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Tuesday, December 4, 2018
Posted By: Arts Nursery Staff in Container Gardening

Many of us plant containers for summer interest and leave them empty for the winter. I get very excited at the beauty that can be created with a winter container, but would like to expand on this topic. What would you think of the idea of having a basic planting that lasts year round, with only the addition of seasonal color needed? (Think pansies in the cool of early spring, all the choices we love such as geraniums in the summer, winter blooming heather and hellebores for late fall/early winter.) Or….planting your container now with plants that can move into your garden in the spring or perhaps in a spring a little farther down the road.
While there are some containers too small to incorporate these ideas, for the majority of them just have fun and create without overcrowding.

The planting medium you use is very important. Art’s Supersoil/house blend mix is your best choice for a shrub, perennial, grass design. It is always wise to check the plant tags for both light and water needs. If you are using plants that require little to no water, go with Promix. Always remember though, that even drought resistant plants require moisture help for the first two years while they put on the root system needed to support themselves.

Shrubs For Containers

Step 1 : Create Height
goldcrest wilma cupressus

Gold : CUPRESSUS MACROCARPA

This is a bright, beautifully textured, fragrant shrub for a container and can be kept in the design for a few years as long as you are in Zone 7 or warmer. Often it will be “Goldcrest” that is available. It is an outstanding center piece for your container. If you can find “Wilma”, please consider this alternative as it is much smaller and dense in its growth pattern both at a young age in your container and at maturity in your garden. If you do not plan to move this beauty from the container, try to find “Wilma”.

Moving to the garden: If you are looking to move it to your garden, expect Goldcrest to reach a final height of about 30’ by 15’ wide over the course of several decades. If you manage to find Wilma, expect a much smaller tree at maturity, topping out at 8’ tall by 2’ wide. They both love full sun, even moisture, but well drained soil. And as an added benefit, are deer resistant.

euonymus_greenspire.jpg

Dark Green : EUONYMUS JAPONICUS GREEN SPIRE

This is one of my very favorite centerpieces for a container with it deep, green, glossy foliage, made all the more delightful with its curved, distinctive leaf. This addition to the euonymus family is well worth tracking down. It is very slow to grow, requiring little maintenance, and will work hard for years as the centerpiece of your container.

Moving to the garden: If you ever decide to move this plant to the garden (though you will not have to), it is hardy to Zone 6, so will easily survive the transplant. It reaches a final height of 5’-6’ and a width of 1’ to 2’. Think about using it as a much needed vertical exclamation point in your landscape design. It is versatile as far as sun is concerned, doing well from full sun to mostly shade. It likes average, well-drained soil and while it does flower, there are too insignificant to really appreciate. They adapt to sea side planting and also resist deer.

Step 2 : Fillers / Layers

Now that you have created your height, it is time to move to the next layer of your container. The choices are numerous, but always consider foliar contrast, foliar color, and flower. While it sounds overwhelming, it really isn’t. Just remember to create a balanced container that includes green, gold, variegated, even blue foliage, and flowers.

heuchera - coral bells

Heuchera - Coral Bells

I have chosen the burgundy leafed Heuchera “Frosted Violet”, but the variations in leaf shape and color go from golds, oranges, reds, greens, right through to black. The choice is yours. Heuchera flowers, but they are insignificant. I just follow the stem down to the crown of the plant and cut them out. The flowers in the picture are ready for me to remove. Heucheras are one of my very favorite plants in a container as they bring a bold-colored, great textured leaf to the show. It is sometimes too easy to not have enough leaf contrast in a container. This little gem takes care of that in spade. Just ask at the nursery for what is available to you and have fun with your creation.

Moving to the garden: While it is advertised that heucheras will handle all sun conditions, I do find that constant even moisture is an absolute requirement for that to happen. They are a rather small perennial, reaching only 8in-10in high and 16in wide. They shine in all their beauty in a woodland garden with ferns, but put them anywhere a punch of color is needed.

Erica Kramers Red - Kramers Red Heather

ERICA DARLEYENSIS KRAMER’S RED

Heather is a mainstay of the fall/winter container. You can also find summer blooming “heather”. However, for this article, I will focus on the winter flowering variety. Kramer’s Red is a compact dark green small shrub that is literally covered in bloom from December until April. Although there are many “green foliage, with pinkish/purple blooms, this old standard still stands out in the crowd. It produces it greatest flower in full sun and well-drained soil. However, that still means even moisture. After flowering, give it a light shear to keep it looking its best and ready to go for another eye popping season next year. There are also gold varieties available with white flowers and with pink. How you plan your container will help to determine what color heather you choose. If you have a lot of green on the go, try to find one with gold foliage.

Moving to the garden: It really doesn’t matter where you go on the mainland. Heather, whether dark green in foliage or gold, catches our eye. It thrives in full sun but will grow in part shade. They work planted singly or groups, allowing them to grow together or kept as separate plants. Because of their low mature height, (12in tall by 24in wide) they do better if planted at the front of a bed. They look right at home planted up against rock placed in the garden as it is reminiscent of its homeland….Scotland.

Euonymus Blondy

EUONYMUS FORTUNEI BLONDY

I had the great fortune to pick up this container for myself recently. It was specific in its design to fit into my garden. That brilliant spot of the gold on the left lower side is Euonymus Blondy. It is so eye catching with its bold yellow and green markings compared to its counter parts and just as easy to take care of. In a large container, plant it multiple time and allow it to creep over the sides at it matures. This is a hardy little shrub, good to Zone 5, handling all conditions, except extreme wet. It thrives in the sun, but will handle some shade. If it starts to get leggy on you, please feel free to prune it back…. hard if need be. It will be all the better for it. Of note for those who like to create floral arrangements, don’t forget to give this a try.

Moving to the garden: You may never want to move this shrub to the garden as it will not out grow most containers. However, if you do, know that it mounds in a well-behaved manner, not sprawling like many of its counterparts. Put it anywhere near the front of the bed where you need a punch of color. Once established in your garden, it can handle drier conditions. Its final size tops out at about 2ft by 2ft.

Gaultheria procumbens - Wintergreen

GAULTHERA PROCUMBENS (WINTERGREEN):

Oh, do I love this plant, especially this time of year. Just look at those red berries on this ever-so-slowly creeping groundcover. While you may never want to pick them, the fruit is edible and the leaves are used to make wintergreen tea. However, as far as winter containers are considered, they have no rivals. As you can see, that rich shiny foliage takes on a burgundy hue in the winter adding great contrast to an already outstanding plant. Having said all this, they will handle full sun, but often prefer partial shade. They require average (but never soggy) soil.

Moving to the garden - This is a native plant to North America and once established, requires little attention. It is deer and rabbit proof, with its final height set at 4in-5in and its final spread is 10in-12in.

Helleborus Jacob - Jacob Hellebore

HELLEBORUS NIGER HGC JACOB

There are few plants I seriously collect for my garden. Hellebores are one of them. What is there to not like? They are essentially evergreen, with unique leathery leaves. Have a mild fragrance. Hardy to Zone 4. And, just when we think we cannot stand one more day of clouds and rain, these beauties pop their flowers up for all to see. In my garden, the blooms can last easily for two months. There are so many varieties now that it is impossible to list them all. But, Jacob is proving to be one of the more outstanding new cultivars over the last several years. When hellebores first arrived on the scene, the beautiful flowers hung downwards, depriving us of their beauty. Not Jacob! This plant makes an unforgettable impact in a container, with the leaves holding their own in the summer months. An interesting side point. The leaves can start to look a bit worn by the time the blooms show. Don’t be afraid to cut them out. The flowers will then be able to put on their show for you. The leaves will not take long to make an entrance. And while you do not have to deadhead them, the look will be better if you do.

Moving to the garden: You could seriously have a dilemma on your hands, as I am sure you will want this plant in both a container and your garden. However, they prefer some shade, and even handle dark shade, lighting up a dreary corner. They like even moisture. They look breathtaking planted in irregular groupings, are deer and rabbit resistant. They are very slow to grow, but will ultimately reach 14in high and 12in wide at the base of the plant.

Carex Evergold

CAREX OSHIMENSIS EVERGOLD

Last, but not least, an evergreen grass. This is another long time standard for containers for a reason. It just is so darn easy to care for and adds so much to the container with its color and form. A zone 5, it is a highly decorative, yet tough sedge, winning awards for its valuable contribution to our gardens. Plant it on the outer edge of your container. If the container is large enough, feel free to use multiples. You will not be disappointed. It handles full sun to part shade, although the best color is in part shade. It loves even moisture. Hardy to zone 5. In a container or a garden, do not cut this grass right back. When pruning leave about 1/3 of the plant in place.

Moving to the garden: Don’t be afraid to try this sedge in some shade. It will brighten up a corner. It is also great in groupings, and with dark green evergreens, such as low growing pines. 8in high by 14in wide.

In Closing

There are so many incredible choices for container planting that it would take pages to list them all. Please visit the garden center to browse the courtyard (and of course other areas of the nursery) for ideas. Talk to our staff about the location of your container (sun, shade, etc.) and the appropriate plants for the location.


Friday, November 13, 2015
Posted By: Laurelle Olfdord-Down in Container Gardening

Laurelle shows you how to create a bit of WOW with a winter planter or grouping that will add a bit of welcome sparkle and light to brighten up the dark days of winter!

Layering live evergreen plants with cut greens will give your planter depth, texture and colour. You can add a touch of whimsy and personality with bells, twinkle lights, lanterns or other hard features. The cut greens stay fresh with a minimum of effort because of the cold and moisture that we generally have plenty of on the West Coast.

If your planters are under cover, ensure the soil is moist but not wet. This usually means only watering once every couple of weeks. I generally am not worried about planting shade plants in a full sun exposure. Because the temps are much cooler, you don’t have to worry about our weaker winter sun baking those shade lovers like Wintergreen or Ferns. Be sure to plant tighter than you would with a summer planter as they will not be filling out in the winter. What you see now is what you will likely have at the end of the winter. I like to leave an inch or so of space around the lip of the planter to give me somewhere to add my cut greens for edging. If you have added some bulbs to your arrangement mark the area on the pot with a temporary sticker so you don’t forget where you put them when shuffling around your plants!

Some of my favorite plants for winter interest:

Plants for Winter Planters

Miniature Conifers

The list is extensive, even smaller conifers that can be replanted in the spring in the garden bed will do. Pines and Lemon Cypress are among my favorites. I also like to use Yew trees for that tall columnar focal point and wrap them in white twinkle lights.

Skimmia

Love the glossy leaves, red berries and fragrant flowers in the winter!!

Wintergreen

Red berries, glossy evergreen leaves and a fragrance when crushed…what’s not to love.

Evergreen Ferns

From the bold glossy leaved Hart’s Tongue Fern to the finer textured smaller Deer Fern, evergreen ferns are a staple in my winter displays.

Evergreen Grasses

The Carex family has both fine textured grasses such as Carex testacea ‘Prairie Fire’ and the wider leaved variegated Carex morrowi ‘Ice Dance’ and Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’ are just a few the great grass choices.

Heuchera

There are a number of evergreen versions with the lush colour saturated leaves.

Ivy

This evergreen always gives me pause. Unleashed on your garden this can become a menace. Hanging gracefully in your winter planter it creates a traditional bit of colour and drape. I pull it out at the end of the winter and put it in my Surrey Green Bin.

Holly

We get in some lovely variegated types that give me a splash of colour and interest especially if they are berried up. If I can’t fine a nice little dwarf holly bush I use the cut greens.

Aucuba

This very large shade lover looks amazing with its large glossy green and gold leaves and red berries. If you have a more sheltered spot and can find a small version of these it might be worth putting in your planter. In spring, toss it into the backyard in full shade with plenty of elbow room and you will have fantastic cut greens to add to your planter forever more!

Bulbs!!

I love to add a package or two of Snowdrops, Crocus and even Mini-Daffodils for a late winter surprise. As my greens start to dry by February I’ll pull them and what should be coming up in those spots but my spring bulbs yay!!

Winter Greens

Cut Greens

I often wait for a big windstorm and then go for a dog walk with some pruners and nab some of the fallen greens and cones. When adding your cut greens better to cut long. If I am using a softer side branch…especially with Douglas Fir, I will cut not only the side piece but try to get a couple of inches of the main or stronger branch with it so I can jam that into the soil. Many of the cut greens have vastly different colour and texture depending on weather you use them right side up or upside down. Try to go with a theme and layer.

Greens for Winter Planters

Pines

I adore soft needled pines and usually add a few pieces hanging out of the planter as finishing touches. They really soften up an arrangement.

Noble Fir

Lovely as Christmas trees and great in cut arrangements to add a bit of formal texture and stiffness not to mention that lovely green blue hue.

Douglas Fir

I do like to use a lot of Douglas fir as my base. I like the deep green of the top side as well as the silvery look of the underside. The more cones the better as far as I’m concerned.

Cedar

Incredible aroma and soft texture. It’s great for a finishing touch.

Juniper

We get in some lovely branches full of Juniper berries for some real texture and interest. The ones I’ve used are a silvery blue green.

Red Twig Dogwood

I use this as my height and structure as well as colour. Generally they root by the end of the winter and you can start your own shrub which you can coppice (prune back close to the ground) each year around this time to get lots of fresh new red twigs.

Curly Willow

One of my favorites! The curly golden to orange red branches make a stunning thriller in my planters giving height, colour and a bit of whimsy. These will also root by the end of the winter and you can plant in the yard and also coppice it each year for cut twigs.

Whimsy

This bit is entirely up to you! If your planter or grouping is at the front door you can add a bit of colour either from the door itself or even the interior. You can bling up your planters with twinkle lights, bows, Christmas balls, bells or even lanterns in varying sizes and colours. You can Christmas up your planters for November and December; this is often the final resting place of Christmas ornaments that are ready to be retired in my household. After Christmas you can adjust your planters slightly to maintain the winter sparkle and glow for January and February.

The best place to display your winter planter is without a doubt the front entrance, failing that any place you will walk by or look at from the window is the next best thing. If hanging them, be sure to hang them low as the best viewing is looking down into them. Don’t be afraid to try groupings or to add different hard features with them, experiment and for Heaven’s sake don’t forget to have fun while you are mucking about!

Cheers - Laurelle!


Friday, October 16, 2015
Posted By: Rebecca van der Zalm in Container Gardening

By October, your colourful spring and summer patio planters or hanging baskets are probably looking a wee bit shabby, if not down-right dead. If that’s your situation, don’t worry, we have the solution for you – the Fall Container Make Over! In this blog post, we'll introduce you to the world of fall containers and how to design and plant them. We'll also identify some of the best plants to use.

Fall Containers are actually easier to plant and maintain than the Spring and Summer varieties. We know we are living on borrowed time because of impending frosts. That time limit influences our selection of plants and forces all plantings to be temporary.

Fall Containers and Planters

Short Term Focus

Fall containers don’t rely as heavily on blooming annuals and therefore won’t focus as much on fleeting flowers. Instead they utilize long lasting, colourful foliage, attractive berries and other design elements to help them look good as long as possible. Since we know that the time span is shorter, it allows to get past the “what’s best for the plant” mentality and move into the different mindset of “what’s going to look good right now”.

Fall containers and baskets fall into 2 categories, mono-plantings and the traditional thriller-filler-spiller model.

Mono Planters

Mono-Plantings

Mono-plantings typically use the same colour, or the same plant to fill the container. For instance, you could have an all-white planter, or fill the planter with one type of plant. Consider a planter that utilizes white heather, white cyclamen and ornamental cabbage and kale with white tones in a single planter. Alternately, you could fill a planter with just Heuchera, Pansies or Sedums.

Thrillers, Fillers and Spillers

Thrillers, Fillers & Spillers

For fall, the traditional thriller, filler and spiller planters are packed tight with plants to make them look good right away. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this style of planter, lets quickly define these terms:

Thrillers

Plants For Use as Thrillers

The tall centerpiece or focal point of the planter. The thriller can be either centre planted or positioned at the back of the planting because of its height and stature. The thriller is the element of the planter that grabs the most attention and captures the eye. While plants are great thrillers, you could also use inanimate objects like birch branches, contorted willow stems, lanterns or other types of fall garden accents.

Fillers

Plants For Use as Fillers

Filler – the fillers are the mid-sized plants that complement the thriller. They are typically ½ to 1/3 the height or the attention grabbing ability of the thriller. Most fall planters will use several fillers strategically positioned near or around the thriller. At this time of year, small pumpkins and gourds also make great fillers.

Spillers

Plants For Use as Spillers

The spillers are the plants that hang or droop off the sides of the planter. In the fall they are typically grasses, ivies, ground covers and similar plants that have some resistance to winter cold. They are usually smaller and several will be planted in a typical container.

10 Design Tips for Fall Planters

Fall planters are supposed to be temporary, you don’t need to worry as much about longevity or plant health. When a fall planter starts to look shabby, simply discard the spent elements or re-plant them in your garden. When creating your fall planters, here are 7 more design tips to think about:

Black Planter

1. Pick a Pot First

Planter choice is important and should be made first. Everything from the type, the colour, the size, and the width of planting area is important. Try to match the scale of the pot to the size of your plants. Make the colour complimentary to the type of plants you are going to choose. When choosing a pot, quality is critical - if you intend to keep the pot for more than one season. There is a reason there are “cheap” pots and “expensive” pots.

Pot Feet

2. Drainage Is Important

Given our typical fall and winter weather, good drainage is an essential component of fall planters. Fill the bottom one third of your planter with gravel, packing materials, broken pottery or anything else that creates air pockets and allows the water to drain. Separate this layer with landscape fabric to avoid contaminating or compacting it with soil. Lift the planter off your deck or patio with pot feet to ensure the drainage hole doesn't get plugged up.

Promix Potting Soil

3. Soil Choice Matters

Don’t use a garden soil in your planters. These soils tend to be heavy and will compact in a planter. As we already mentioned, drainage is critical. Plants need as much oxygen near their roots as water. If you insist on using a garden soil, at least amend it with perlite to create air pockets and improve porosity. Preferably, use a potting soil like ProMix or Miracle Gro. These products are already mixed with perlite and are specifically formulated to be lighter for planters, containers and baskets.

4. Simplicity Works

The KISS principle ... (Keep It Simple Stu@^@#) ... works. The best fall planters are simple. They only have a few types of plants and they avoid having "one of everything" in the container. If you like a plant, use it a couple of times in your planter as opposed to picking more types of plants. Enough said.

5. Odd Numbers Are Good

In design, odd numbers like 1, 3 and 5 always look good. For example, you may choose to plant 1 thriller, 3 fillers and 5 spillers in your planter. While this obviously depends upon the size of the planter, you get the general idea.

Plant Colour Palettes - Hot Colours and Cool Colours

6. Pick A Colour Palette and Stick To It

Spring and summer planters tend to use the hot colours. In other words, the yellows, the oranges and the reds. These are called stop colours because the eye naturally focusses and comes to rest on them. They grab attention and scream look at me! This is also the reason why fire trucks tend to be red and people in red cars tend to get more speeding tickets – they are simply more visible to the eye. Now you know!

The cool colours tend to be more dominant in the fall. These are the greens, pinks, purples and blues to name a few. They move away from the eye and perceived to be more peaceful, relaxing and calming. They work well with the neutral colours like white, black or grey.

Neutral colours (the grays, the whites and blacks) are the perfect compliments for both hot and cool colour palettes. Use them for affect and as contrasting elements in your planters. You can also choose to create mono plantings. All white and all black planters are in style (especially for Halloween)

If you choose a colour palette, stay in that palette. In other words, a cool colour planter should not have yellows oranges and reds as they will clash. It’s ok to mix a palette and neutrals, but don’t mix the two palettes. An easy way to tackle this is to pick a theme. For example, a Halloween planter may have lots of oranges and yellows complimented by black. Remember to include the pot colour in your design. A pink pot with a halloween colour theme would look ridiculous wouldn't it?

Lanterns

7. Lighten It Up

As the sun sets earlier and earlier in the fall, it is important to choose brighter colours and even accent lighting. Add a few solar or led lights to your planters for added effect! Lanterns or even faux-candles can also be used. This is a great look for winter. For obvious reasons, just be careful if you are mixing anything electrical with water, or anything burning near foliage!

Hand With Bulbs

8. Think About Spring

While we have already stated that fall planters are fleeting, there is no reason why they can’t be designed to give additional interest. For example, you could fill the planter with daffodils and tulips to come up after all the top growth has either died-off, has been cut back or re-planted after winter. Simply plant the bulbs and then add your other materials on top. The bulbs will come through the top growth when the time is right.

10. Relax and Have Fun!

As we have already said, fall planters are temporary works of art. There are no right or wrong answers or bad designs, as long as you like it! Experiment, try new plants and have fun with it!

For More Information:

For more information and a great read, check out this e-book created by our own Shelley Levis.

One Planter - Four Seasons e-Book

If you want to spruce up your planters this fall. Drop by and pick out some great materials at Art’s. We’d be happy to help you make a few design choices or recommend the best plants. Or, if you prefer, we can even plant them up for you. Each fall planter is unique and is based on your design choices and budget. Get yours growing today!


Friday, December 12, 2014
Posted By: Laurelle Olfdord-Down in Christmas

Let's be honest. At this time of year your garden can look a little drab, dreary and down-right ugly. The holidays give us an opportunity to spruce things up a little. No pun intended. Here are 5 great outdoor decorating ideas for the holidays to bring a little festive cheer to your home.

Christmas Hanging Baskets

Holiday Hanging Baskets

Honest, they look amazing! Don’t empty your old planters just clip off the dead top bits. Make sure the soil is damp and then stick in greens, twigs, holly and even some glitter. At our house that is often where old ornaments go for their last hurrah. They look awesome in the winter hanging baskets! I like to hang these low, below eye level so that folks can look down into them.

Winter Planters

Winter Planters

We’ll be enjoying these longer than our summer planters! I mix in smaller evergreens like Lemon Cypress, low creepers like Wintergreen, some evergreen Hart’s Tongue Ferns and tuck a couple packages of bulbs into my planters too. I do leave gaps because I like to fill mine with evergreen boughs and bows and some old outdoor lanterns for a bit of sparkle and glow.

As we get closer to spring I remove some of the spent evergreen boughs to allow for the bulbs to come up and then tuck in a couple of pansies or Primulas. My winter pots are constantly evolving. I can add a little more red as we get close to Valentine’s day and…well…you get the picture. For the summer I move them into the background or even on to the back deck where they’ll get a bit more shade.

Door Swags and Garland

Swags and Garlands

Awesome and simple. Ok mostly simple…wear gloves so you don’t stab yourself with the wire and branches of the garland and then swear in front of your neighbours kids. With the garlands you can place around the door frame or to one side. Make sure you they will not get caught in the door as you open and close it.

Keep your swags and garlands misted if we have clear and cold weather and they are real. If they are everlasting, you get to skip this step! If we get our usual winter weather, Mother Nature can take care of the misting. Come in and visit us at the nursery and you can sip hot chocolate and look at the different ways we have used the garlands if you need some ideas!

Christmas Wreaths

Wreaths

From greens to pinecones to bells and berries. Too many to choose from. What is interesting is that folks will also put them in unexpected places like a shed that you walk by or see out the window. I’ve even spotted a mini wreath overtop of a dog door. Hot this year are Boxwood wreaths, in both round and square. You can even get a diamond shaped one ... (inside joke :) )

Holiday Illumination and Lanterns

Lanterns

Illumination of all kinds is a given. Choose simple, beautiful or even sparkly. Classic lanterns look way better than cheesy big-box Christmas lights. Group them together indoors or out. Mix sizes and colours. Fill not only with candles or led candles but pinecones or glittery Christmas balls.

Have a fantastic, cozy and safe Christmas! Come in and take a gander at our Christmas Market…the hot chocolate is on and we even have mini marshmallows!! You can wander around and pick up some great Christmas ideas from our fabulous designers! We're open until Dec 24th to serve you. We've also got more tips for decorating your indoor space for the holidays.


Thursday, October 24, 2013
Posted By: Rebecca van der Zalm in Container Gardening

When the fog hides the sky and the winter chills set in, odds are that your planters are starting to look a ‘wee bit’ tired. While most of us decide to casually look the other way, there is really no good reason for avoiding giving them a seasonal refresh.

There are lots of different plants you can use for fall and winter planters. Many of them are either shrubby or perennial, meaning that the investment won’t be wasted. When spring comes, you can yank the plants out and use them in different spots. Or, choose to keep them in containers and add some extra spring interest.

Winter Blooming Plants

Colour in winter planters usually comes from foliage, bark and berries as opposed to flowers. This is not to say there aren’t winter bloomers. Hellebores, Pansies, Witchhazels, SweetBox and Camellias are all lovely winter flowering plants. It’s just that flower colour in winter is fleeting. It’s best to use flowers as the accent while relying on foliage, texture and colourful berries to do the heavy lifting through the cool season.

Before we move on, it’s important to change our perception about winter gardening. It’s not about longevity. It’s about creating a piece of living art that you can enjoy until spring. It’s ok to put the wrong plant in the wrong place. If it stretches for light – we can prune it in spring. If it dies, it dies … it’s ok. Get over it. In winter, there are no rules, you can do anything you want in the container – and have fun doing it.

Most planters follow the formula of thriller, fillers and spillers. That is, there is one dominant center piece in the container that just screams “look at me – I am the most important!”.

Surrounding it are its minions, the fillers. Tidy nice little accent plants that all look up to the thriller. Finally, the spillers cascade over the sides of the pot - softening its appearance.

4 Evergreen thrillers for containers

In the winter, thrillers tend to be evergreens or deciduous shrubs with winter interest. Yews, Alberta Spruces, Topiary Boxwoods as well as Hollies, Camellias and Heavenly Bamboos are all great choices as evergreens.

3 Deciduous Thrillers for containers

Interesting leafless thrillers include Harry Lauders Walking Sticks, Coral Bark Japanese Maples, and Witchhazels.

You can also use a few old favourites like Ornamental cabbages and Kale. The thriller does not have to be living. In Whistler, you often see pieces of birch and deciduous holly stems jammed into containers in an upright fashion. Or you could use a lantern or gazing ball. Anything that grabs the attention of the passer-by is fair game.

Have fun with the fillers. There are lots of interesting choices including:

3 cool season grasses for containers

Cool season ornamental grasses like Carex ‘Evergold’, Black Mondo Grass and Acorus ‘Ogon’ are fantastic fillers.

Buds of skimmia japonica

Smaller evergreens like the fragrant winter blooming Sarcococca, the colourful Skimmia or Goshiki Osmanthus or False Holly are great options too.

3 Great conifers for containers

Conifers too are comfortable in pots. Two of my personal favourites are Carsten’s Winter Gold or Mugo SlowMound Pine. A nice up and comer is ‘GoldStrike’ Cedar. Green throughout the season, it turns a brilliant golden yellow in winter and spring.

Wintergreen - Gaultheria procumbens

 

Don’t forget about berries. They provide a lot of nice colour in winter. Four great choices include: Gaultheria procumbens or ‘Wintergreen’, Lingonberry, Vaccinium vitis-ideae, Pernettya and Pyracantha.

cyclamen flowers

If you absolutely must have flowers in winter, then Hellebores, cyclamens and pansies are your solution.

For bonus points, fill your containers with lots of little bulbs like snowdrops, crocus or grape hyacinths before putting in the rest of the plants. In spring ,these bulbs will start to flower and fill your container with colour until it’s time to visit us again :) 

 

Finally, we come to the spillers. In the winter, there are a few options. Euonymous, or Winter Creeper, Evergreen Ivy or a trailing grass are probably your best options.

It’s possible that container designer experts may freak out if you don’t follow the rules by having your thriller, the fillers and the spillers, but that’s ok.

I believe that winter planters can be simple too. Put one gorgeous plant in one pot. If you want more colour or combinations, then just plant up more containers. I love front door arrangements made up of large, medium and small sized pots. Yes, designing in threes always works. Three on either side of the front door is even better! With that said, simplicity is the key. Allow each plant can stand on its own rather than being crammed in with others. They’ll also be healthier next season too!

bud blooming heathers

 

A word about colour. I love mono-colour planters in the winter. Try making up a planter that is dominant in one colour, say white, or perhaps pink, or even different shades of green. The results can be striking.

When it comes to winter care, remember that plants in containers need water in winter too. They just need less. There is no substitute for getting your hand into the dirt. If it’s dry and crumbly, the plants need water. If it’s wet and gooey, they are fine – but make sure the water is actually draining out of the pot. Too much water is just as deadly as too little.

If all of this sounds daunting, remember that Art’s Nursery can help you design winter planters and even plant them up for you. Just give us a sense of your style, the sizes required and your budget. We’ll work up something beautiful for your fall and winter entertaining.

If you have any questions about fall and winter containers, please feel free to give us a call at 604.882.1201 or visit us in person at Art’s Nursery.


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Art's Nursery is a 10+ acre retail and wholesale garden centre located in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. We've been in business at this same location since 1973 and we're proud to serve you today!

We carry an incredible selection of plants, shrubs, trees, annuals, perennials, vines, groundcovers, roses and much more. Soils, bulk materials, pottery and a variety of garden accents are also available.

Our plant selection is so large that you can actually drive a golf cart while you shop!

We pride ourselves on providing high quality plant, expert advice and an exceptional gardening experience.


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Art's Nursery Ltd.

8940 192nd Street,
Surrey, BC, Canada,
V4N 3W8

Tel: (604) 882-1201
Fax: (604) 882-5969
Email: info@artsnursery.com
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