(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on November 24, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
Fall is here, the last of your beautiful flowers have been frozen to the ground. It's rainy and dreary and miserable outside. All of your once wonderful planters and hanging baskets are wet and saggy. Everything is brown and dead.
Depressed yet? Me too. How about we go for a little walk and find some things to help brighten up your outdoor areas.
You will need to bring a basket or some bags. A pair of garden pruners. Gloves if your hands tend to get cold.
We'll be looking for evergreens and interesting seed pods. Look there, one of my favourites for winter decorating. Creeping cedar we call it. In reality it is Northern Running Pine, Diphasiastrum complanatum. It is true to its name. Running along the ground for many feet, it can easily be pulled up. Give it a tug and see. Gently now, we don't want to break it. Creeping cedar is wonderful to wrap around your railings. It will stay green all winter. Staple or tie it to one end of the railing and wrap it around. CAUTION: This plant or others resembling it may be endangered in some States. Always be 100% positive of identification before disturbing any plant in the wild.
Here are some nice bushy pine trees. Pine boughs are perfect!! Cut them a couple feet long. Lots of them. White pine, Scotch pine, any kind of pine will do. They also stay green all winter. We can tie them together with a bit of florists wire and add a big red bow for even more colour. Place the cut ends together, overlapping just a little bit and tie them. they can be placed under a window or on a railing like in the photo above.
I know of a patch of Winterberry we'll go past on the way home. The little red berries will add a nice touch of red/orange. Ilex verticillata. Sometimes called Black Alder. I can always find them in swamps this time of the year, when everything else is brown the red berries stand right out. Winterberry is a native deciduous Holly. Hardy to zone 3 for anybody out there interested in adding this to your shrub collection for an interesting winter show. Just remember, you need to have both male and female plants, and they are poisonous.
Spruce are nice to work with too. The neighbour has a Blue Spruce, let's go and ask him if we can prune it a bit shall we? Be careful, this native of Western North America has very sharp needles. Maybe you should put those gloves back on.
Now all we need are a few more seed pods. I have some Purple Coneflowers in my garden I didn't cut last fall, let's grab some of those.
What we're going to do is just stick the stems directly into the soil that is already in those hanging baskets and planters. That soggy, mushy soil. You're just going to compost it in the spring anyways.
Remember, higher branches in the middle, gradually decreasing size as you fill outwards. Tuck in a seed head or two, some of those red berries, maybe a pine cone or three. No rules, just the wonderful contrast of the various kinds of evergreen combined with the red of the berries and the shape of the pine cones.
I know, it's not really fancy, but it is GREEN. Come January or February that little bit of green here and there will do wonders for a persons mood.
We had a wonderful day, squishing through the woods, getting some much needed fresh air. We saw some wildlife, which reminds me, I need to bring my camera next time.
Keep these ideas in mind this coming Fall. We refreshed our hanging baskets, preparing them for the long winter ahead. They'd only be stacked in a dark shed anyways, might as well put them to good use.
Photo credits go to claypa, palmbob and ViburnumValley for their wonderful Plant Files entries.