Winter Containers

Winter containers

I’ve lately been looking at Pinterest “Winter containers”, and unsurprisingly, a lot of pins are containers designed by Deborah Silver, of Detroit Garden Works. She has a distinctive personal style–you can always identify her designs when you see a page of google images. Here are a few examples:

 

So I decided to have a go creating my own, using Deborah’s “template”.That includes zip ties, a centre bamboo stake, a mixture of greens, and subtlety.

One thing that’s not obvious at first glance is that all the above containers were full of heavy wet potting soil, which gives a nice solid medium for these top-heavy creations. They were previously filled with plants of some kind–probably annuals, since there’s nothing left of them. In my case since I don’t (or barely) plant annuals, I have containers with either dormant perennials, or shrubs with bare patches.

Since my camera or computer corrupted some of the pre-pictures, I can’t show you what these looked like before I started winterizing them. One held long-since faded pink chrysanthemums which I cut down. Another just a boxwood with a lot of empty space around it. And the third (least successful I’m afraid–I’ll continue to work on it…) a Dwarf Alberta Spruce in a too-small container.

Some of the options I considered for winterizing included:

Mostly Douglas-fir, with a little spruce (Abies) of some kind. Harvested after a big wind storm from Central Park. And some from my back yard. Really, Doug-firs are messy, with their brittle branches.

Mostly Douglas-fir, with a little spruce (Abies) of some kind. Harvested from Central Park after a big wind storm. And some from my back yard. Really, Doug-firs are messy, with their brittle branches–even a little wind leaves a lot of Douglas-fir debris.

The main foundation for my additives is conifer branches. I’d love to have had some cedar and some pine, but there weren’t any (free) windfalls.  A mixture is good, but in my opinion, if you already have an evergreen shrub that you’re building around, two more different greens is ample, more begins to look a little busy.

Skimmia, in all it's winter finery. If the birds ate the berries, I'd be hesitant to use them. But for some reason, the birds don't like skimmia berries.

Skimmia, in all it’s winter finery. If the birds ate the berries, I’d be hesitant to use them. But for some reason, the birds don’t like skimmia berries.

Skimmia is easy to prune, since it makes lots of low-to-the-ground branches that I’d prefer to be limbed up a bit. So a clip here and a clip there gives a lovely selection not only of the briliiant red berries, but another non-conifer greenery.

Pyracantha--aka "firethorn", for reasons that become patently obvious when you get close to it: 1-2" thorns grace its branches.

Pyracantha–aka “firethorn”, for reasons that become patently obvious when you get close to it: 1-2″ thorns grace its branches.

Pyracantha is another berry-bearing shrub that can be actively pruned for both it’s greenery and its berries. Just be careful of the thorns.

hydrangea blooms, faded of course, but still offering wonderful shape and texture, and even the brown colour takes on a gold aspect when paired with greenery.

Hydrangea blooms, faded of course, but still offering wonderful shape and texture, and even the brown colour takes on a bit of a gold glow when paired with greenery.

I used two different Hydrangea blooms–one is ‘Invicibelle’, pink when it’s fresh, with tiny individual blossoms, much smaller than most hydrangeas. The other I used is “Limelight”, with panicle-shaped blooms.

Hydrangea 'Limelight'

Hydrangea ‘Limelight’

Here are my final products.

Dwarf Alberta Spruce with Douglas Fir branches. The least successful of my attempts, but I'll do some work on it and try to post a better version later.

Dwarf Alberta Spruce with Douglas Fir branches. The least successful of my attempts, but I’ll do some work on it and try to post a better version later.

This container had the faded mums, so I'm basically starting with an empty space. So the red dogwood branches provide the height in place of the shrub or tree in the others.

This container had the faded mums, so I’m basically starting with an empty space. So the red dogwood branches provide the height in place of the shrub or tree in the others.

I used the red-twig dogwood, bundled together with zip ties onto a bamboo stake, plunged down into the centre of the container. This is where you need to be careful if you’re modifying a container that otherwise has dormant perennials. I didn’t think there was much risk of damaging the mums…

Then  came the conifer branches, mostly Douglas-fir. The light blue/silver is actually just the underside of the Doug-fir, providing colour variation, but same texture. There is also some silvery spruce which are more densely needled, and stiffer, so they stand up better. The Doug-fir with its weak branches tumbles over the edge, hiding the not very attractive container. And a few crocosmia stems with their seed heads are sticking out like satellites!

And finally the boxwood container:

IMG_1039

Boxwood, spruce, skimmia, hydrangea, and gold garland.

Not exactly up to Deborah Silver’s standard, but she’s a hard act to follow!  At least these give you an idea of what you might do–and no doubt, do with more flair than I’ve  achieved here. But I’m learning…

 

 

Garden Coach

 

When I began to plan my landscape design business, it evolved out of my desire to help my friends and colleagues to understand their own gardens better and learn how to manage the inevitable changes that come with growing things–either growing plants, or growing people. (Just as we change in our life circumstances, so does our environment change–trees get bigger, kids get bigger. The garden that used to be perfect now doesn’t seem to provide the same sanctuary, or the same play space.)

I love to teach, and the things I teach best are the things I have the most interest in and passion for. (What a BAD sentence!) The idea of creating new landscape designs is actually secondary to mentoring people (“Your Garden Design Coach” is my brand) in their own garden management and development.

So it was pretty cool when I read almost the same ethic in this post by Michael McCoy “Dilemmas of a Designer”.

While I design gardens for a living, I sometimes wonder if I’m more an educator or an evangelist, as I want nothing more from my design work than to see my clients fully engaged in the nurturing, fine-tuning, guiding and managing of the garden we’ve created – preferably together…It has made me all the more determined as a designer to simply facilitate garden owners to fulfill their own dreams.

I hope you’ll read this blog as a source of useful information, and feel increasingly empowered to try out gardening for the joy of it. As I wrote on my “About” page

Clients come to RLGS for the joy of learning, for confidence to try out new things, for access to a new library of knowledge in the area of gardening and design, and to gain resources to continue this learning, freedom and practice as the garden evolves over time.

Morning sun front-lighting this Japanese Maple

Morning sun front-lighting this Japanese Maple

 

Vancouver’s “City Bird”

This article, “City hopes bird strategy will take flight”, appeared in today’s Vancouver Sun. Apparently Vancouver aims to make the area increasingly bird-friendly, and city management will tell us how to do that. Which is what I’ve been writing about since I started RLGS.

(Sorry for all the links–better than cutting and pasting.)

Garden Fauna

Garden Fauna

You’ll know by now how much I love the critters (some of them, anyway–not too partial to rats, but haven’t seen any lately…) that frequent my garden. I try to have a wildlife-friendly space, following the principles I’ve written about. It helps that across the street is a wide, wild border of shrubs and trees providing lots of nesting/shelter habitat.

So you’ll forgive me for getting a little obsessed with taking pictures and vids of my local avian friends, and for making you party to the obsession.

All of a sudden, boy hummingbirds are visiting and girl hummingbirds are nowhere to be seen. Anyone know why? This one below much think he’s a dog!

These birds don’t really need my feeders since there’s a lot of seeds and bugs around in the winter here. But by putting the feeders up I get to appreciate them, and am increasingly inspired to make my garden as fauna-friendly as possible.