Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Middle South
December, 2009
Regional Report

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In the creative hands of Don Morris, a simple birdbath becomes a festive display of fruits and foliage.

Salute the Season with Creative Containers

Ever heard of a holiday porch pot? How about a festive display in a birdbath? For most, holidays are about tradition, but that's no excuse to be boring. Whether you're celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, or the winter solstice, skip the usual outdoor decorations and look to your abandoned summer containers to greet the season with style and panache.

For me, the adventure begins on the front porch with a pair of large, black pots that usually showcase warm-season annuals. Stripped of their summer flowers and foliage, the containers become holiday porch pots when I fill them with cut evergreens pushed into the moist soil. Accents of branches and berries, and a mulch of tiny pine cones, add to their charm.

To create your own seasonal porch pots, see what treasures you can find in the garden and nearby woodlands. Gather twigs, cones, and pods, as well as cuttings of cedar, pine, hemlock, spruce, and magnolia. Be especially watchful for branches with interesting shape or color, such as curly willow and coral bark maple, and those with berries, such as holly.

As usual with mixed containers, you can make the display more appealing with various plant forms, textures, and colors. Look for branches or cuttings that add height or spill over the edge, as well as those that will fill the center of the design. Contrast large leaves such as magnolia with the lacy foliage of cedar or the stiff needles of pine. And always provide a punch of color by using at least one evergreen with variegated foliage, or leaves of another hue, such as nandina.

My friend, Don Morris, gives the seasonal porch pot a twist by using a birdbath as a container, and by incorporating seeds and fruits to be enjoyed by feathered friends.

To give height to the arrangement and to provide moisture for the cut stems, Don places a terra cotta strawberry jar filled with damp potting soil in the center of the birdbath. Dried branches, secured in the top of the jar, reach high above the basin, while a grapevine wreath, placed around the rim of the birdbath, increases the width of the base and helps hold cuttings in place.

Don's rule for embellishment, "too much is never too much," ensures an enticing display. A gnarled stump found in the woods, deer antlers, a variety of colorful fruit, peanut butter- and birdseed-covered pine cones, and small bowls filled with votive candles and more birdseed add the finishing touches.

Like a table centerpiece, the elevated birdbath display grabs attention from every angle. Best of all, it can be refreshed occasionally and left in place throughout winter.

When creating outdoor embellishments with cut evergreens, keep in mind that they will be adversely affected by direct sunlight, high heat, and low humidity. Be prudent with your placement, keep soil moist, and when temperatures are unseasonably warm, mist with water.

Otherwise, be creative and enjoy!

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