Outdoor Decorating With Living Evergreens

Outdoor Decorating With Living Evergreens

Holiday Charm, Color All Winter, Landscape Plants Next Spring

If you have large pots, urns, window boxes or other outdoor containers, consider filling them with living evergreens. Plant a selection of sizes and foliage colors now, and add red or white twigs, red berries and a bow for bright Christmas cheer. After the holidays, remove the bow but keep the plants in place. Such plantings remain attractive all winter and into the early spring with little care. Come late March or April, these plants can be transplanted into the landscape where they’ll become a beautiful part of your garden and landscape for years to come. Here are some of the wonderful evergreens you can use right now with suggestions about design and planting in the spring.

In addition to using evergreens for your containers, many like to purchase a small spruce or other tree as a living Christmas tree. If this is your plan, be sure to see our handout about living trees.

At this time of year we are well stocked with small evergreens that are about 6″ tall. These are perfect in window boxes and pots. After the holidays, plant these in a location where they can grow at least 6 feet high, since most of them will get that big or taller. As an alternative, plant them in two-gallon pots next spring using good quality potting soil combined with some time-release fertilizer. Place them in a sunny location where they will be convenient to water all summer, and grow them on for use at the holidays next year…you’ll be surprised at how they will fill out over the summer.
One of the nicest plants to combine with small evergreens is the perennial hellebore. We typically have a good stock of the Jacob hellebore, which is an especially early-flowering variety of the Christmas rose. Jacob typically flowers through February, with the white sepals turning a pale green as they age. After the winter, transplant your Helleborus niger into a shady spot in your landscape.
If you want a taller focal point in a large pot, these small spruce trees are perfect for that role. Since the pots aren’t huge they are easy to handle and plant, but the trees are large enough to hold a short string of lights. After the winter, plant these on the sides or back of your property where they can grow to be part of a mixed privacy screening.
If you want a plant that provides foliage and berry color at the edges of your containers, you can’t go wrong with wintergreen. This native plant thrives in shady gardens after winter is over, and is a great plant for providing future food to birds and other wildlife.
The dwarf Alberta spruce is one of the most popular evergreens for large containers such as whiskey barrels. They are extremely hardy and many people decide to leave them in the barrel for a couple of years and plant flowering annuals around them. Dwarf Alberta spruce are very slow growing (about an inch a year) and will do well in sun or part-shade. Although they are slow growing, once you decide to place them in the landscape, make sure to site them where they can grow to be eight feet tall and four feet in diameter. Placed accordingly, these will evergreens and their owners will be happy for years to come. (Note: the yellow sticks in this photo are a yellow-twig dogwood. It’s a deciduous shrub that grows to 5 feet tall and wide. Place it in the landscape where you’ll see and appreciate the yellow twigs in the winter.)
One of my favorite plants for both containers and the landscape is the variegated boxwood. These have been sheared to be a “Christmas tree shape” and you can continue to prune them in that style. But these are also very attractive when they are allowed to bush out with a natural form. Variegated boxwood does well in full sun to part-shade. They are not fast growers, so don’t tend to “take over” in foundation plantings or mixed shrub borders.
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