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Planters that weather the winter -- beautifully

The fuchsias have faded. The mums are in mourning. And winter is beginning to reach out its icy little fingers. I think we all can agree there’s nothing that adds a bit of curb appeal—summer or winter -- like some lovely, well-maintained, house-complementing planters. But in a cold snap that may well extend from November through April, you need to choose wisely to ensure that the arrangement doesn’t lose its luster by January, and isn’t so seasonal that it seems ridiculous in March. Here are a few thoughts.

Go green – and adapt!

Evergreens earn their name. Those fir and balsam cuttings – think the pieces you trim off the bottom of a tree, or even cuttings you purchase -- tucked into the soil that remains in your planters from the summer will truly stay fresh-looking for months. But alone they’re a bit blah. Jazz them up with other local live stems, like bittersweet, dogwood, and any other fun branches you may be able to prune off of bushes in your own backyard. If your yard is bereft, any local garden center sells the boughs along with a variety of branches for you to have a little fun. Or consider pussy willows and milkweed pods. They started life outside and will endure!

To give them a little holiday pizazz, just nestle ornaments in among the greenery. Naturally this isn’t the time to pull out the heirloom mirrored glass balls. One wind, and heirloom no more! Last year I went to Target and purchased a box of really inexpensive, super-sized, shatter-resistant ornaments in colors that worked with my home (reds, silvers, white), and interspersed them among the branches. They were bright and noticeable from the street, and made the house feel instantly festive. For a white or gray home, consider ornaments of turquoise, purple, and hot pink. They’ll provide a fun, unexpected, modern pop.

Once the holiday passes, it’s easy to remove the ornaments and box them up for next year. Unless of course we’ve had two feet of snow, in which case no one will see them because they’re buried, and you can remove them once the thaw comes.

Branch out

Another one of my favorite planter executions is birch logs and branches. For those who aren’t into the flora and fauna aspects of home décor, birch are the lovely trees with white, peeling bark. Rather than felling the neighbor’s tree, head for your local specialty greenhouse and purchase by the bundle (usually) or piece (sometimes). Some flower shops carry them too. They are breathtaking in their simplicity, stark against the brick façade of a home, and beg for a blanket of snow. I love these in my modern blackened steel planters against the red brick of my traditional home. But they would be equally at home in whiskey barrel planters, concrete pots, copper planters, etc. If you embrace the simple look, stop right there. Otherwise, fill in with greens, pine cones, or ornaments. You’ll never get sick of them. And you can use them in the fireplace next season. But if you love this idea, act quickly. I purchased some at Hinsdale Nurseries a couple of weeks ago and they said they anticipated selling out well before Christmas.

Build it

A final low-maintenance, high “wow” idea is found at your local hardware store. But for this one you have to get a bit creative. Not for everyone, what I call the “architectural” planter can be as simple or elaborate as you choose. If your home is modern, and you like to play around a bit, check out the aisles at the hardware store where you can buy highly pliable pieces of metal that they’ll cut the size you want. You can curl the ends and create a stunning array of “branches” that will never die. Balance these with something soft, like pine cones or boughs, and it will be truly unique. If you love the wire spheres above, check out these They are an investment, but unlike the greenery won’t die year-to-year, could work year-around, and will really pop. I love them strung with lights, for extra appeal during these dark nights.

So get your hands dirty (a little), spend a few dollars(or many), and give your home the wrap it needs to survive the winter chill.

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