Container gardening doesn’t have to stop when the growing season is over. Taking advantage of strong plants and seasonal cuttings keeps your pots going into spring.
During the cold months of January and February, when the setting is bleak and the sky is gray, winter containers can cheer up the soul and provide a colorful punch to the landscape. Many gardeners give up on their potted creations in the fall, but that can be a horrible waste because winter is when color and interest are most vital.
Creating a winter design is not difficult. The general rule for container-plant survival through the winter is to use plants hardy to at least two zones colder than your USDA Hardiness Zone; this, however, is not always a steadfast rule. Many trees, shrubs, and perennials that are hardy in your zone will live and even thrive in containers through all four seasons. In this case, a frostproof pot with a drainage hole is important. Fiberglass, lead, iron, heavy plastic, and stone are the best weather-resistant containers to use; terra-cotta will eventually expand and crack with repeated freezing and thawing.
Assemble your designs early enough that the plants have time to acclimate to their new pots before the hard freeze. Also, winter containers usually need to be checked only monthly for water to make sure they haven’t dried out; when the soil eventually becomes frozen solid, watering is no longer necessary. Apply an antidesiccant such as Wilt-Pruf to broad-leaved evergreens and to branches of cut greens to protect against drying winter winds. When it comes to design, I like to use a mix of live plants, cut branches, colorful berries, and interesting evergreen foliage to dress up the pots for maximum seasonal appeal.
By following these simple guidelines, you may find winter a whole lot brighter and maybe you’ll even be a little less anxious for spring.