Seasonal Containers

Winter containers are great fun to build, and I thought I'd share some of our techniques for construction.

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I wanted these container constructions to be lit, and decided to build a tomato cage tower that would support the light strings, and give the finished arrangements some height. Outdoor containers have to look good from a greater distance than indoor flower arrangements, so scale and mass are very important. The finished pots top out at about 6'. 

I started with tomato cages purchased from a local big box store. Despite a store full to bursting with holiday lights, greenery, decorations and gifts, a very helpful sales associate was willing to retrieve a pallet of tomato cages from hibernation, and release three for me. I also grabbed some spray paint, outdoor light strings, and a handful of exterior extension cords. I had already cut bundles of branches and birch twigs from a local wooded area, which filled the back of my van.  

When you’re working with light strings, plug them in several times during the construction process to make sure they’re working.
Buying tomato cages
I sprayed all of the branches with burgundy paint, similar to the color of new Birch branches.

I sprayed all of the branches with burgundy paint, similar to the color of new Birch branches.

As soon as I get the lights wired on to the cage, I plug them in to make sure they work.

As soon as I get the lights wired on to the cage, I plug them in to make sure they work.

Back at the office, I took advantage of the beautiful weather to spray both the tomato cages and the branches with burgundy spray paint. A bright red would have looked too artificial, but the darker hue was nearly the same shade as the new growth of the birch branches. Once everything was dry, I brought it all into the office for assembly. I used the tomato cages upside down, so the widest ring formed a stable base while I affixed the lights with plenty of zip ties. When you're working with lighting strings, remember to plug them in several times during the construction process to make sure they're working. After the lights were strung, I attached the painted branches to camouflage the cage, and touched up the zip ties with a little more spray paint. I also cut the bottom ring off the cages, so the wire legs could be pushed into the soil of the containers and keep the light tower firmly in place. Finally, everything is loaded into the van for assembly on the job site in the morning.

I empty the pots, but leave the soil and add more as necessary. The soil level should be as high as possible, and mounded slightly in the middle.

I empty the pots, but leave the soil and add more as necessary. The soil level should be as high as possible, and mounded slightly in the middle.

An evergreen wreath forms the base of the construction.

An evergreen wreath forms the base of the construction.

The light tower is inserted into the middle of the wreath, firmly anchored by the wire legs of the tower.

The light tower is inserted into the middle of the wreath, firmly anchored by the wire legs of the tower.

Adding greens to pot

Once on the job site, I pull all of the old plant material out of the containers, but keep the soil intact. I usually have to add more soil and pack it firmly to the rim of the pot, creating a mound in the center.

A ready-made spruce wreath forms the base of the pot's construction, centered over the mound of soil. The light tower is inserted into the middle of the wreath, anchored by its long wire legs. Winter winds are strong, so it's important to make sure all of the pot's elements are firm and secure.

Lots of evergreen branches are cut on an angle and inserted into the pot, to give it more texture and interest. For this container, I added Norway Spruce, Blue Spruce, and Arborvitae. The berry stems are inserted last, along with some chunky white birch branches. 

The finished pots are quite large, with enough height and volume to read well from a distance. The natural materials celebrate the season, and the lights offer cheer when the days turn dark early.

The completed container really comes to life when the sun drops and the lights come on.

The completed container really comes to life when the sun drops and the lights come on.

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This container is one of two that flank a stone bench, and uses natural materials with a few ornaments that give a nod to holly berries.

A spruce wreath, Sedum, birch branches and white tulle.

A spruce wreath, Sedum, birch branches and white tulle.

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This pair of flouted concrete pots uses dried Sedum from the perennial garden, Birch twigs, a ready-made spruce wreath, and a little white tulle to emulate snow.

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Another container that makes use of the light tower, with greens and a loose berry stem arrangement.

 

Patricia Lammers

Pat has been an avid gardener throughout her adult life. Her education was in fine arts, with a further degree in commercial art. After a decade as an Art Director, Pat segued into landscaping, and has worked as a Landscape Designer in Fairfield County for the past twenty years.