to the mix for some more texture and color. If you do your homework as I have you may find there are more choices for winter container gardening that you thought. Green Mountain boxwood retains its dark green color during the winter. When planted in a container it maintains a smaller size and grows into a pyramid-like shape. The Japanese Pieris shrub has showy dark red flower buds in the winter months. Its versatility allows it to be placed in full sun and full shade—Bonus! However, it should be protected from harsh winds.
Once your container is assembled, top it off with extra elements of interest. Ribbon and pine cones are a great start, but you will find a cornucopia of accents at your local craft store. Experiment. When it comes to container gardening the way I see it, there really isn’t a wrong way. Play with it until you find something you like that continues to bring curb appeal to your front porch all winter long.