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DIY Winter Outdoor Planters

Winter outdoor porch planter design

Are you looking for a fun and inexpensive way to spruce up your empty outdoor winter planters? Do you not want to fuss with watering containers of live plants through the holidays? Then try collecting evergreen boughs to make your own arrangements this year.

Colorado blue spruce bough ready for my holiday planter display.

As the hard frosts set in taking the remaining summer and fall color in my containers, I go in search of evergreen boughs, colorful branches, berries and other interesting plant parts in the natural areas around my home. I particularly like to gather native plants as they create a sense-of-place, however, if you live in an urban area, you can take cuttings from your garden plants. Or do a combination of native and cultivated plants.  Before venturing out, warm up with a cup of tea, grab your garden gloves (to prevent sappy fingers!) and a sharp pair of pruners to make clean cuts.

Hawthorn berries collected from cultivated trees mixes well with my native plant boughs.

As you evaluate plants, look for branches that are full and nicely shaped, lacking dead or diseased portions – unless these features will add interest to your arrangement. On this year’s plant hunt, I found boughs of Colorado blue spruce, branches of ponderosa pine with cones, sprigs of juniper with blue berries, Oregon grape leaves, red twig dogwood branches and clusters of hawthorn berries.

My bough gathering this year yielded Colorado blue spruce, branches of ponderosa pine, sprigs of juniper with berries, Oregon grape leaves, and red twig dogwood stems.

When making cuts, use proper “heading” and “thinning” pruning techniques so that the plant still appears natural after you remove select branches. If taking several cuttings, then take them from multiple plants so that you spread out the impact of your pruning. Also, be sure to cut each section long enough so you have excess to trim down to the correct size of your planter. You will also want to leave a section of stem to drive into the soil so that the boughs do not blow away.

Once you have enough boughs, it’s time to assemble them into attractive displays. Here is the process I like to follow:  

1. Insert tall branches to act as the “center piece” (i.e. red twig dogwoods branches) of the arrangement.

2. Put down a base layer of boughs (i.e. ponderosa pine and Colorado blue spruce) to cover the potting soil.

The crimson of the hawthorn berries and red twig dogwoods stems creates a pop of color against the greens and blues of the pine, spruce and juniper.

3. Add “trailing” plants (i.e. juniper sprigs with berries) along the edges of the pot.

4. Now add sprigs (i.e. Oregon grape and hawthorn berries) for interest throughout the center of the pot. I recommend doing so in clusters of odd numbers.

As you work, enjoy the fresh resinous and piney smell of the cuttings. It really helps kick off the holiday season and ward off the dark cold days ahead! Happy decorating!

The completed container ready to delight for the holidays!
If you have planters with cold hardy perennials (like this heather) that will remain in the pot though the winter, then simply add boughs around the plants to create a full display. Remember to water the living plants during winter dry spells.

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