With Halloween around the corner, pumpkin carving skills need to be honed and executed on the most perfect orange sphere that you can find in the pumpkin patch. If orange isn’t your thing, there is a rainbow of colors to choose from. Check out my post on Decorating Pumpkins-Pumpkin Eye Candy.
Making Your Creation Last Longer
Make sure you thoroughly clean out and scrape the guts. The cleaner and drier you get with the gooey pumpkin innards, the longer it will last.
Rinse the entire pumpkin in cold water and dry.
Spray the pumpkin insides with a solution of 1 Tablespoon of peppermint soap or bleach to a quart of cold water. The peppermint soap acts as an anti-fungal and the bleach kills any organisms that lead to rot and decay.
Apply a thin coating of petroleum jelly to the outside to stop the pumpkin from drying out.
Place pumpkin in fridge in a plastic bag to store overnight or place outside in the cold. The colder it is (not freezing!) the longer it will last.
Rehydrate with a spray of water when you take the pumpkin out of the bag.
Don’t use real candles as the heat and melted wax will hasten the demise of your pumpkin. Use small small floral votives that last for hours.
When you are at the farm stand picking out your perfect specimen, be sure to look it over for soft spots and gouges into the outer skin. If either of these are present, your pumpkin will likely rot before you can start decorating it. Poke and prod the pumpkin all over to make sure it is healthy. Have a plan of what you would like to carve as that determines the shape, size and orientation(sideways, upright, upside down) of your final creation. If you want the pumpkin at its best on Halloween, don’t carve it too early. One day ahead or the day of is perfect so that the pumpkin holds up.
Picking out from a local market means you won’t get a bruised and battered pumpkin that traveled far from the farmer.
An outdoor work area is preferable as the job can get quite messy. Using brown/butcher paper or a trash bag underneath makes cleanup a snap.
Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate love, and what better way to do this than by having an intimate Valentine’s dinner at home. Create a space that smells delicious by grabbing some veggies from the garden and putting together your significant other’s favorite meal. Make your table look equally as beautiful with an elegant floral ice bucket made from fresh flower clippings from your yard.
Floral ice buckets are the perfect statement piece that also doubles as a way to keep your favorite celebratory wine or champagne chilled. To help you create your own, here is a YouTube tutorial on how to make a floral/fruit ice bucket or you can follow directions below for a romantic one with red roses, from FTD. Follow simple steps and you’ll have a DIY centerpiece in no time!
Large plastic container
Smaller plastic container (that fits a champagne bottle)
Flowers and greens (eucalyptus)
Filtered water(for clear ice)
Set out a large container with a container that will fit inside, leaving an inch or two around the perimeter. Gather roses and greens, or other flowers such as hydrangeas and carnations.
Fill the large container with two inches of filtered water. If you don’t have filtered water, boil it twice and use it when it is cool. This will clear out any impurities and it will be clear instead of cloudy. Put in freezer to freeze completely, about 24 hours.
Place smaller container in large container in the center and fill with rocks to weigh it down.
Create circular garlands of flowers to fit around the outside of the smaller container, holding them together with floral tape or wire. This keeps the florals from floating to the top.
Place the floral chains around the smaller container and fill the rest of the large container with filtered water. Situate the flower as you’d like them to freeze. If the flowers float up and you want them to be completely covered, push them down every few hours as the water freezes. I like some flowers sticking up around the rim for texture. Let it freeze for 24 hours.
Once the water is completely frozen, remove from the containers by running hot water over them. Keep the ice bucket in the freezer until you’re ready to display. When the time is right, place it on a plate (to catch any water) and add your favorite bottle of wine to chill.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
For more ideas and pictures, go to FTD. Images and story courtesy of FTD.
It’s that time of year again, where I review my most viewed posts from all over the world and I was surprised at some of the posts that were at the top of the heap. The top ten countries that view my blog in descending order are the U.S. Canada, UK, Australia, India, Germany, France, South Africa, Brazil, and New Zealand. I am always amazed at this! India is near the top and reading my blog in great numbers? And Australia and New Zealand are reading too! That just goes to show you that gardening topics are a universal theme.
I have about 5,000 followers that receive regular emails when I post and my average viewings per day is around 250 to 300 readers. And for the year, I ran around 100,000 visits or page views.
For 2018, I gathered the most popular posts for the year, some of which are old and are continuously viewed from years ago, but others that are new. I work on some posts a year in advance. For instance, I am working on Christmas ones for next year. And I am working on a book with all new projects.
This is a golden oldie. Container plantings are one of my favorite things to put together, not just in spring, but all year long. Most people do their containers in the spring and are done! But I am coming up with ideas all year long. And with the recent addition of a greenhouse in my backyard, I am going coming up with lots of new ideas. Seasonal, and non-traditional containers are my specialty.
Winterthur in Wilmington, Delaware, has a tradition going back to 1986, of decorating a large tree with dried flowers. And the dried flowers aren’t your grandmother’s musty dusty dried arrangements that dotted the home. These are air dried and silica gel dried (think of those little packets that come with new purchases) to retain their jewel like tones that almost seem fresh. I made my own miniature dried flower tree that I will post about next season in time for the Christmas season.
This one was a surprise. There are a lot of bird watchers out there and there must be some super hungry birds that are getting a smorgasbord of home made treats. Easy to put together for anyone, these make great gifts for your bird loving friends.
Put this garden on your radar. It is a world class garden taking shape in Dagsboro, Delaware- on my doorstep! Designed by world renowned Dutch designer, Piet Oudolf (think High Line!), it has been in the making for some years and is scheduled to open in 2019. The development of this garden has been written about on my blog and I will keep you posted as it opens to the public.
Though I didn’t participate in decorating the White House in 2018, I have done it three times in the past and have lots of friends who sent me updates and pictures of the current decorations. Take a look!
A plant oddity that takes people by surprise when they see it growing in my garden. Having grown it for years, I am tickled when people exclaim over it. Easy to grow and attractive to Monarch caterpillars, this is a fixture in my garden.
There is a real interest and need for sourcing of pesticide free nurseries and seed companies. Posting this information brought in a lot of comments and appreciation from gardeners who strive to garden organically as much as possible.
My love of creating miniature little worlds has been with me as long as I can remember. The Philadelphia Flower Show has some of the best examples around and I visit every spring for my inspiration. I like to change my miniature gardens with the season and decorate my home with them.
As a landscape designer, I am frequently asked; “What can I plant in shade under a tree?” Besides Pachysandra, Vinca, and Ivy, in this post I give you lots of plants you might not have thought of that work much better than the “big three”. There are so many perennials suitable for this hard to work with area, and this post give you information on what works.
Bowl arrangements are for those who are too intimidated to arrange flowers. I started making these with leftovers after making a floral arrangement and sometimes like them better than the arrangement that I spent more time on. No mechanics are needed other than a wide open bowl and a few flowers and /or some foliage. Staged inside or outdoors, I have made these in the dead of winter with some odds and ends from my garden.
Comments about my posts are very much appreciated and I always read them and learn from them.
Thanks to all my readers out there, where ever you are, and have a great New Year!
I was having the family for dinner and want a sensational centerpiece for my table. Too busy all week with work and other chores, I was too pressed for time to do anything about it. But I found an old bubble bowl that had been sitting in the basement from an old flower arrangement. I threw some fake snow in the bottom and placed a bottle brush tree and a Putz house ornament with some small glass balls. The finishing touch was battery-powered tiny lights. And I could have stopped there. That is absolutely all you have to do and it is awesome!
But to bring it up to another level, I added a fresh flower arrangement on top.
A metal saucer that I use for many arrangements was sitting around and it happened to fit exactly on top. I stuffed it with water-soaked oasis and went looking for fresh flowers. When I went to my local grocery store (Wegmans), and found some orange ruffled roses called Milva, I had to have them! Also there, I bought some Satsumas, which is a larger type of Mandarin/tangerine orange which is one of my favorites and is grown in the south-eastern US. Very sweet and juicy, this is the orange that you find in cans called mandarin oranges. The mandarins still had the foliage attached so I knew they were fresh. A perfect pairing, oranges and the Milva Roses!
Gold was the next color that I wanted to use with this coppery orange rose and I found some glittery gold leaves from a local craft store that were sitting in my basement. I added a touch of purple using statice and some seeded Eucalyptus for texture, also some peach Alstromeria, and the arrangement was complete. An easy centerpiece that took about 20 minutes to create, it looked like it took much longer. Adding some Satsumas and gold and silver orbs on my green plaid table runner completed the look. Not the typical red and green arrangement, but I love peach and orange.
At the last minute, I decided to add some variegated white pine from my yard to add some extra texture and I lit the lights and I was done! This should last about a week with regular watering of the oasis.
No flower says Christmas like the beautiful Poinsettia. I was amazed to learn that the Poinsettia is the most popular potted plant by far in the U.S. and Canada. Here are some other interesting tidbits:
History & Legends
The Poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima, means “very beautiful”
The showy leaves or petals, called “bracts”, are not the actual flower. The flowers of the poinsettia are in the center of the bracts and are inconspicuous and contain a sweetly fragrant nectar
The cultivation of Poinsettias originated with the Aztecs hundreds of years ago in Mexico. Montezuma, the last Aztec king, would have Poinsettias brought into the city, which is now known as Mexico City, by caravans because he liked them so much
Aztecs used the bracts, the colored portion, as a dye, and the sap as a medicinal to control fevers
Joel Poinsett, a botanist and the first U.S. minister to Mexico in 1825, found the plant blooming on the side of the road, which the native people regarded as a weed, took cuttings, and sent some plants to his home in South Carolina
Poinsett shared his finds with other plant enthusiasts and that is how the poinsettia came to the United States
The Ecke family grew Poinsettias in southern California in the 1920’s, primarily as a cut flower and landscape plant and remain to this day, the largest producer of Poinsettias in the US
Grown as field grown potted plants for the cut flower trade, Poinsettias were shipped all over the country by train. Poinsettias really gained wide-spread recognition through media promotions on The Tonight Show and The Bob Hope Christmas Specials. This promotion ensured that Poinsettias were as much a part of the holiday tradition as Christmas evergreen trees
When the flowers or stems are cut, they ooze a milky sap that can cause people with latex sensitivities to have an allergic reaction.
Contrary to popular belief, Poinsettias are not poisonous. This misconception was spread by a 1919 urban legend of a two-year-old child dying after consuming a poinsettia leaf.
Red is the most popular color, and the variety called “Prestige Red” tops the popularity list
Poinsettias are now the best-selling potted plant in the U.S. and Canada!
Breeding of the poinsettia began with the goal of improving cultivars that would retain their leaves and bracts for a longer period. The breeding also created stronger stems, multiple branching, earlier blooming, and the palette of colors that we recognize today. These modern cultivars last longer, bloom earlier, and are available in a vast array of colors from red to white, pink to burgundy, and with many variations including doubling of flowers and flecks of color on contrasting backgrounds.
Spraying of blues and purples and glitter is done to jazz up the color spectrum. It isn’t my favorite way to treat these plants, but recently at a local nursery, I heard people swoon over the purple Poinsettias!
Selecting a Healthy Poinsettia
Poinsettias do great in the home with proper care and will keep their coloration until mid-March. When choosing a healthy plant, look for dark green uniform foliage. But be aware, that lighter colored or mottled bracts typically sport lighter green foliage, and the darker colors like burgundy, will have very dark green foliage. Reject any plants that have dropping leaves, or ones that have pale green or yellowing foliage.
When purchasing, make sure that the plants are well wrapped or sleeved before transporting, as low temperatures, even for short periods, can damage the plant.
Care-5 Tips to Keep Poinsettias in Tip Top Shape Until April
Yes, you read that right-until April! The newer varieties will last until April, namely the Princettia varieties. These varieties branch more readily which produces more flowers, and are shorter- not so top heavy as older varieties. I brought home one of these pastel pink ones from my local nursery, Valley View Farms, as it was so different looking from the old mammoth flowered Poinsettias.
Keep in indirect, natural daylight
Water when soil is dry to the touch-overwatering is the biggest cause of leaf drop and death
Keep in temperatures of 65 to 70 degrees
Make sure the pot drains, removing the foil wrapper if necessary
Fertilization is not necessary
Reflowering-Tough But Not Impossible
It is possible to get your poinsettia to “rebloom” next year, but you need to follow strict requirements for light, temperature, and fertilization. Following all these rules is way too much trouble for me, so I consider this plant a “throwaway”. Poinsettias are very inexpensive and I leave the growing of them to experts who have the right equipment to make this happen. If you really want to get your Poinsettia to bloom again, go to University of Illinois for detailed instructions.
Contrary to popular opinion, Poinsettias are not poisonous, but neither are they edible. There was a study done that determined that a 50 pound child would have to eat 500 leaves to get really sick! And the leaves supposedly taste awful. The Poinsettia plant is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family of plants, which includes the rubber tree, where natural latex comes from. So, If you are allergic to latex, and ingest this plant, you may have some degree of discomfort, but not fatal. Likewise, if you handle the plant, you could develop a rash. Poinsettias are not harmful to pets either, unless they ingest leaves or bracts in very large quantities. Cats who chew on the leaves may salivate and can vomit if the leaves are swallowed, but it will not kill them.
Decorating With Poinsettias
Rather than scattering Poinsettias around the house, try grouping them together for bigger impact. I also like to place Poinsettias in baskets along with other plants, pods, and cones, to add interest.
As cut flowers, Poinsettias are great, but you rarely see them used this way. The plants are so inexpensive, that I don’t feel guilty buying one, and cutting the flowers off for arrangements. You can get an entirely different look by using them as cut flowers and they last a long time in a vase, over a week!
A tour of Henry Francis du Pont’s former extraordinary home was my destination this year to enjoy holiday style decorations. An eighteen room dollhouse, fully decorated with Christmas treasures and other handmade pieces was one of the draws for me. Another was the large fir in the Conservatory decorated with hundreds of multi hued dried flowers that looked as fresh as if just picked. The iconic ‘Dried Flower Tree” is a tradition for Winterthur and people are amazed when they see it.
Arrangements are placed throughout the house all year-long with fresh flowers, and after they have done their duty in the floral designs, the flowers are taken to the basement of a cottage on the property and dried in the room dubbed “The drying room”. Serving double duty, these flowers once arranged on the tree creates a multi hued rainbow effect that is stunning.
For the actual process of decorating this tree, which started in 1986, look at the video.
Most of the flowers are picked on Winterthur’s property throughout the year and either air-dried or dried with silica gel, a crystalline dessicant. Starting in March/April with the daffodil, any flower that can be dried is used for that purpose.
Everything is then packed into a fumigant tent for three weeks, starting in early October, to kill any pests. In late October, the flowers are brought out and organized by color into long boxes. Starting with the topper, the staff works all around the tree, bunching many of the flowers for a bigger impact. Special flowers like peonies and roses are placed singly on the branches, wired for stability.
Queen Anne’s Lace, peonies, daffodils, and zinnias are dried for ten days with silica gel as these don’t dry well with air drying. Others like larkspur, yarrow, billy balls, safflower, cockscomb, money plant, hydrangea, and Chinese lantern are air-dried in a dark place for about a week and then are packed away until ready to be used.
For hours and more information about Winterthur, go to Yuletide at Winterthur. Next post will be on the miniature Christmas decorations in the dollhouse at Winterthur.
Located in New Bern, North Carolina, near the intercoastal waterway, you can experience North Carolina’s colonial past in a beautiful historic building that dates back to 1770. John Hawks, a London architect, was brought here by Royal Governor William Tryon to build an impressive brick Georgian style structure to house his family and to become the first permanent state capitol of North Carolina.
An invitation to speak at Tryon Palace in North Carolina, gave me an opportunity to see how this colonial palace decorated for the Yuletide season. Similar to Williamsburg style with “della robbia” type of decorations – lots of fruits, pods, and other natural decorations are used. See my post on a Illuminating Christmas in Colonial Williamsburg for more colonial style decorations. Tryon Palace has never been on my radar before but now I can’t believe that I have never heard of it!
The use of fabric really was stunning and unusual- a treatment that I would love to duplicate. Beautiful fabric swags are gathered in at the top of the ceiling in the Council Chamber (top photo); The room is used for dancing on Candlelight evenings. The first sessions of the assembly for the State of North Carolina were held here after the revolution and housed the state governors until 1784. After fire destroyed the building in 1789, the building and grounds were rebuilt and restored to its present glory.
“Seasons of Giving: A Candlelight Christmas Celebration” was the theme this year with the Candlelight tradition at Tryon Palace in its 38th year. Decorations were inspired by the 12 Days of Christmas, historic characters in period clothing were present, and holiday vignettes spanning across three centuries were shown. For a schedule, go to Tryon Palace’s website.
Definitely Tryon Palace warrants a visit just to see the fabulous gardens, that look good even in December. For another reason to visit, when I stopped by on a hot, hot, day this summer, the docents were conducting ‘Outlander Tours’. The site where Governor Martin held Claire hostage, the Palace is a destination for ‘Outlander’ fans.
For Christmas decorating, 29 volunteers, among the other staff of Tryon Palace, help out. Moving objects, creating faux food displays, coordinating holiday tours, and assisting with adhering to “period correctness” are all part and parcel of the many details of creating a special Christmas experience. Hadley Cheris, Gardens and Greenhouse Manager, is the point person for all this activity, and is energetic and knowledgeable about the creation of the historic decorations.
For more posts on decorating period houses, go to Hampton Mansion. The importance of using age appropriate materials – like fruits, pods, and fresh greens – that were available during the historic period is important to keep the antique context of the house.
The 29 volunteers contributed over 250 hours of work over a week and a half period. Decorating begins November 13 and is completed on November 22 at Tryon Palace. Included in the decorating are three historic homes, the exteriors of 13 buildings, and seven large entryways/gates.
Candlelight tours are popular as well as circus acts, history vignettes, Jonkonnu troupe (African-American holiday celebration), music performances, and candlelit grounds are all part of the Tryon Palace experience. For more information, go to Tryon Palace.
A family tradition for many years, visiting Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, is a feast for the senses. Colorful lights, pine scented greens and paper white floral fragrance, and pipe organ music escaping from the organ room, surround you as you enter the conservatories under glass.
The Conservatories are decked out with traditional Christmas flowers, like Poinsettias and Paper Whites, but non-traditional ones, like tropicals, succulents, and air plants are used throughout. There was even a Tumble Weed Tree! Suspended Christmas trees were a conversation piece (how do they water them? answer-with long poles!) and a quick look in at the original pipe organ which was being played on beautifully, was all part of our Conservatory experience.
By far my favorite rendering of the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ was the Music Room at Longwood, completed by artist Danielle and Lee Vincent. Their Etsy shop is PreMadeReMade.
An ingenious depiction of the Christmas theme using creative book and paper embellishments with old books from library and flea market sales was captivating! Folded book art, cut paper ornaments, paper sculptures, using creased (no glue!) paper were everywhere. Trees. wreaths, garland, and ornaments were folded, cut, and embellished to carry out the theme. Taking up to 5 days to complete just one book, this imaginative display caught my interest for a long time as I examined how they masterfully re imagined a library concept for the holidays.
Work on the White House decorations starts at least six months in advance by designers who consult with the first lady, Melania, via sketches and concepts for each room. During the preceding summer volunteers can start applying online to decorate the White House by going to WhiteHouse.gov. Learning if you make the cut in October, there are about 85 to 120 people across the country and some overseas selected to take part. Explaining why you want to volunteer in a required short essay and the option of sending pictures of your work are on the application.
As a volunteer you do not receive any compensation and you are responsible for paying your hotel, transportation, and most meal costs during Thanksgiving week, so this isn’t an inexpensive proposition. But the experience of working at The White House is exhilarating and so much fun, that everyone is really excited, even if you are just wiring up ornaments and moving boxes! Many jobs are repetitive such as wiring up the trees with lights or making bows. I was on the bow team in 2015 and must have made over 500 bows in three days! But you are working with interesting and dynamic people who like to decorate as much as you do.
Since I decided to not apply this year, most of my pictures are from another volunteer that I worked with last year, Marci Lindsey and also a new volunteer from Oregon, Linda Goldfarb. Thanks for your pictures!
The Blue Room is one of three state parlors on the first floor in the White House and is distinctive for its oval shape and contains the largest tree in the mansion.
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump accepted the official 19 1/2 foot Fraser Fir that went on display that anchors the holiday season in the central part of the mansion. Removing a massive chandelier is necessary to accommodate the tree which is anchored to the top of the ceiling.
“American Treasures” Theme
The First Family is celebrating their second Christmas at Pennsylvania Av. and the theme this year was “American Treasures” to honor the unique heritage of America. The patriotic spirit is evident in all the decorations throughout this living museum that is held in trust for all Americans.
The theme is especially prominent in the Gold Star family tree In the East Wing with displays of patriotic ribbon. Decorated by Gold Star families, this tree honors all our troops and families who have sacrificed greatly to protect our freedoms. I recognized the patriotic stars and stripes ribbon as we used that last year also. A high percentage of the decorations are reused/recycled from year to year. Digital tablets are placed in front to encourage visitors to write messages to the armed forces.
Surrounded By History
Working in the White House which is a “living museum”, is so interesting that you realize the tremendous stories and history of the place. Just glancing around, you are surrounded by hints of what took place in the past. When I spotted the gorgeous full length portrait of Grace Coolidge in the China Room, I was intrigued and inspired to find out more about this remarkable woman. The wife of Calvin Coolidge, President from 1923-29, she was voted as one of the 12 most remarkable living women of 1931. One of the most popular hostesses of the White House, she adored her white collies and Rob Roy was the first dog that appeared in an official White House portrait. She even kept a pet raccoon at the White House briefly!
Tragically on June 30, 1924, sixteen-year old Cal, one of Grace’s boys, played tennis on the White House courts, and developed a blister on his toe which became infected. Blood poisoning set in. In a day before antibiotics would have cleared his system of the spreading infection, Cal died at Walter Reed within a week.
Another nugget that I uncovered about Grace, was her famous meeting with Helen Keller and companion Anne Sullivan in a silent newsreel clip. Fascinating stuff from looking at a White House portrait!
In the Vermeil Room, which means Silver-Gilt, you are surrounded by more First Lady history and the colors of muted gold is a great back drop for Christmas decorations.
The Green Room, one of three state parlors, had a very handsome tree this year, decorated with a variety of fruits, and vegetables. Designed to remind Americans of the country’s great harvest bounty, grains were showcased on the tree along with artichokes, and fruit.
Constructed by the White House pastry chef, the gingerbread house is always my favorite decoration. A tradition started in 1969, it seems that each year, it becomes more elaborate and detailed.
This years creation is not a house, but an entire replica of the Mall, including the Capitol, the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, the Washington Monument and the White House, complete with tiny green wreaths with red ribbons on each window.
I asked the White House pastry chef what happens to old gingerbread houses, and she told me with a twinkle in her eye that, “They go to the North Pole!”
More than 40 topiary trees line the East Colonnade as guests make their way toward the East Garden Room, where the First Family Christmas card and ornaments are on display.
A volunteer reception is held at the conclusion of all your decorating efforts on the last evening and you get a formal invitation from the First Lady, Melania Trump.
Throughout the month of December, the White House will host more than 100 open houses and receptions. More than 30,000 visitors will walk the halls taking part in public tours.
Many visitors will have the opportunity to enjoy the staff and volunteer’s work over the coming weeks as the building is opened to private holiday receptions and public tours.
For more pictures of Christmas decorations, go to White House.
What do you do with containers on your front porch or deck once you have yanked out those sorry-looking frost-killed petunias?
Segue into the holiday season with beautiful fall/winter containers using “yard” material. Forage for material from your property on or around your home. Snips in hand, I venture into roadside edges and woods and gather lichen covered branches, fall colored foliage, pine cones, and seed heads for amazing accents for my arrangements. Be sure to get permission from the landowner if you are roaming around to avoid anyone chasing you off their property! I ask neighbors permission to browse on their property promising them a beautiful arrangement in return.
For my own property, as a landscape designer, my first consideration in planting any tree or shrub is – Can I use it in my outdoor seasonal containers? Yellow, red, orange twig dogwoods, curly willow, hydrangeas, foliage with variegated foliage, evergreen magnolias, winterberry, red-berried viburnums, and ruby rose hips, are planted on my property with one motive in mind; Are they useful in arrangements inside and outside?
Using the existing potting medium in your old containers is a sustainable way of reusing the substrate as a quick and easy substitute for floral oasis. Large branches will break up oasis and will fall apart with the freezing and thawing cycle. Inserted branches in soil will freeze in place to keep your arrangement in place.
Make it Simple Directions
Keep the old soil in place and cut off at soil line old plants. You have an instant blank palette to play with that can take you into the holidays and beyond. The trick is to complete your masterpiece before the ground freezes as you can’t stick anything into a frozen pot. Though, don’t despair if you are presented with frozen clods. I have used a propane torch to defrost the soil enough to insert my branches!
Place a preformed fresh wreath two inches wider than the pot diameter on top of the soil. An evergreen wreath will save you some steps in the process of creating an outdoor arrangement. With the addition of a pre-formed wreath, you have instant soil coverage and a beautiful base to start with, and the edges are covered. If you don’t use a wreath, you just need to drape more foliage around the base and edges.
Insert your thriller sticks or uprights (like Birch logs) in the center of the wreath. I love using yellow twig dogwood and pick up the yellow color with gold evergreens. Curly willow is also excellent.
Start inserting your largest leaves/branches first. Bracken’s Brown Beauty Magnolia is a favorite because of the lovely brown felted reverse. But any large-leaved evergreen, like Rhododendron or Aucuba will work. Insert your branches directly through the base wreath angling the branches outwards.
Add other contrasting foliage, some variegated white pine and yellow tinged false cypress to pick up the yellow twigs or feathery false cypress. Stay away from Hemlock and Holly foliage as these will dry quickly and brown out. Chunky birch logs, winter berry sticks, rose hips, and large pods are added last for color and interest. Over-sized plastic Christmas balls, jumbo pine cones, hydrangea heads, grass plumes, big colorful bows can all be added at this point.
If the soil is dry, water the arrangement to keep everything hydrated and to settle the branches into place. Your beautiful container will last 6-8 weeks, more if you keep it in a shady area of your porch. If some material starts to look tired, you can always replace with fresh branches to keep it going.