The season calls for more dirt-cheap decorating ideas

During the second week of December we continue with some dirt-cheap ideas for holiday decorating gone green.

The Compleat

Home Gardner

During the second week of December we continue with some dirt-cheap ideas for holiday decorating gone green.

Last week, wreaths and door swags were the stars of outdoor sprucing up for the holidays but this week it’s time to face those weather-worn container gardens and turn them into your holiday welcoming committee.

Container Gardens Going Green for the Christmas Scene:

1. Choose a pot that is still outdoors but filled with dead or dying summer plants.

This can be a large container with a few living perennials or even a pot planted with spring-blooming bulbs. You need a pot already filled with soil to make it heavy and provide a medium for adding greens.

2. Next, clip yourself a collection of evergreen branches from your garden. Try to cut branches that are slightly taller than the height of your container. You need stems long enough to poke into the soil of your pot to create the display.

3. Place the largest, sturdiest branch into the container first.

This will form the backdrop for the other greens. A fir bough from the bottom of a freshly cut Christmas tree works great, or use the shiny leaves from a branch of English laurel or some beautiful blue spruce. Take care to prune from the bottom up when harvesting greens so you don’t ruin the shape of the tree or shrub. Winter pruning won’t hurt your evergreens.

4. If you’ll only view the container from one side, place the first branch in towards the back; otherwise, place it in the middle of the pot to form a pyramid of greens.

You may have to remove the lowest branchlets from your cut greens to get a bare stem long enough to poke into the soil of the pot.

5. Next layer different cut greens in front of the tallest branch to form a display of gold, green, blue and variegated foliage.

Snippets from heavenly bamboo, holly, juniper, Pieris japonica, pine and fir can all be poked into the soil of your winter-weary container gardens and you’ll be creating a festive winter scene as you work.

6. Accent with something red or white.

To bring out the holiday spirit tie a weatherproof bow around your pots, add some colorful outdoor ornaments or even a string of white lights.

Old Christmas tree ornaments that can handle the weather are a great way to accent you outdoor creations.

7. Bare branches can add drama as well.

Birch, filbert or maple branches without leaves can add accent to your converted containers when left bare or for real punch spray them white or red.

8. Look for silver and gold foliage to add.

Dusty Miller, artemisia, lavender and other plants that have survived the frost can add a touch of gray and silver to your mixed green containers. The golden foliage from evergreens like euonymus, junipers or cypress can also be used as accents. Remember that you can add weeping or draping foliage around the sides of the pot for a lush, full look.

9. Improvise!

You don’t have any empty outdoor containers? No shrubs to prune? Fill a bucket with sand and start adding greens gleaned from your neighbor’s garden or purchase cut evergreen branches from a local nursery or florist. Arboretums, parks and public display gardens often offer evergreens at a great price during the month of December.

Deck your halls, your porch and your holiday season with boughs of Northwest bounty – and celebrate why we’re called the Evergreen State.

• • •

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.

For more gardening information, she can be reached at her Web site, www.binettigarden.com.

Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti.

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