It’s time to move on to the next season for your decorative outdoor pots. If you missed the briefly warm mid-March window of opportunity to remove your evergreen boughs, you will need to either cut the boughs to the frozen soil level and remove the cut stems under the soil at a later date or pour boiling water to ease the stems out of the soil. If possible, moving the containers into a garage (near an interior wall where it is warmer) or into the house will speed up the thawing process.
If you can thaw the soil, the only décor you can safely add in early April is a collection of twigs and sticks. Consider using curly willow, the red dogwood and/or birch from your winter arrangements and fluffy, Spring-like pussy willows. The soil top can be covered with fresh looking woodland moss. A good garden centre will be stocked in all this product. This can be very effective and the only option during the inconsistent early April temperatures.
Once the deep freeze has passed and night time temps flutter around zero or minus one, the moss can be parted and pre sprouted bulbs can be added to the base of the sticks. Favourites include tulips, hyacinths and daffodils. When it looks like the night time temps will be above zero, cold tolerant annuals such as pansies, primula, campanula, English daisies, ranunculus, dusty miller, and alyssum can all be added to the planters.
If a random freezing night occurs and you are unable to bring in the planter, it can be saved by placing a light bed sheet over the arrangement and letting it return to a normal temperature the next morning without exposing it to sunlight (until it has thawed) and without touching the leaves.
The weather forecasters have been very vocal in telling us that we are going to have a snowy, cold winter. Ouch! If that’s the case, we need to get your outdoor winter decor done sooner, rather than later. It’s no good trying to push evergreen boughs into pots that are frozen with the wind whipping around our frozen faces.
To prepare your winter-proof pots, cut all remaining plant material off at soil level. Leave the roots and soil right into your pots. This will form the base to firmly push in the evergreen boughs. If you’ve already cleaned out your pots, create a base using heavy soil (from your garden, perhaps) and floral foam or some stryofoam.
Use a generous amount of a variety of evergreen boughs at various lengths (shorter and compact is always better than floppy) to form a base and then add height with red dogwood or birch branches. Push your boughs in firmly or they will move and sway with the wind before they permanently freeze. Accents can fill in the body and can be natural like dried hydrangea blooms, pinecones, sumac, sedum heads (use spray paint to bump up the colour, if you wish) or decor accents that you purchase (shiny balls, wicker shapes, bows and the like). Be creative and have fun with your choices!
Do remember that these arrangements can last throughout the entire winter so wire distinctly holiday accents to a stick that you can cut out once the festivities are over. While stars, pinecones and birch branches look winter-y, shiny red balls, gauzy bows and Santa faces look dated and out of place in February. Make your arrangements full and lush so when you cut out the seasonal accents you are not left with large gaping holes.
The Canadian outdoors is Mother Nature’s Cooler, so you do not need to water your outdoor arrangements unless we hit a really warm spell mid November and your evergreens look dry. Usually though, the moist air is more than sufficient to keep everything fresh and lovely from November to March. If wind movement or theft are concerns, dribble some water around the bottoms of the pots on a freezing cold night and the pots will freeze to the sidewalk/patio!