Probably OT: anyone design containers for holiday/winter season

mrtulinDecember 25, 2011


Clearly not Landscape Design but....Any of you who live in freezing winters design holiday/winter containers? I love creating them, but am frustrated about getting the materials I use to 'stay put.'

These are not huge urns: classic pedestal 2.5 ft from base to top; interior of bowl is about 12 inches interior at top tapering to 6 " at bottom. Pedestal is hollow where it attaches to bowl's bottom;; I fill it with stones.

I've been using oasis packed into the urns but after playing around and moving branches etc it crumbles. Messy then useless. Even worse after freezing: if its stormy and the materials shift or fall out they can't be reinserted into either frozen or crumbled floral foam.

Sand? Heavy! and doesn't really support heavy branches. Clearly, I don't do this for a living but need to learn how to do it right because I really enjoy it.

If can help me with techniques I'd be grateful; or maybe you can direct me to sources that are explicit and clear. I'm pretty happy with the design results but what frustration getting it to stay together~

Many Thanks,[


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Refreshing my memory of those days of northern living I have used the following methods...
1. Just keep jamming woody stems into the pot until it is so filled nothing can shift and move about.
2. Using chicken wire create a form flat on top and curved to fit inside the planter coming together at the bottom with a heavy stone on bottom inside this 'cage'. Then fill container with wet sand. Insert foliage and arrange through chicken wire holes.
3. And, my solution to all garden securing problems. Heavy duty single-wrap Velcro. Expensive at the outset, but so many uses. I buy it through the on line Home-Sew catalog. Available in 15' and 25' rolls. Cut one strip to fit around the outside of pot. Then, vertically cut strips of the Velcro in half and form a checkerboard pattern with them over top of pot, adhering each strip to each other and the one placed on the outside. You can piggyback one section on top of another and they hold together well. This type of Velcro will last for many, many years and can be taken apart and used in numerous ways. I secure my tomatoes with it and before using every spring I gather the Velcro together, drop it in boiling water for 5 minutes to kill any lingering tomato disease problems and then secure branches as needed. This really is your best method for your arrangements. As you work with the Velcro you will understand how to use it. Add wet sand to pot, also.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2011 at 10:35PM
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I use sand. Works great and is easy, until it freezes solid here and you have to clean up a frozen christmas container in january. You can fill the bottom of the container with light materials as you would do for a planted container.

I also used to decorate with small birch trees 8-9 feet tall and to stand those up I use a combination of bricks, stones and sand.

What about using floral foam? I love the heavy duty velcro idea. We were given 4 sets of antique skis this year and I used them to decorate outdoors. Three are just leaning on the porch with pine branches tied to them; I have been worrying that a strong wind will knock them over. Velcro is the perfect solution. The 4th pair I did hang up in the kitchen with heavy duty velcro; worked great and we didn't have to damage the skis in any way, maintaining their value.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 8:40AM
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The weather is so odd this year that I haven't done nearly as many arrangements as I usually do. I always leave my large decorative concrete containers of perennials out all year. Some contain prostrate junipers, others have sedum. As winter approaches, I push into the dirt itself a variety of offcuts of evergreen branches, attractive branches and some artificial boughs. If it's a bit wobbly, I pack snow tightly around the base of the arrangement and water VERY lightly - just enough to freeze everything in place overnight.

I also have a pretty fair-sized collection of good quality artificial garlands and wreaths for outside use. However, I always supplement heavily with real branches of any conifer (except cedar which browns out way too fast), juniper and cranberry berries, pine cones and fungi and moss from the nearby woodlands. It's the most friendly and organic way to shelter the birds who use all the feeders and heated bird baths that I have scattered around. It's great to see any life in the garden in these long winter months.

Once the holidays are done, I just remove the lights and leave the natural arrangement until warmer weather. I have even taken (with the merchants' blessings) unsold outdoor Christmas trees on Boxing day and plunked them into the biggest snowdrifts in my back garden. Not solely for the birds - the evergreens give me a little more privacy and depth in my young suburban landscape when the deciduous trees are bare. Not this year though. Still no snow on the ground. Almost traumatic that...

However, for tall, stand-alone arrangements in unsheltered locations exposed to strong winter winds, I think that the only way you can really ensure that it all stays upright is to have a container deep enough to hold at least 1/3 of the total height. A weighty mix of dirt, styrofoam peanuts or floral foam for volume, snow and just enough water to freeze it all together should help to anchor the structure.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 1:09PM
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I love the green berry like branches - what are those?
We couldn't put a container in our driveway - it would get plowed over well before christmas most years! This year, although we have had bearly any snow, we have already sustained a bunch of damage to our landscaping. (Landscape Rocks all over the place, lawn plowed up = its worse when the ground isn't fully frozen, as i am sure you know)

I love the mixed greens in the container. Most wonderful time of the year!

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 2:30PM
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Hee, the green berries are actually little jingle bells that I've threaded, then spot glued onto willow(?) whips that I cut from drainage ditches. I've done this with brass and silver bells too but I like the subtle peacock tones that I get when the green is paired with blue miniature lights. Best of all, they all make a joyous noise in the wind...

I always lose some of the bells by spring but they're cheap. The rest, I just salvage by breaking them off the twigs and putting them in storage until the next year.

And geez, why can't the snow plowers be both fast AND careful? Sounds like a man to me :)

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 3:14PM
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PS @ drtygrl - I am lusting after those gorgeous antique skis. If you ever get tired of them...

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 3:24PM
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Wow - love the green bells idea! I have to remember that for next year. i have tons of willow whips, I just have to get the bells. I really love the peacock tones.

Can you believe someone just gave me all four pairs of skis??? He knew how much we love skiing, and we have an antique pair in the family room which we paid for, so when he stumbled on these pairs he thought of us and gave them to us! I am so happy about them. If I come across another pair, I will let you know - I would say we are maxed out at this point!!

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 7:03PM
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Thanks so much for your lively responses! I see that improvisation is the key. Somehow I thought there was a formula, but I see the basics work: sand, dirt, muscle power.\
Aside from density, bulk and shoving, my best friend was florist wire. Everything got wired to something else. I have a handsome artificial garland of gilded leaves that I wired fresh evergreen cuttings to...after wiring many many individual cuttings together. It took hours to put together the live greens and the artifical garland. My hands ached from the twisting; I am glad I did it over two weeks..

Then of course the garland and the planters needed the ooph of gold and bronze balls, and another 25 of those got wired on....then there was a spotlight...which I'dnever used before because nothing I'd ever created merited spotlighting.

Towards the end most of the work happened after dark. Fortunately for me and unfortunately for the earth there's no snow and the temps have been remarkably mild for New England in the winter. "mild for new england" is relative....upper not low twenties or teen. This is when I discovered the merits of fingerless gloves for the first time in my life.

Thanks for the ideas and encouragement. I look forward to any other ideas that may come in.


    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 10:13PM
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Strong winds blew apart a substantial amount of my planters. So I took them apart today, emptied out all the floral foam/oasis and filled them with 'traction sand'. Also took out a lot of the bricks that had filled the urns' pedestal so the sand would be deeper.

Got the branches' stems in much deeper. Then I watered lightly to compact the sand and create ice for further holding power.

My remaining challenge is finding artificial red berries that don't blister and fall apart in winter weather. What's left is little white syrofoam balls: ugly. I've searched the floral supply companies, wholesalers and crafts outlets for something "weatherproof" but haven't come up with anything. No way to protect these urns from the elements...

I saw red wooden "beads" but that's not the look I want. I want big juicy "berries". And real winterberry looks dessicated and shriveled after a couple of weeks.

Otherwise, the urns look good...the next high winds will be the test.


    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 11:20PM
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Have you tried experimenting with real cranberries on floral wire?

    Bookmark   January 3, 2012 at 12:28AM
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