Even though holiday decorating is finished for the year, you can still get outside and clip greenery for a bird-friendly winter container. Winter birds are a lovely addition to the garden and this container garden not only looks gorgeous to us, but it’s a heavenly treat for our feathered friends! This design will take your garden decor right through to the spring, and it will also provide food for winter birds to snack on.
I happened to come across Marie’s Garden on Instagram and I fell in love with her creative holiday wreaths and containers. Container design can be easy to do, but a talented designer can create one that makes you stop and take notice. I asked Marie if she would like to create a container design for us at Garden Therapy and, to my delight, she agreed! I’ll hand it over to Marie now, to show us how to recreate her bird-friendly winter container.
Design a Bird-Friendly Winter Container
by Marie Meiklejohn
As soon as the holidays are over and all the decorations are put away, I very quickly tire of looking at the bare trees and empty containers around my home. My solution is to design a few containers with greenery from my yard that can be seen from my windows. It helps to keep my spirits up during the cold winter months and these containers will look great until early April in my Pennsylvania garden. By then, I am ready to clean them out and plant some pansies and other cold weather spring plants.
Some of my favorite materials to cut are Red Twig Dogwood branches, yellow Chamaecyparis, Holly, White Pine, Juniper, Laurel, Japanese Pieris and Blue Spruce. Sometimes I add a few branches of dried Hydrangea flowers or Winterberry for seasonal interest and a pop of color. Don’t feel intimated by a bunch of different greenery, just give it a try! Have a look at what you can use in this article on the Best Garden Greenery for Holiday Decorating (and Which Ones to Avoid).
- Container for winter use
- Fresh cut greenery
- Other interesting materials such as berry branches, dried flowers, ornamental grass plumes, and colorful branches
- Gardening gloves
- Florist wire
- Spreadable suet
- Nyjer seed
- Ornamental decorations such as a birdhouse or birds
Look for greenery with different textures and colors. This will help achieve an interesting arrangement. Don’t forget broad-leaved evergreens such as Rhododendron, Osmanthus heterophyllus (Variegated False Holly), Ilex (Holly) and Buxus (Boxwood).
Choose a container that can stay outside during the winter and not crack. A hole in the bottom of the container is a must! If possible, raise the finish container off the ground using pot “feet”.
If you already have a container filled with soil, make sure the soil is not frozen as it is impossible to push an evergreen branch into frozen soil! If you need to add soil, any old soil will do, just fill the pot 3/4 full and pack the soil in rather solidly to help the branches stand up straight.
I begin each design with tall branches. Decide how tall you would like the branches to be and give each branch a fresh cut before inserting it into the soil. I like my branches to stand tall in the center of the container but there really is no wrong way to do this.
After the tall branches are inserted, add the tallest greenery in the center. This will give you a good sense of the proportion of height compared to container size. Before each branch is added, give it a fresh cut. Fill in the center of the container with an assortment of greenery.
Decide how wide you want the finished container to be and add greenery around the edge of the container. Then continue to fill in with more greenery until you are happy with the shape. The goal is not to be able to see through the arrangement.
Now add colorful and contrasting greenery. For this container, I am using Japanese Pieris with pinkish tones and the Chamaecyparis with its bright yellow needles. These two plants will add a nice contrast to what is already inserted into the container. Sometimes, it is hard to stop adding greenery. If you’re not sure whether you are finished, stop, walk away and take a good look at it. I finished the container by adding some Winterberry for color, willow balls, and a small decorative birdhouse for interest.
The last step in this container was wiring three pinecones onto long stems. I used hydrangea stems from my garden and tied the pinecones to the branches with floral wire. You can leave the pinecones as is or add some suet and nyjer bird seed.
The Winterberry and pinecones with suet and seed will be a big hit with the birds this winter season and look great all the way until the spring birds arrive.
About the Author
Marie Meiklejohn is the owner of Marie’s Garden, a seasonal greenhouse located in Pennsylvania. She grows unusual annuals for butterfly and cut flower gardens, is crazy about growing succulents and specializes in designing custom seasonal containers for her customers. Workshops are held in the greenhouse throughout the year. Marie has studied horticulture at Temple University, Delaware Valley University, and Longwood Gardens. She has received a Certificate of Merit in Ornamental Horticulture from Longwood Gardens and a Certificate in Horticultural Therapy from Delaware Valley University.
A lovely arrangement and stunning winter colours. Thanks for breaking the process down as well. This could well be a project for the weekend thats coming up. I do enjoy arranging flowers and I love the contrast in winter colours.
Beautifully arranged and explained, thank you
Isn’t it Ethel? Marie has the best designs!