Few would dispute the continuing pleasure of greenery as leaves begin to fall and the air turns crisp. No matter what landscaping zone you are in, changing weather signals a need to make some adjustments to the garden. Knowing how to do that so that the effect is as impressive in the winter as it is during the height of summer takes some planning, but it can be accomplished with just a little ingenuity.
Container gardens are a perfect answer, and they can be just as spectacular as a blooming garden display. They also are surprisingly easy to design and to maintain. In northern climes, a pair of entry pots planted with hardy holly or dwarf juniper are wonderful; trim them into topiary shapes for dramatic effect. In moderate climates, simply add some bright seasonal potting plants to brighten things up. The key is to anchor your design with a tall or full specimen plant and then supplement it as appropriate for specific holidays or changing conditions.
Pick the Right Plants
Unless you have an exceptionally green thumb, your local nursery is the best place to begin. A tall, full, or showy “eye-catcher” plant is a perfect focal point to build upon. Evergreens are hardy for winter, and some varieties of long-needled pines adapt very well to life in a pot. Junipers are good choices in more modern climates, and dusky-colored blue spruce are favorites, but growing them in pots requires some extra care.
Great choices for most growing zones are:
1. Emerald Arborvitae
Emerald Arborvitae grows into a pleasing cone shape and retains its bright green color all winter.
2. Variegated Redtwig Dogwood
This plant is an interesting shrub that is appealing all year, it has variegated leaves and a bushy shape, with red stems in winter.
3. Japanese Yew
Truly an all-purpose choice, this little gem is known for its drought-tolerant qualities as well as for its ability to withstand harsh winters.
With long, showy leaves, Bergenia is a star because it thrives in containers, and can be grown in full sun or partial shade. Leaves turn burgundy in the fall, and it flowers in the spring.
5. Blue Star Juniper
A low-growing variety, it is perfect for long planters, and is a favorite of many gardeners because of its color. It is slow growing, and it complements a wide variety of other plantings.
6. Fuldaglut Sedum
A small plant with a big effect. This one has bronze leaves that turn red in winter, and it also has flowers that you can cut and bring inside — even if it’s snowing outside.
7. Japanese Pieris
An evergreen with showy flowers in the winter, this is a deer-resistant plant especially good in Zones 4 through 8.
Anchor your containers with evergreen and add occasional color with blooming plants for winter. Holly with berries can also be effective in pots, but is more commonly planted in the ground. If you complement your landscape plantings with holiday decorations, you can coordinate the colors as the seasons change.
The key to a year-round landscape is creativity. Feel free to indulge your whims, but take a hint from professional landscapers and learn to layer and mix as you go. Choose different shapes and heights, vary the blooming schedules and colors, and mix evergreens with a varied selection of seasonal favorites.
While your in-ground landscape serves as the backbone, container gardens are the stars on the scene. Let them shine in the winter.