In my younger days, I hauled my decorative containers into the garage to protect them from damage during the winter. Now, however, I leave most of them outdoors year-round because I no longer have the time or energy to haul them elsewhere. Keep in mind, however, that if your containers are terra cotta, you will still need to invest your energy in such exercise.

The perennials and grasses have been supplemented with blue spruce prunings.

Several years ago, I made a conscious decision to buy only freeze proof containers. They are made of concrete, tufa, fiberglass, copper, glazed ceramic that is frost- or plastic, I do not empty them unless they are ceramic. I do, however, place pot pads under them so moisture will drain, thus preventing excess soil expansion when frozen.

Side door fiberglass container filled with perennials and grasses that winter over in the container.

Many of my containers are planted with perennials and ornamental grasses as well as annuals and tropicals. By now, I have either pulled and discarded the annuals and tropicals or I have repotted them for wintering over in my garden room or the basement.

Prunings from several different conifers and winterberry branches fill this container at a friend’s property

At this time of year, I look for materials that I can use to decorate the containers for winter interest. One of my favorites is branches of red or yellow twig dogwood, sometimes even purple, that can often be found at farmers’ markets. The other favorite is branches of berried plants like winterberry. I use these colorful materials as the bones of the arrangement and then supplement with cuttings of my conifers. Having a variety of conifers, I can choose from blue Picea pungens (Blue Spruce), yellow Juniperus chinensis ‘Eternal Gold’, or green (Chamaecyparis thyoides ‘Shiva’). Besides having different colors, each also has a different texture.

A few years ago, I waited too long to decorate and the soil in the containers was frozen. This year, I’m planning to decorate the Monday of Thanksgiving week. If you act quickly, I think you can still push the stems of your decorative branches into the soil. if the soil is frozen, use a metal skewer to create a hole for the stem. Have fun!