Let’s face it, winter in the garden can be a bit, well…blah. So, thank goodness for Christmas, it’s the perfect excuse to go a little crazy and “zhuzh” up your tired and now empty planters. It’s time to make a winter accent planter and all you need is a pot of soil, some evergreens, a little bit of colour or sparkle and your own amazing brand of creativity.

Often the resident of the front door porch/patio/steps a winter accent planter is exactly what it sounds like, a planter that you create to give your outdoor space some much needed accenting. And it doesn’t just have to be at the front door. Although considering the weather I would be sure to put it somewhere where I can easily see it from inside or on the way to the front door, not everyone is up for a soggy stroll through the garden. I love the idea of placing an accent planter on your balcony so you can enjoy the joy of the outdoors from the comfort and warmth of your sofa. I know mine on my front steps makes me smile every time I go in and out of my home, and the smell… every time I open the door I’m bombarded with the glorious aroma. A celebration of evergreens, berries, branches, pine cones, ribbons and sparkles; it really is one of the easiest things to do and it looks spectacular. Here is a quick breakdown of what you need to do to create your own seasonal masterpiece.

Building Your Planter

You start with a container full of soil. Your old tired planters that were in their glory with summer annuals but are now empty are perfect. Also, think a bit outside the container, use your old hanging basket or perhaps an empty metal bucket. The idea is to just have a vessel of soil or sand that you can stick branches into. Just make sure that it is large and heavy enough to handle the weight of all the branches, you don’t want it to topple over. But get creative, it’s your vision.

Next gather up your materials. This is the fun part, but a word of advice, before you head off to GardenWorks to get some supplies think through your design a little. If you ever planted up a summer planter then you might be familiar with the adage of using a thriller, spiller and filler. There is similar “recipe” that I like to use for winter accent planters, I call it a focal, flourish and filler. Okay, it’s not as catchy but it still applies.

  • Focal – I find it best to decide on this aspect of my planter first since I often build the rest around it. The focal point is usually right up front and it acts to ground the arrangement. Focal points can be anything really, a lantern filled with battery operated mini-lights, a grouping of Christmas baubles, a giant oversized bow, or something natural like some giant ponderosa pine cones. One of my favourite things to do is use a trio of thick white birch branches right in the centre of the planter. Secure your focal point into the planter in whatever manner is necessary. A lantern may only need to be put in place, but birch branches will need to stuck into the soil so they don’t move. A bow, baubles or pine cones may need to be wired to a stick if they are not already attached to a pick.
  • Filler – These are your evergreens. The bulk of your planter is going to be evergreens and there are so many to choose from. The process is easy, just get yourself some reasonably sized branches, give them a fresh cut (on an angle, trust me it makes it easier) and then stick them into the soil. You can use branches that you’ve clipped from your own garden or that have blown down but don’t ever cut from a park, wooded space or your neighbour. Tis’ the season for good behaviour. To be honest the best solution is to head down to GardenWorks and buy a few bundles, they are already cut to perfect size and Santa won’t put you on the naughty list. Once you have most of your planted filled with greenery then you can move onto the last stage.
  • Flourish – This is where you get to add some “wow” to your planter. Think the beautiful berries (I love deciduous holly), architectural twigs like red huckleberry or perhaps something bolder like ones covered in glitter, battery operated mini-lights woven through the branches, small ornaments, pine cone picks that come ready to be stuck into the container, glossy evergreen magnolia leaves with their velvety cinnamon brown underside, I could go on. You want to stick these pieces into your planting so that it looks pleasing to you and you will have created a stunning winter accent planter of your own.

Now, I do have to say that you don’t always need to stick to the above recipe, I have seen many gorgeous planters that have thrown cation to the wind and broke all the rules. But if you are just starting out then you might want to try the “recipe” and you are sure to have success. One of my favourite things is just how long-lasting a winter accent planter is. I have kept mine looking fabulous right up until it’s time to plant the primulas in February. You just take off any of the accents that scream Christmas (like babbles or bows) and you still can enjoy the beauty of an evergreen arrangement.

Design Tips and Tricks

  • Think of texture and form. The best planters have a pleasing mix of evergreens, as this gives you a variety of texture. Cedars have a lovely cascading flat feathery look, pine a spiked burst of needles and fir a soft architectural branch pattern. Make sure to have at least two to three different kinds of greens.
  • Keep scale in mind. If you are using something like birch bark branches you don’t want them so short that you don’t get their impact, make sure they are at least 2-3 times the size of your planter. Also, if you have a tall planter and a small short arrangement it might look awkward and vice versa if you have a small container and a tall arrangement (also this combination will most likely be prone to topple over). So always keep scale in mind when making your creation.
  • If you are doing two containers to flank a doorway then be sure to lay out all your materials and make two separate piles before starting to build your planter. This is to ensure they match, there is nothing worse than realizing you’ve created lopsided unsymmetrical arrangements.
  • Always try to obey the rule of odds for a strong accent pieces, try to use one, three, five, seven, etc. Odd numbers combinations are more pleasing for the eye.
  • Decide on a colour scheme and try to stick to it. That is easier said than done, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. So, think about what you want, perhaps traditional green with hints of red; or go for broke and light it up with all the colours and nostalgia you can find; or perhaps a more subdued classic greens with white, silver and blue accents; or maybe bold contemporary with velvety cinnamon-coloured magnolia leaves, pampas grass flowers, and golden sparkle accents. It’s so much fun to choose and the best part is you can always do something different next year.

The best thing is, if after reading all this you decide that you just don’t want to attempt making a planter this year, GardenWorks has an amazing selection of pre-made winter accent planters. You can just head on down and find the one that will make you smile this season. But weather you decide to jump in and make your own (it is as simple as sticking some branches into the ground) or you get a perfectly pre-made one, a winter accent planter is the perfect remedy for the winter garden blahs.

Written by: Ingrid Hoff

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