Tips for Winter Pots

As the temperatures drop and the garden tucks in for its winter slumber, containers step out of their supporting roles to take a star turn in the garden. Here are a few tips and inspiration photos for creating beautiful winter pots.

Jazz up your winter landscape with pots, hanging baskets and window boxes planted with evergreens or overflowing with assorted cuttings from conifers, berries, seed heads and dried flowers.

You can plant pots for winter interest as long as the plants are hardier than your growing zone. Here, early blooming snowdrops surround a planted red-twig dogwood. Black mondo grass adds the beautiful texture and dark color. Planted pots need good drainage in the winter, which is provided with this brick and pebble patio. If you site them on the driveway or other solid hardscape, elevate the pots with pot feet or bricks to let excess water drain out eaily.

Don’t be stingy with your outdoor containers! Empty urns just draw attention to what is missing.

Beautiful winter arrangements are not just for the holidays. You can use a combination of living and cut plants to dress up your pots from late fall through late winter.

Hanging baskets lined with moss are gorgeous when decorated with cut evergreens.

The same plants that bring interest to the winter landscape bring pizzaz to winter containers,  such as the red-twig dogwood pictured here.

Remember to keep your containers in scale with their environment. Most homeowners select a container that’s too small for their space.

If you live in a townhouse and condo, winter containers are a perfect "gardening outlet". These winter pots combine abundance and whimsy with their magnolia leaves, fruits, cones, dried hydrangeas, and a twig reindeer head.

Branches provide height, visual weight and texture for your containers. Birch, red twig dogwood, golden willow and harry's lauder's walking stick are particularly decorative.

Here twig balls add a whimsical flair.

By combining many different types of evergreens, you can achieve a rich "tapestry" look of contrasting textures in various shades of green.

Simple modern pots set off classic boxwoods and a voluptuous evergreen arrangement. 

Elevating your pots makes them more prominent. Here a formally centered classic urn on a plinth creates a beautiful front entrance.

ith a big snowstorm in the forecast on the day before Thanksgiving, I quickly ran through the garden with pruning shears to fill the 7 urns around my house. Yews, hollies, golden cypresses, leucothoe and winterberry holly received their annual trimming as I filled up my pots. What a great way to spend a few hours out in the winter garden!


A Dozen Dazzling Spring Containers

  (Poppies, lettuce and pansies grace a terrace at Longwood Gardens)

(Poppies, lettuce and pansies grace a terrace at Longwood Gardens)

I recently came across a wonderful description of "pot gardening" by landscape architect Thomas Rainer, who writes a thought-provoking gardening blog called "Grounded Design":

"Pots are perhaps the purest expression of planting design. Composing a pot is like a chef creating a salad—all of the rules of design get stripped down to their essence. In a larger landscape, the hand of the designer can be lost, but with a pot, the artificial environment is a pure display of horticultural skill."

I saw a fabulous display of this horticultural skill during my recent visit to Longwood Gardens and Chanticleer. Need inspiration for your spring pots? See the beauties below.

Spring Containers at Longwood Gardens

  Pitcher plants and ferns are an unusual choice for this bowl in part-sun!

Pitcher plants and ferns are an unusual choice for this bowl in part-sun!

  A grand display creates a focal point in a long walkway.

A grand display creates a focal point in a long walkway.

  Small redbud trees and dark pink foxgloves add drama.

Small redbud trees and dark pink foxgloves add drama.

  A pot of wallflowers and burgundy heuchera is simple yet stunning.

A pot of wallflowers and burgundy heuchera is simple yet stunning.

  Nothing says spring like English daisies, ranunculus, pansies, willows

Nothing says spring like English daisies, ranunculus, pansies, willows

Spring pots at Chanticleer

  a formal urn of purple, orange, chartreuse and silver welcomes visitors.

a formal urn of purple, orange, chartreuse and silver welcomes visitors.

  The simple repetition of deep purple-black pansies accentuates the pink and purple tulips.

The simple repetition of deep purple-black pansies accentuates the pink and purple tulips.

  A large pot of edibles and flowers in the courtyard.

A large pot of edibles and flowers in the courtyard.

  Blue fescue grass sets off the white poppies in a courtyard of raked sand.

Blue fescue grass sets off the white poppies in a courtyard of raked sand.

  The colorful branches of red-twig dogwood 'Midwinter Fire' combine beautifully with orange poppies, bronze fennel and golden creeping jenny.

The colorful branches of red-twig dogwood 'Midwinter Fire' combine beautifully with orange poppies, bronze fennel and golden creeping jenny.

Feel inspired? I sure did!

Chanticleer's Fabulous Fall Containers

I discovered Chanticleer Gardens last spring, and now that my daughter attends school nearby, I plan to visit this fabulous garden as often as I can. Last weekend I was once again inspired by the dozens of fabulous containers found throughout the garden. Each pot is a spectacular blend of foliage, color and texture, and most do not use flowers at all!

Many of these beautiful arrangements are made of tender tropicals - or houseplants for those of us in the Northeast. Now that I will be moving all of my houseplants back inside for the winter, I am thinking about creating a few Chanticleer-like pots to decorate the inside of my house!

  A grouping of containers surrounds a cozy seating nook tucked in at the side of the house.

A grouping of containers surrounds a cozy seating nook tucked in at the side of the house.

 Pepperonia and a variegated agave are beautiful in a bronze urn.

Pepperonia and a variegated agave are beautiful in a bronze urn.

  A miniature container garden in a cement leaf.

A miniature container garden in a cement leaf.

  A grand display on the mantel of a porch fireplace!

A grand display on the mantel of a porch fireplace!

  A banana tree creates a towering centerpiece in the garden!

A banana tree creates a towering centerpiece in the garden!

  A second outdoor fireplace is festooned with succulents.

A second outdoor fireplace is festooned with succulents.

  Last but not least, a chain of small succulent pots adorns a rustic column.

Last but not least, a chain of small succulent pots adorns a rustic column.

A Bouquet of Spring Containers

After a long, snowy winter, I can't wait to fill my containers with spring blooms! Here are some ideas for fun spring container plantings.

Above: Violas, creeping jenny and heart-shaped stones adorn a small wire basket welcoming visitors to a lovely private oasis.

Purple and orange tulips, purple heather, miniature daffodils, variegated vinca, accented with pussywillows in a classic iron urn. (courtesy smallspacegardening.com)

Orange and maroon tulips underplanted with english daisies and red lettuce. 
(courtesy gardeninggonewild.com)

A Victorian-style white wire basket planted with heather, trailing variegated ivy, pansies, white tulips, and  lily of the valley. (courtesy gardeninglife.ca)

Scarlett tulips, yellow, orange and burgundy primroses, and creeping jenny are fabulous in these dark crimson pots. (courtesy gardeninglife.ca)

Bright orange tulips are set off by blue grape hyacinths and heuchera, and complemented by 'Midwinter Fire' dogwood. (courtesy finegardening.com)

'Golden Hearts' bleeding heart in a beautiful jade-colored pot complements spring bulbs. (courtesy blackgold.bz)

In my own garden, pansies in shades of burgundy, yellow and pink with golden lamium highlighted by gold hosta and hanoke grass.

I like to experiment with a mixture of plants in a large container - shrubs, perennials, annuals and veggies. Above, a PJM rhododendron is set off with blue salvia, violet wallflower, purple and white pansies, and red-tinged lettuce.

Inspiring Containers from Chanticleer

I was astounded by the beauty of the container plantings at Chanticleer Garden in Wayne, Penn.  Although it was only mid-April, there were dozens of richly planted pots throughout the garden. The containers themselves ranged from formal urns to terracotta, glazed ceramics and modern metals. Many were grouped or strategically placed to enhance the garden's design. I hope that you will be inspired to create your own artistic contained gardens!

Orange tulips, red lettuce and herbs complement the terracota pots in this courtyard garden.

Red tulips, red-twig dogwood, heuchera and euphorbia in a classic cement urn.

Grape hyacinths steal the show in this pot!

A grouping of potted shrubs, perennials and annuals in different pots that complement each other!

A quiet container water garden on the stone patio.

A vegetable garden with climbing peas on the terrace!

Another interesting grouping of potted shrubs, succulents and spring bulbs.

Pansies soften the spiky form of an agave.

Potted daffodils and tulips complement the Italian accent tiles with their lemon design.

Ranunculus, pansies, and yellow-twig dogwood in an indigo blue pot!

A small centerpiece bowl of greens, herbs and flowers adorns the terrace dining table.