This is what my “fall” planters looked like, till recently. But there’s nothing like 16 people coming for Thanksgiving to get me into holiday mode. And yes, that includes my outdoor planters.
Winter is often a sad time of year for containers and window boxes. Sure, spring overflows with pansies and bulbs, followed by colorful annuals all summer long. Even fall gets its due, with grasses, ornamental peppers and cabbages. Unfortunately, most winter window boxes are a depressing sight – filled with nothing more than potting mix and some dead leaves.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are numerous plants that offer a variety of colors, shapes and textures all winter long.
Heaths and Heathers are small flowering evergreens that are invaluable additions to any winter planting:
Slow-growing (or dwarf) evergreens, such as Juniper, Spruce, Boxwood and False cypress are also perfectly suited for window boxes and containers. Despite their name, evergreens come in a wide range of colors, from silvers and blues to golds and yellow-greens. And their shapes can vary from stiff and conical, to loose and mop-like.
Here’s an example of a pot planted exclusively with dwarf evergreens:
Install your plantings as you would in any other season, and finish with a layer of mulch or moss for a neat, finished appearance. I also like to apply an anti-desiccant, to protect the plants from moisture loss and wind burn.
To complete the look, add evergreen boughs, berry branches and pine cones. Give warm water as needed (yes, you need to water!), and your pots should easily last till the beginning of spring. At that time you can either discard the plants or give them a permanent home in your garden.
A little story: this post is adapted from an article I wrote almost 10 years ago for a local paper. Conor (who was 7 at the time) wanted to write his own article about winter planters, and dictated the following for me to type:
“You’ve seen a window box before, right? Well, if you buy one in the store, you may make it beautiful by growing heaths and heathers and decorating it. Now, how to grow heaths and heathers….
You start out with the roots and then plant so that it’s sprouting out and you can see a little peep. Then start growing the heaths and heathers wherever you can find a peep.
Now, decorate it! Start out like this: get a paintbrush and get 3 colors – red, white and green. Get the white color and pretend you’re drawing raindrops. The top part, which would be the part with the point, draw 2 of them on the left and right, facing in that direction. Get the red and the green and draw a rose, and put it in the middle of the 2 white raindrops. Draw 2 green dots under the white raindots and watch them grow in the winter!
Now here’s what you do: when the winter is done, and the heaths and heathers are still alive, you may do whatever you want with them, as in……….plant them in your gardens, use them for a decoration or make a design with them.
Water them, feed them, make them feel like home!”
How about you? Do you like to have something green and flowering, even in the winter months? Or are you happy to just turn inward and hibernate till spring? Let me know, and of course, feel free to ask all of your gardening questions right here!