A fresh look at an outdoor holiday classic

Christmas outdoor containers are not new, but wow have they ever changed, writes Brian Minter.

The new concept is to take cut boughs

Now that the weather has turned milder, after the windy chilly spell we had last week, let’s dress up the outside and inside of our homes and add some beautiful colour and fragrance to enjoy through the holiday season. Christmas outdoor containers are not new, but wow have they ever changed! The new concept is to take cut boughs, branches, twigs, cones, drieds, tropical pods and bling to create a beautiful artistic arrangement that will lift and brighten not only Christmas spirits but also those long cold dreary days of winter.

Where to begin?  Well it starts with the right containers. Clay and traditional ceramics could possibly crack and break in lower temperatures, so you need to use the new classy looking plastics and resin pots that stand up to severe cold and frost. A tall thin styled container or low bowl that can be set on a pedestal are the most pleasing. Window boxes too can look amazing, as well as wall pockets.

All green branches do better if their stems can access some moisture, and they also need stability in winter winds. Rather than use florist oasis, which works well indoors, I love using heavy wet blended soils as a base. It’s important to line your pots with thick plastic to hold in the moisture. Wet, soggy topsoil or blended bagged soils are the easiest to work with. When you put the soil into your container, pack it tightly and keep it wet. The weight of the soil helps prevent any blow overs and creates a solid base in which to place your stems.

Next, the materials. Depending on where you live in the country, the selection of greens will vary. Hardy greens, like pine, white and blue spruce, balsam and juniper, would be the best to use. Incidentally, virtually all the cut branches available in garden stores are simply prunings done on larger trees or on tree farms where they would cut branches from #2 cultivated trees. Sometimes branches on Christmas trees are more valuable than the tree itself! In zone 5 and above, a far wider range of greens can be used to create beautiful colour blends and textures. Among the favourites, softly textured noble fir is the most popular, followed by soft white pine, cedar, incense cedar, blue berried juniper, golden cedars and Japanese cryptomerias. Each of these greens have such wonderful fragrances, it just lifts our spirits every time we pass near them.

Twigs create wonderful height and contrast. The shrub dogwood that shines in winter with vibrant stems of brilliant red, yellow or unique combinations of both, as in the case of ‘Midwinter Fire’, really brings greens alive.  The twisted stems of contorted willows, now in colours of green, red and yellow, add a unique flavour to any arrangement, especially with their height and flair.  Although a little more stiff, contorted filbert branches create quite an impact as well. The strength of these branches offer a nice place to hang cones and other décor. The rising star, however, in all outdoor natural arrangements are pure white birch stems used in varying heights. The brilliance of these stems creates a striking contrast element, as do the unique peeled stems of contorted willows. Bits of uniquely shaped driftwood can also enhance a different artistic look.

Berries pack an amazing punch, and nothing does it better than the deciduous holly, Ilex verticillata,  They make any arrangement pop – indoors or out.  Usually three to four stems are needed to create a real impact.

Tropical drieds create the most eye-popping finishing touches. From dyed lotus pods, mahogany bell cups, and all sizes of lata balls to dried grasses, twigs, cane circles made from stiff grasses, dried sun palm leaves (either black or coloured) and twisted ting ting, all have a natural fit and make fantastic finishing touches.

With all these ingredients, you can’t help but create some pretty unique displays outside your home or for that matter inside. Over the holiday season, many florists and garden centers offer ‘how to’ classes with great instructors – so take advantage of them. You’ll pick up some amazing tips on creative designing. Remember, this is ‘art’ and your artistic expression is the main point. As in our gardens, this is an issue of personal taste, so go ahead and create without any explanation or apology.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The number of new COVID-19 cases in the Fraser South region has doubled in the last two weeks. The number of cases in the Fraser East region has tripled.
Chart: Tyler Olsen
COVID-19 surge in B.C. fuelled by spikes in new cases in Fraser Valley & Surrey area

Number of newly confirmed cases has tripled in Fraser Valley and doubled in the Surrey/Langley area

John Redekop, with wife Doris, was the 2019 recipient of the Betty Urquhart Community Service Award from UFV. (Photo courtesy of UFV)
Nominations open until Oct. 30 for UFV’s Betty Urquhart Awards

Award recognizes ‘significant impact’ of volunteer work by an individual or group

Jennifer Greggain has accepted a new role with Golf Canada, coaching the country’s top junior athletes. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack’s Jennifer Greggain gets new role with Golf Canada

Greggain is now one of two people guiding the country’s top junior golfers

Chilliwack mayor Ken Popove set up shop in the Lil’ Joes food truck Thursday afternoon, handing out hotdogs to Chilliwack Central elementary school students. (Eric J. Welsh/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack Community Services kicks off ‘I Care’ campaign with hotdog handout

The fifth annual year-end fundraiser hopes to raise $110,000 to fund CCS programs

Beau Pelletier, Ashlyn Durie, Catherine Patterson and Olivia McLatchy are all Grade 6 students at CMS who decided to vote Green for Student Vote, Oct. 22, 2020, and who want to see an end to the opioid crisis. (Jessica Peters/ Chilliwack Progress)
Opioid crisis top of mind for Chilliwack youth during Student Vote event

Chilliwack middle school students speak about concerns with mental health and drug abuse

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The family of Anika Janz, who died after collapsing at school, has launched a GoFundMe to assist with funeral proceedings. (GoFundMe photo)
Family of student who died launches GoFundMe

Rick Hansen Secondary School student Anika Janz, 14, died after collapsing in PE class

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

Most Read