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In designing holiday planters, consider a break from tradition
Jill Odom | December 1, 2016
Winter containers incorporated into hardscaping

Winter containers can add holiday cheer to any outdoor space.

Christmas is just around the corner and if you offer seasonal container design services, it is not too late to decorate your customers’ planters appropriately for the season.

It’s easy to fall into a design rut when working with recurring holiday themes, but take this winter as a time to freshen things up and try out some new arrangements. Some of these might not fit your client’s style, but they may give you the inspiration you need to break the mold.

Winter Christmas container with greenery, sticks, and ornaments

This nontraditional winter container uses silver and blue colors as its focus.

Go beyond Christmas colors

Ask anybody what the Christmas colors are and they’re going to tell you they’re red and green. It’s the classic combination of evergreen trees and bright red holly berries. There is nothing wrong with wanting to go with this classic, traditional pairing, but if your customer is wanting to stand out this year or their personal style is unconventional, try mixing up the color scheme.

If they want something that can last the whole winter without being updated, adding blue and silvery foliage along with blue ornaments as accents still looks festive and wintry without using the usual colors. Other possible color combos are silver and gold, bronze and green, and red and white. Don’t limit yourself; it might surprise you what works well.

Add holiday accents

Another way to avoid having a winter container design that is solely spruced up for Christmas is to add pieces of décor that can be removed afterwards, but still leave a substantial arrangement. What you choose to add may vary depending on your customer’s preference, but some options include adding ornaments, bright fruit, bows, or fake cardinals.

Pinecones can be used to take the place of these fillers once Christmas has passed.

Boxwood Christmas container decorated with ornaments and additional greenery

This boxwood provides a different texture while other elements provide the seasonal aspect.

Offbeat evergreens

It’s common to want to fill a winter container with hardy evergreens that don’t mind the snow like spruce and juniper, but using boxwoods is another way to be slightly different than the rest due to its different shape and texture. Try to find evergreens that have different colors and fragrances to add to the mix.

Emerald arborvitae is an example of an evergreen that looks great in the container year-round and can be incorporated with different plants and decorations depending on the season. Going for an all-evergreen look certainly means less work and creates a subtler seasonal look.

Bright berries

Like evergreens it’s easy to just go with holly if you’re trying to bring some color into a container, but there are a number of other bushes and shrubs that can either be planted or used as sprigs for bountiful berries.

Cotoneaster, winterberry, and chokeberry are all examples of plants that offer glossy red fruit. If you are going for one of the nontraditional color schemes, you can use northern bayberry, which has silvery gray berries. Just remember that birds love many of these types of fruit so this type of container design can get picked over if you choose to use the real deal.

Colorful branches

Holiday container with gold, red, and green accents.

This container uses curvy gold branches to give it some height as well as glitter.
Photo: The Contained Garden

If you’re a fan of the thriller, filler and spiller formula for containers, you can mix up what you generally use for a thriller by choosing some colorful branches to provide height instead. Not only do these branches provide height, they can also add a different visual appeal depending on what you and your client decide to use.

One option that is popular recently using branches from a red twig dogwood to spice up a container with its fiery bark. Certain varieties of vine maples and Japanese maples also have red branches you can use. If you’re favoring a Yukon Cornelius look, you can spray paint some branches to furnish some lovely silver and gold hues.

Another look that has been trending is the use of thicker birch branches. These have a sturdy look to them and can also last all winter with their elegant white bark.


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