We celebrated my friend Mia’s birthday with a trip to Longwood for the ‘Winter Garden Design in a Container’ class. One of the best classes that I’ve taken there so far! The instructor, Karl, (http://www.KarlGercens.com), shared a number of key tips that have kept my winter garden containers healthy and beautiful in the weeks since these photos were taken:
- Choose a large, lightweight container – plastic is a great option since you can move it around easily and it won’t crack from the cold.
- Use a soil-free potting mix – these are lighter and help maintain the plants through the winter. Top them up with fertilizer or compost if you replant the container later on.
- Select plans that are two zones hardier than your location. I’m in Zone 7, so I need zone 5 plants. Pick some for height and some for horizontal interest. Then add the decorative accents like pine branches and holly sprigs.
- Make the containers in late fall when nursery plants are on sale.
- Keep the containers in a semi-shaded spot. The plants will lose too much moisture in full sun, especially when the root ball freezes. Water them with cold water once a week, or simply cover the tops with ice cubes.
I did a native plant container with a blueberry shrub and Christmas fern, accented with a low evergreen juniper, deciduous holly and gorgeous magnolia leaves. It was so much fun that I bought more plants on the way home and made a second container – this one with an arborvitae, winter-hardy kale and nandina – plus some orange-berried holly from Mia’s yard, and yew and rhododendron clippings from my neighborhood. I also dug in some tulip and daffodil bulbs. In the spring, I’m going to pull out the greens, let the bulbs bloom, and then see if I can keep these containers going with summer annuals. Otherwise, the shrubs can go into various spots in my garden.