Hard to believe, but Seattle does have four seasons, but our grey and cold season lasts from October to March. Sure, we have wonderful winter-fragrant shrubs and winter-busting early colorful bulbs, but our long-lasting damp just makes most foliage turn to mush.
Which is all the more reason to create a fabulous winter container to enjoy as you dash from car to doorstep. This container cleverly conceals an unsightly drainpipe in the McVay Courtyard at the Center for Urban Horticulture, and just glows in the late afternoon winter sun.
For a big impact, choose the largest container you can afford. The one pictured is just over three feet tall and makes a sophisticated statement. You can see that this simple green container is planted up with a refined color palette of red, silver, and green plants. The same effect can be achieved with glamorous red or sophisticated black containers. Alternatives for the budget-conscious include containers with a smaller stature, either in glazed pottery or the wallet-flattering Fiber-Cement. Work with a Container Designer to have access to the best pricing.
It’s always about the plants
I couldn’t have done any better than designer JP Sauerlender, who combined these simple winter-hardy plants and pushed the edge with the silvery Astelia. The foundation of this container is the silver-leaved Brachyglottis, a drought-tolerant shrub with yellow flowers in summer. Slow growing and perfect for containers, it retains its strong structure throughout the winter.
The container is also anchored with a dwarf hemlock. Since the one actually in this container, Tsuga heterophyllus ‘Iron Springs’, will end up being a 12′ tree, I recommend instead Tsuga canadensis ‘Jervis’ which will top out at 3-5 feet and won’t outgrow the container.
The beautiful and elegant Astelia ‘Silver Shadow’ is a new plant for me. All the books say it is a zone 8b plant, which means we’re pushing the edge of cold-tolerance here in Seattle. However, because it’s in a container where we can control the amount of water it gets (i.e. fast drainage), and because it is in a protected courtyard, I think it will sail through our prolonged freeze.
Shh. This trick is an old, but good one. Simply go down to your local floristry supply store and buy a bundle of red-twig dogwood stems (or cut your own from your rain-garden, right?), trim to size, and just shove them straight into your container!
In summary, with just a few simple plants and an elegant pot, you can dress up any front-door with a sophisticated design to brighten your winter.