Festive Winter Containers
As we move into the cold weather, you can dress-up your containers for the winter. Because of the cold temperatures, you can actually use your containers like outdoor arrangements with fresh greens and incorporate many elements of whimsy. (See notes about the proper containers for winter.)
Like summer container design, you are looking for elements to serve as your thriller, filler, and spiller. The thriller element is typically the tall, eye-catching feature of the container, while the filler is exactly as it sounds. It fills the container, typically with green color. The spiller is the material placed at the edge of the container spilling over the edge.
To design the winter container this year, Horticulturist Josh Coceano, used evergreen and dry-cut stem material rather than potted plants. This technique will last through the winter due to the cold temperatures outside which will prevent the cut material from drying out.
The containers in the Terry Shane Teaching Garden use Corylus colurna, Turkish hazel, as their thriller elements, with tall reaching branches accented by dry teasel, Dispacus sp. The fillers of this statement container are cut stems of Fargesia sp., bamboo. These leaves hold onto the color green throughout the winter and add a pop of color in the middle of the arrangement. The spiller element is a combination dried flower heads from Hydrangea quercifolia , oakleaf hydrangea and Hydrangea sp., hydrangea. These dramatic containers have great texture and subtle use of color.
In the Scott Entrance Garden containers, the thriller element is yellow twig dogwood, Cornus sericea ‘Bud’s Yellow’, surrounded by dried seed heads of Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’. The filler is the unusual combination of bark from Pinus nigra, Austrian pine and variegated holly osmanthus, Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’.
The light tones of bark and the variegation of the holly osmanthus play well with the blue foliage of Colorado blue spruce, Picea pungens Glauca Group, found in the spiller. These blue needles contrast with the dried Japanese cedar, Cryptomeria japonica, branches and cones mingled along the rim of the container completing the spiller element. While smaller in scale than the Terry Shane Teaching Garden containers, the combination is a show-stopper.
The containers at the rear entrance to the Wister Center use a combination of organic and nonorganic material to create the height of the arrangement. The tall structure is created by a black garden tuteur, while the thrill comes from the creation hanging from the center of the tuteur. Inspired by hanging mistletoe decoration often sung about in your favorite holiday tune, Josh used material from the Arboretum to create his own take on the tradition.
Josh tied white pine, Pinus strobus; teasel, Dispacus sp.; Leyland cypress, xCupressus x leylandii, and glitter touched spruce cones together with decorative string to create this delightful decoration. Suspended from the tuteur, it creates interesting movement in the wind.
For the filler, the container makes use of pine cones and Japanese cedar, Cryptomeria japonica, branches. Cryptomeria branches continue into the spiller mixed with white pine, Pinus strobus, branches and moments of dried flower heads of teasel. The finishing touch of whimsy in this combination is twinkle lights.
As you can see from just these lovely examples, the options are limitless. While creating, keep the principles in mind, add a thriller, filler, and spillers with various textures and colors. I hope this inspires you to create some festive containers.