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Friday, November 13, 2015
Posted By: Laurelle Olfdord-Down in Container Gardening

Laurelle shows you how to create a bit of WOW with a winter planter or grouping that will add a bit of welcome sparkle and light to brighten up the dark days of winter!

Layering live evergreen plants with cut greens will give your planter depth, texture and colour. You can add a touch of whimsy and personality with bells, twinkle lights, lanterns or other hard features. The cut greens stay fresh with a minimum of effort because of the cold and moisture that we generally have plenty of on the West Coast.

If your planters are under cover, ensure the soil is moist but not wet. This usually means only watering once every couple of weeks. I generally am not worried about planting shade plants in a full sun exposure. Because the temps are much cooler, you don’t have to worry about our weaker winter sun baking those shade lovers like Wintergreen or Ferns. Be sure to plant tighter than you would with a summer planter as they will not be filling out in the winter. What you see now is what you will likely have at the end of the winter. I like to leave an inch or so of space around the lip of the planter to give me somewhere to add my cut greens for edging. If you have added some bulbs to your arrangement mark the area on the pot with a temporary sticker so you don’t forget where you put them when shuffling around your plants!

Some of my favorite plants for winter interest:

Plants for Winter Planters

Miniature Conifers

The list is extensive, even smaller conifers that can be replanted in the spring in the garden bed will do. Pines and Lemon Cypress are among my favorites. I also like to use Yew trees for that tall columnar focal point and wrap them in white twinkle lights.

Skimmia

Love the glossy leaves, red berries and fragrant flowers in the winter!!

Wintergreen

Red berries, glossy evergreen leaves and a fragrance when crushed…what’s not to love.

Evergreen Ferns

From the bold glossy leaved Hart’s Tongue Fern to the finer textured smaller Deer Fern, evergreen ferns are a staple in my winter displays.

Evergreen Grasses

The Carex family has both fine textured grasses such as Carex testacea ‘Prairie Fire’ and the wider leaved variegated Carex morrowi ‘Ice Dance’ and Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’ are just a few the great grass choices.

Heuchera

There are a number of evergreen versions with the lush colour saturated leaves.

Ivy

This evergreen always gives me pause. Unleashed on your garden this can become a menace. Hanging gracefully in your winter planter it creates a traditional bit of colour and drape. I pull it out at the end of the winter and put it in my Surrey Green Bin.

Holly

We get in some lovely variegated types that give me a splash of colour and interest especially if they are berried up. If I can’t fine a nice little dwarf holly bush I use the cut greens.

Aucuba

This very large shade lover looks amazing with its large glossy green and gold leaves and red berries. If you have a more sheltered spot and can find a small version of these it might be worth putting in your planter. In spring, toss it into the backyard in full shade with plenty of elbow room and you will have fantastic cut greens to add to your planter forever more!

Bulbs!!

I love to add a package or two of Snowdrops, Crocus and even Mini-Daffodils for a late winter surprise. As my greens start to dry by February I’ll pull them and what should be coming up in those spots but my spring bulbs yay!!

Winter Greens

Cut Greens

I often wait for a big windstorm and then go for a dog walk with some pruners and nab some of the fallen greens and cones. When adding your cut greens better to cut long. If I am using a softer side branch…especially with Douglas Fir, I will cut not only the side piece but try to get a couple of inches of the main or stronger branch with it so I can jam that into the soil. Many of the cut greens have vastly different colour and texture depending on weather you use them right side up or upside down. Try to go with a theme and layer.

Greens for Winter Planters

Pines

I adore soft needled pines and usually add a few pieces hanging out of the planter as finishing touches. They really soften up an arrangement.

Noble Fir

Lovely as Christmas trees and great in cut arrangements to add a bit of formal texture and stiffness not to mention that lovely green blue hue.

Douglas Fir

I do like to use a lot of Douglas fir as my base. I like the deep green of the top side as well as the silvery look of the underside. The more cones the better as far as I’m concerned.

Cedar

Incredible aroma and soft texture. It’s great for a finishing touch.

Juniper

We get in some lovely branches full of Juniper berries for some real texture and interest. The ones I’ve used are a silvery blue green.

Red Twig Dogwood

I use this as my height and structure as well as colour. Generally they root by the end of the winter and you can start your own shrub which you can coppice (prune back close to the ground) each year around this time to get lots of fresh new red twigs.

Curly Willow

One of my favorites! The curly golden to orange red branches make a stunning thriller in my planters giving height, colour and a bit of whimsy. These will also root by the end of the winter and you can plant in the yard and also coppice it each year for cut twigs.

Whimsy

This bit is entirely up to you! If your planter or grouping is at the front door you can add a bit of colour either from the door itself or even the interior. You can bling up your planters with twinkle lights, bows, Christmas balls, bells or even lanterns in varying sizes and colours. You can Christmas up your planters for November and December; this is often the final resting place of Christmas ornaments that are ready to be retired in my household. After Christmas you can adjust your planters slightly to maintain the winter sparkle and glow for January and February.

The best place to display your winter planter is without a doubt the front entrance, failing that any place you will walk by or look at from the window is the next best thing. If hanging them, be sure to hang them low as the best viewing is looking down into them. Don’t be afraid to try groupings or to add different hard features with them, experiment and for Heaven’s sake don’t forget to have fun while you are mucking about!

Cheers - Laurelle!


Friday, October 16, 2015
Posted By: Rebecca van der Zalm in Container Gardening

By October, your colourful spring and summer patio planters or hanging baskets are probably looking a wee bit shabby, if not down-right dead. If that’s your situation, don’t worry, we have the solution for you – the Fall Container Make Over! In this blog post, we'll introduce you to the world of fall containers and how to design and plant them. We'll also identify some of the best plants to use.

Fall Containers are actually easier to plant and maintain than the Spring and Summer varieties. We know we are living on borrowed time because of impending frosts. That time limit influences our selection of plants and forces all plantings to be temporary.

Fall Containers and Planters

Short Term Focus

Fall containers don’t rely as heavily on blooming annuals and therefore won’t focus as much on fleeting flowers. Instead they utilize long lasting, colourful foliage, attractive berries and other design elements to help them look good as long as possible. Since we know that the time span is shorter, it allows to get past the “what’s best for the plant” mentality and move into the different mindset of “what’s going to look good right now”.

Fall containers and baskets fall into 2 categories, mono-plantings and the traditional thriller-filler-spiller model.

Mono Planters

Mono-Plantings

Mono-plantings typically use the same colour, or the same plant to fill the container. For instance, you could have an all-white planter, or fill the planter with one type of plant. Consider a planter that utilizes white heather, white cyclamen and ornamental cabbage and kale with white tones in a single planter. Alternately, you could fill a planter with just Heuchera, Pansies or Sedums.

Thrillers, Fillers and Spillers

Thrillers, Fillers & Spillers

For fall, the traditional thriller, filler and spiller planters are packed tight with plants to make them look good right away. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this style of planter, lets quickly define these terms:

Thrillers

Plants For Use as Thrillers

The tall centerpiece or focal point of the planter. The thriller can be either centre planted or positioned at the back of the planting because of its height and stature. The thriller is the element of the planter that grabs the most attention and captures the eye. While plants are great thrillers, you could also use inanimate objects like birch branches, contorted willow stems, lanterns or other types of fall garden accents.

Fillers

Plants For Use as Fillers

Filler – the fillers are the mid-sized plants that complement the thriller. They are typically ½ to 1/3 the height or the attention grabbing ability of the thriller. Most fall planters will use several fillers strategically positioned near or around the thriller. At this time of year, small pumpkins and gourds also make great fillers.

Spillers

Plants For Use as Spillers

The spillers are the plants that hang or droop off the sides of the planter. In the fall they are typically grasses, ivies, ground covers and similar plants that have some resistance to winter cold. They are usually smaller and several will be planted in a typical container.

10 Design Tips for Fall Planters

Fall planters are supposed to be temporary, you don’t need to worry as much about longevity or plant health. When a fall planter starts to look shabby, simply discard the spent elements or re-plant them in your garden. When creating your fall planters, here are 7 more design tips to think about:

Black Planter

1. Pick a Pot First

Planter choice is important and should be made first. Everything from the type, the colour, the size, and the width of planting area is important. Try to match the scale of the pot to the size of your plants. Make the colour complimentary to the type of plants you are going to choose. When choosing a pot, quality is critical - if you intend to keep the pot for more than one season. There is a reason there are “cheap” pots and “expensive” pots.

Pot Feet

2. Drainage Is Important

Given our typical fall and winter weather, good drainage is an essential component of fall planters. Fill the bottom one third of your planter with gravel, packing materials, broken pottery or anything else that creates air pockets and allows the water to drain. Separate this layer with landscape fabric to avoid contaminating or compacting it with soil. Lift the planter off your deck or patio with pot feet to ensure the drainage hole doesn't get plugged up.

Promix Potting Soil

3. Soil Choice Matters

Don’t use a garden soil in your planters. These soils tend to be heavy and will compact in a planter. As we already mentioned, drainage is critical. Plants need as much oxygen near their roots as water. If you insist on using a garden soil, at least amend it with perlite to create air pockets and improve porosity. Preferably, use a potting soil like ProMix or Miracle Gro. These products are already mixed with perlite and are specifically formulated to be lighter for planters, containers and baskets.

4. Simplicity Works

The KISS principle ... (Keep It Simple Stu@^@#) ... works. The best fall planters are simple. They only have a few types of plants and they avoid having "one of everything" in the container. If you like a plant, use it a couple of times in your planter as opposed to picking more types of plants. Enough said.

5. Odd Numbers Are Good

In design, odd numbers like 1, 3 and 5 always look good. For example, you may choose to plant 1 thriller, 3 fillers and 5 spillers in your planter. While this obviously depends upon the size of the planter, you get the general idea.

Plant Colour Palettes - Hot Colours and Cool Colours

6. Pick A Colour Palette and Stick To It

Spring and summer planters tend to use the hot colours. In other words, the yellows, the oranges and the reds. These are called stop colours because the eye naturally focusses and comes to rest on them. They grab attention and scream look at me! This is also the reason why fire trucks tend to be red and people in red cars tend to get more speeding tickets – they are simply more visible to the eye. Now you know!

The cool colours tend to be more dominant in the fall. These are the greens, pinks, purples and blues to name a few. They move away from the eye and perceived to be more peaceful, relaxing and calming. They work well with the neutral colours like white, black or grey.

Neutral colours (the grays, the whites and blacks) are the perfect compliments for both hot and cool colour palettes. Use them for affect and as contrasting elements in your planters. You can also choose to create mono plantings. All white and all black planters are in style (especially for Halloween)

If you choose a colour palette, stay in that palette. In other words, a cool colour planter should not have yellows oranges and reds as they will clash. It’s ok to mix a palette and neutrals, but don’t mix the two palettes. An easy way to tackle this is to pick a theme. For example, a Halloween planter may have lots of oranges and yellows complimented by black. Remember to include the pot colour in your design. A pink pot with a halloween colour theme would look ridiculous wouldn't it?

Lanterns

7. Lighten It Up

As the sun sets earlier and earlier in the fall, it is important to choose brighter colours and even accent lighting. Add a few solar or led lights to your planters for added effect! Lanterns or even faux-candles can also be used. This is a great look for winter. For obvious reasons, just be careful if you are mixing anything electrical with water, or anything burning near foliage!

Hand With Bulbs

8. Think About Spring

While we have already stated that fall planters are fleeting, there is no reason why they can’t be designed to give additional interest. For example, you could fill the planter with daffodils and tulips to come up after all the top growth has either died-off, has been cut back or re-planted after winter. Simply plant the bulbs and then add your other materials on top. The bulbs will come through the top growth when the time is right.

10. Relax and Have Fun!

As we have already said, fall planters are temporary works of art. There are no right or wrong answers or bad designs, as long as you like it! Experiment, try new plants and have fun with it!

For More Information:

For more information and a great read, check out this e-book created by our own Shelley Levis.

One Planter - Four Seasons e-Book

If you want to spruce up your planters this fall. Drop by and pick out some great materials at Art’s. We’d be happy to help you make a few design choices or recommend the best plants. Or, if you prefer, we can even plant them up for you. Each fall planter is unique and is based on your design choices and budget. Get yours growing today!


Saturday, September 13, 2014
Posted By: Lyle Courtice A.H. in Container Gardening

With yards becoming increasingly smaller and people's lives so hectic and busy it is no wonder we enjoy the "personal" perennial garden so much. Small, condensed and easy to manage, containers offer an alternative for those with little time to tend a large perennial border and for those without space it is a little piece of Eden on their 30th floor balcony.

Perennial Pot 1

Perennials which include: bulbs, cacti and succulents, ferns, grasses and some herbs offer a plethora of colour, texture and versatility. This allows you to easily create a container with interest throughout the year and since most perennials grow quickly it will not take long to have a fantastic looking creation.

With this massive palette to work with there will always be a fit for your situation. I really do not like to tell people what to use or how to arrange a container as each person's taste will be different and sometimes the plants I may recommend are not at hand. Plus it is so much fun to just create, have fun and quite often make mistakes- is that not how we learn?

Many times I have thrown a cute little perennial into a mixed container only to find out several weeks later that it really liked the conditions, has turned into a thug and taken over the pot, c'est la vie - I will know for next time...

If this happens to you or if a plant just doesn't look right, do not be afraid to pull it out and try something different.

Perennial Pot 2

In general you should use plants that have multiple levels of interest for some perennials once finished flowering can look rather ratty and will diminish the overall appearance of your container. Foliage, which will give textural contrast over a longer period should be your first priority then think of flowers, fruit and seed pods as they are quite often fleeting.

Containers

Use whatever takes your fancy from an old wash tub, Italian terra cotta, French Vase d'Anduze to a simple black nursery pot. Make sure it can weather our winters without breaking apart and ensure it has ample drainage (if not get out your drill!). I always say go big or go home, get the largest container you can afford and handle, the more room you can give your plants the better they will perform and last.

Soil:

Use a good quality potting mix, if unable to find- mix your own using some peat, perlite and fine bark (15/10/75% ratio) add in a good quality slow release fertilizer and you should be good for the season. Your mix should be friable and well draining yet be able to hold some moisture. Peat based mixes should be avoided as they hold too much moisture, shrink and are hard to re-wet once dried and break down quicker over time making them unsuitable for long term containers.

Which Perennials to Plant? There are hundreds if not thousands of perennials that you can plant in the Pacific Northwest. Here are just a few options for you to ponder:

For Sunny Locations

Aralia cordata 'Sun King', Arabis, Campanula, Carex, Coreopsis, Crocosmia, Dianthus, Echinacea, Erysimum, Eucomis, Festuca, Geum, Lavandula, Leucosceptrum, Kniphofia, Knautia, Eryngium, Euphorbia, Gaillardia, Geranium, Pennisetum, Phygelius, Rudbeckia, Salvia, Schizostylis, Stipa, Thymus, Uncinia.

For Shady Locations

Actaea, Ajuga, Aquilegia, Arisaema, Arum, Asarum, Astilbe, Beesia, Bergenia, Brunnera, Carex, Cyclamen, Dicentra, Disporum, Epimedium, Ferns, Fragaria, Fuchsia, Hakonechloa, Hedera, Helleborus, Heuchera, Heucherella, Hosta, Lysimachia, Mukdenia, Ophiopogon, Oxalis, Podophyllum, Polygonatum, Primula, Pteridophyllum, Roscoea, Thalictrum, Tiarella, Viola, Zingiber.

Perennial Pot 3

For Hot & Dry Locations

Cacti, Delosperma, Eryngium, Rosmarinus, Sedum, Sempervivium, Succulents.

For Evergreen Interest

Ajuga, Arum, Beesia, Bergenia, Carex, Cyclamen, Dianthus, Epimedium, Euphorbia, Ferns, Festuca, Geum, Helleborus, Heuchera, Heucherella, Lavandula, Ophiopogon.

These listings are by no means extensive or definitive, remember to experiment, use your own creativity and have fun.

If you have any questions about potting up perennials in planters, drop by or give us a call. We also have a talented design team that can do the dirty work for you. However, it helps a lot if you can give us your colour preferences, an idea of the space the container will be in and a rough idea of budget for the project.

Photographs courtesy of Harkaway Botanicals.


Thursday, October 24, 2013
Posted By: Rebecca van der Zalm in Container Gardening

When the fog hides the sky and the winter chills set in, odds are that your planters are starting to look a ‘wee bit’ tired. While most of us decide to casually look the other way, there is really no good reason for avoiding giving them a seasonal refresh.

There are lots of different plants you can use for fall and winter planters. Many of them are either shrubby or perennial, meaning that the investment won’t be wasted. When spring comes, you can yank the plants out and use them in different spots. Or, choose to keep them in containers and add some extra spring interest.

Winter Blooming Plants

Colour in winter planters usually comes from foliage, bark and berries as opposed to flowers. This is not to say there aren’t winter bloomers. Hellebores, Pansies, Witchhazels, SweetBox and Camellias are all lovely winter flowering plants. It’s just that flower colour in winter is fleeting. It’s best to use flowers as the accent while relying on foliage, texture and colourful berries to do the heavy lifting through the cool season.

Before we move on, it’s important to change our perception about winter gardening. It’s not about longevity. It’s about creating a piece of living art that you can enjoy until spring. It’s ok to put the wrong plant in the wrong place. If it stretches for light – we can prune it in spring. If it dies, it dies … it’s ok. Get over it. In winter, there are no rules, you can do anything you want in the container – and have fun doing it.

Most planters follow the formula of thriller, fillers and spillers. That is, there is one dominant center piece in the container that just screams “look at me – I am the most important!”.

Surrounding it are its minions, the fillers. Tidy nice little accent plants that all look up to the thriller. Finally, the spillers cascade over the sides of the pot - softening its appearance.

4 Evergreen thrillers for containers

In the winter, thrillers tend to be evergreens or deciduous shrubs with winter interest. Yews, Alberta Spruces, Topiary Boxwoods as well as Hollies, Camellias and Heavenly Bamboos are all great choices as evergreens.

3 Deciduous Thrillers for containers

Interesting leafless thrillers include Harry Lauders Walking Sticks, Coral Bark Japanese Maples, and Witchhazels.

You can also use a few old favourites like Ornamental cabbages and Kale. The thriller does not have to be living. In Whistler, you often see pieces of birch and deciduous holly stems jammed into containers in an upright fashion. Or you could use a lantern or gazing ball. Anything that grabs the attention of the passer-by is fair game.

Have fun with the fillers. There are lots of interesting choices including:

3 cool season grasses for containers

Cool season ornamental grasses like Carex ‘Evergold’, Black Mondo Grass and Acorus ‘Ogon’ are fantastic fillers.

Buds of skimmia japonica

Smaller evergreens like the fragrant winter blooming Sarcococca, the colourful Skimmia or Goshiki Osmanthus or False Holly are great options too.

3 Great conifers for containers

Conifers too are comfortable in pots. Two of my personal favourites are Carsten’s Winter Gold or Mugo SlowMound Pine. A nice up and comer is ‘GoldStrike’ Cedar. Green throughout the season, it turns a brilliant golden yellow in winter and spring.

Wintergreen - Gaultheria procumbens

 

Don’t forget about berries. They provide a lot of nice colour in winter. Four great choices include: Gaultheria procumbens or ‘Wintergreen’, Lingonberry, Vaccinium vitis-ideae, Pernettya and Pyracantha.

cyclamen flowers

If you absolutely must have flowers in winter, then Hellebores, cyclamens and pansies are your solution.

For bonus points, fill your containers with lots of little bulbs like snowdrops, crocus or grape hyacinths before putting in the rest of the plants. In spring ,these bulbs will start to flower and fill your container with colour until it’s time to visit us again :) 

 

Finally, we come to the spillers. In the winter, there are a few options. Euonymous, or Winter Creeper, Evergreen Ivy or a trailing grass are probably your best options.

It’s possible that container designer experts may freak out if you don’t follow the rules by having your thriller, the fillers and the spillers, but that’s ok.

I believe that winter planters can be simple too. Put one gorgeous plant in one pot. If you want more colour or combinations, then just plant up more containers. I love front door arrangements made up of large, medium and small sized pots. Yes, designing in threes always works. Three on either side of the front door is even better! With that said, simplicity is the key. Allow each plant can stand on its own rather than being crammed in with others. They’ll also be healthier next season too!

bud blooming heathers

 

A word about colour. I love mono-colour planters in the winter. Try making up a planter that is dominant in one colour, say white, or perhaps pink, or even different shades of green. The results can be striking.

When it comes to winter care, remember that plants in containers need water in winter too. They just need less. There is no substitute for getting your hand into the dirt. If it’s dry and crumbly, the plants need water. If it’s wet and gooey, they are fine – but make sure the water is actually draining out of the pot. Too much water is just as deadly as too little.

If all of this sounds daunting, remember that Art’s Nursery can help you design winter planters and even plant them up for you. Just give us a sense of your style, the sizes required and your budget. We’ll work up something beautiful for your fall and winter entertaining.

If you have any questions about fall and winter containers, please feel free to give us a call at 604.882.1201 or visit us in person at Art’s Nursery.


Sunday, September 8, 2013
Posted By: Laurelle Olfdord-Down in Container Gardening

I have tried many fall container additions over the years with some successes and some not so much. I seem to keep coming back to my fab five time after time. Each year I do try to add something new and this year I will be adding that cool new dark long leaved cabbage because if it doesn’t work out I can chop the thing up and add it to a lovely fall soup.

Here are my go-to plants for my fall planters once I pull out all of my summer annuals.

orange grass

Orange Grass / Prairie Fire Sedge

Carex testacea

This reliable evergreen grass has slender leaves and a fantastic bronzy orange colour. It looks good in my pots no matter what I seem to do with it. It even looks good after my kids French braid it! I use it towards the side of the pot so it can spill over.

winter pansies / violas

Winter Pansies / Violas

I know this seems old hat, but they are cheap, hardy and when they stop looking good I either cover them with pine boughs or pull them out. I like to use the tangerines and the soft sky blues. Pick them when they are shorter and have a few flower buds to come. I pack them full in my fall planters, not like my spring ones where I give everything space to spread. In fall there is not much change in the plant size so I pretty much overplant to allow for any winter damage.

winter green

Wintergreen

Gaultheria procumbens

I absolutely love this deep green glossy leaved groundcover with the red berries. I also love crushing up a leaf or berry or two to get that lovely spicy mint fragrance. Even though it is considered a full shade groundcover, you can get away with planting it in your full sun fall and winter pots (you can plant it at the back of the planter for now and then turn around the pot by the end of the month once it’s cooled a bit). Come spring, if you have full sun exposure, you can put it in a shady spot in your garden.

yew tree

Yews

Taxus

Yes, I know it is a tree and will grow big, but we have some lovely little columnar ones at the nursery that I can keep small and clipped in my pots, they still look good in the summer so I just leave them in and the grass and then change everything else. I am also buying time by root pruning, a bonsai technique. I have to say, my little Yew centrepiece is still amazing if I pair it with a pumpkin or pine boughs and twinkle lights. I also buy a bunch of curly willow each year and the contrast of deep dark green with the yellow and orange of the willow looks great.

euonymus emerald and gold

Emerald and Gold Wintercreeper

Euonymus ‘Emerald and Gold’

I add this towards the front of the planter. I love it when we get it in the smaller sized pot. I have to say I used to use the variegated ivy but my Ivy looks pretty beaten up by the end of the winter but this Euonymus just keeps on ticking. I usually put in in the garden by spring though a couple of years I’ve kept it in for the summer display and it just kept looking great as long as I kept it trimmed.

Well now you know my secret go to fall plants but like I said I add something new as well as artsy things and cut branches and all sorts of Martha Stewart-esque touches when the mood hits. If you have some tried and true fall hits please share. Happy planting!


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Art's Nursery is a 10+ acre retail and wholesale garden centre located in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. We've been in business at this same location since 1973 and we're proud to serve you today!

We carry an incredible selection of plants, shrubs, trees, annuals, perennials, vines, groundcovers, roses and much more. Soils, bulk materials, pottery and a variety of garden accents are also available.

Our plant selection is so large that you can actually drive a golf cart while you shop!

We pride ourselves on providing high quality plant, expert advice and an exceptional gardening experience.

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I think someone flipped the instant fall switch!! There are some trees that have begun to colour up...


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