Winter decoration tips
Photo courtesy of C.L. Fornari | Garden stylist Jeffrey Thomas used hydrangeas, pampas grass and dried foliage to create this stunning display.
by C.L. Fornari
If you're looking to create spectacular winter arrangements this season, look to your landscape first. Existing plants, and those that can be added to your garden next season, will supply the materials needed for winter window boxes, containers and indoor displays.
Jeffrey Thomas is a garden stylist who designs gardens and seasonal displays in Southeast Massachusetts. His signature look involves using a wide variety of natural materials to fill urns, boxes and pots for his clients.
"My work is very detailed," Thomas says. "You get the general first impression, but there's subtlety in the details that gives the composition dimension and depth."
Thomas advises those doing their own holiday decorating to make full use of the plants in their landscape. "Even plants as universally used as arborvitae (evergreen), yew and pine can be effective," he explains.
When filling window boxes or making an arrangement for a party, the key is to use a variety of colors and textures. Begin by providing a sturdy support for your materials: for indoor displays, use oasis soaked in water, and use topsoil for outdoor containers.
For outdoor pots and boxes, Thomas recommends you empty out the old soil. Summer flowering plants are frequently planted in potting soil, which is usually a combination of peat and vermiculite. This lightweight media is perfect for growing summer annuals, but winter arrangements need a heavier soil to hold stems in the container. "It's better to take the potting soil out and put in bagged topsoil just before you install your greens," he says. "If you wait too late, your soil will be frozen and impossible to work with."
Once the containers are prepared, add the plants one type at a time. A selection of needled evergreens can include the standard white pine or balsam, but specialty evergreens such as Hinoki false cypress add special flair.
"Cryptomeria japonica has a lovely texture, as does the hemlock, and anything weeping is wonderful," Thomas says. "Weeping plants have a natural shape that works so beautifully in arrangements."
Next add broadleaf evergreens such as holly, rhododendrons, andromeda and euonymus. Lastly, include sprays of berries, dried flowers, feathers or grasses for color and texture. By placing these smaller elements at the end, you'll be able to position them for maximum visibility. "Utilizing a variety of elements in winter arrangements gives you the same feeling as discovering a new treasure during a walk in the woods," Thomas says.
And remember to think big. "There are no surefire tricks in design," Thomas explains. "But large-scale elements definitely have a lot of impact." C
C. L. Fornari is a writer, gardening expert, professional speaker and radio host who is dedicated to getting you into the garden. The Osterville, Mass., resident is a member of the Perennial Plant Association, American Plant Propagators Society, National Speakers Association and Garden Writers of America.