There was a time, when I took down the hanging baskets, that are filled with flowers in the summer, and stored them away for the winter months. Then it struck me that I was missing out on a huge opportunity. Winter is a long season here in Canada (or at least it feels that way). Why not use those same hanging baskets to put some color back into those drab, cold months?
So as well as the metal urns and window boxes, I started to fill my hanging baskets with greenery and berries.
Altogether I have quite a few containers of one type or another to fill, so I try to forage as much as possible from the yard and the adjacent woodlot. I harvest responsibly, pruning branches carefully, so that I never damage the trees or shrubs I am cutting.
In the shady part of the garden, I am lucky to have quite a number of yews. Every fall they get a good haircut which leaves me with quite a bit of raw material for my winter arrangements. But even with the yew, I don't have quite enough evergreen bows to fill all my containers, so I also buy mixed bunches of pine, fur, boxwood, oregonia and cedar at the grocery store.
Once upon a time Magnolia leaves were one of the pricy winter container options, but for the last few years Walmart has had them available for a very reasonable cost. So I buy a few magnolia branches as well. Magnolia leaves have those soft, suede-like undersides that warm up all the other greens.
Though it tempting at this time of year to add holiday bows and baubles, I resist the urge. The ground will be frozen in January, making it really hard to remove seasonal flourishes later on. Holiday decorations become cringe-worthy in February and March!
Though I try to avoid a holiday look, I do add some fruit and berries to my baskets for a little color. In the garden I forage rose hips, crabapples and euonymus berries. From the store, I purchase western red cedar, with its little brown rosettes, blue juniper berries and incense cedar, with its golden buds.
Here's how I put my hanging baskets together:
Step 1: The baskets that hang on our front porch are actual brown twig baskets. If you don't have a woven basket like this, a traditional plastic hanging basket would work just as well.
Fill your hanging basket with potting soil (if you don't have a hanging basket that is already filled with soil). The only purpose of the soil is to secure your evergreens in the pot.
White Pine (left) and Cedar (right)
Step 2: As with any good containers planting, use "spillers, fillers and thrillers" to create a nice arrangement of greenery and berries.
Begin with the "spillers" that will drape down over the edges of your basket. For this I suggest long pieces of cedar and pine. Both evergreens have soft stems that allow them to hang down gracefully over the rim of the basket.
This is the basket after the white pine and cedar have been added.
Step 3: Next it's on to the "fillers" that will give the arrangement the fullness you want.
For this, you can use almost any type of evergreen. I used pieces of boxwood, yew, spruce, noble fur, yew, oregonia (the variegated leaf you see above) and the magnolia leaves.
At the end of step 3, the basket has filled out nicely.
Step 4: The final step is to add some colorful accents with assorted fruit and berries.
If you don't have crabapples or rose hips, you can substitute with red winter berries, which are readily available at a variety of stores and nurseries. If you can't find winter berries or they're too expensive, faux-berries would work just as nicely.
As well as the two hanging baskets on the front porch, I also fill the wire baskets in the back garden.
It looks so much nicer than leaving them empty all winter!
A hanging basket like this goes together pretty quickly. It takes just 15-20 minutes to make something that will look great throughout the long months of cold and snow!