What to do with Your Containers in Winter

IF you are like me, you have a fair few lovely containers hanging out in your garden during the months that YOU are hanging out in your garden. But come winter, the cold winds of change blow! Even the toughest perennial will have a hard time in a container over the winter, not because of the low temperatures, but because of the change in temperatures. A thin layer of terra cotta, metal, or even concrete is not enough to keep out the thaws that come between the frosts, and plants don’t like that kind of stress and change. They want to go night night crib all winter long.

Ugh, I feel very exposed. Need the cover of earth!

Ugh, I feel very exposed. Need the cover of earth!

So, if your container plants are not hardy, you are pitching them or bringing them inside the house, shed or garage for protection. If your container plants are hardy, they may well make it through the winter in a pot, but it’s easy enough to hurl them into the earth for a proper winter’s nap without interruptions from occasional 55 degree days. I suggest you do that.

Doesn’t matter where you put me, as I will be dormant. Just put me in the earth so I can snooze, uninterrupted, all winter.

Doesn’t matter where you put me, as I will be dormant. Just put me in the earth so I can snooze, uninterrupted, all winter.

Now, what to do with the actual containers? If they are small, portable, or inconsequential, maybe you just store them away in a shed or garage. If they are large and not to be easily moved, then I would consider two options.

Option One: The container is visible from the house but not close to it. This gives us a sensationally easy solution. You simply clear out whatever is growing there, leaving the soil behind, and cut evergreens or any other winter interest to fill it! See my Instagram post showing a very quick example. If the greens you choose begin to look tatty in a couple of months, one fine winter day when you are so inclined, you pull out the tatty and stick in some fresh.

Option Two: The container is VERY visible from the house and in fact close to an entrance and you really don’t want to move it nor stare at something empty for 4 months. This solution is still very easy! You can choose option one and depending on the sun and wind exposure, just keep on switching out the tatty greens. Or you can get a little more ambitious…

Option Two A: Live plants! Kales, cabbages, pansies, evergreens— they will have a bit of that stress that I talked about at the beginning of this post (the freeze/thaw thing) but depending on where you live and how protected your containers are, this option could make you very happy.

Pansies will last until next April for us here in Virginia. That ornamental kale will probably be a bit mushy after a couple of months, but it’s still a pretty good option

Pansies will last until next April for us here in Virginia. That ornamental kale will probably be a bit mushy after a couple of months, but it’s still a pretty good option

A pretty little option!

A pretty little option!

Option Two B: A dried arrangement with a bit more effort, pizzazz and creativity than my 7.5 minute arrangement in my great great great grandfather’s urn. This option would have you either spraying or dipping your greens into an antidessicant like Wiltpruf, gathering some more interesting textures or colors, and having a go at a real arrangement!

Here are some easy materials to gather or create:

Use a stiff wire to help attach these babies…

Use a stiff wire to help attach these babies…

Sedum Autumn Joy— useful and sculptural.

Sedum Autumn Joy— useful and sculptural.

Hydrangea balls— so easy. Don’t prune your macrophylla types, as they have next year’s flowers, but arborescens or paniculata are great. Don’t know what you have?  Read my blog on it!

Hydrangea balls— so easy. Don’t prune your macrophylla types, as they have next year’s flowers, but arborescens or paniculata are great. Don’t know what you have? Read my blog on it!

Harvest your grasses and stick a stake in them— perfect centerpiece!

Harvest your grasses and stick a stake in them— perfect centerpiece!

No matter what option you go with, it’s better that an empty container. Follow this link to see images of what we have made on my website. (Ypu gotta scroll down to winter. You can do it. )

And here’s a link to an IG post on some ones LHG crewmembers made just last week. Check it out!