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Winter containers both extravagant and simple


In what has become something akin to a tradition around here, we’re just days away from Christmas and the outside of my house is fully decorated (at least as fully decorated as anything gets around here), and the inside has a long way to go. 

I’ll be honest, I have a lot more fun doing outdoor holiday containers than decorating a Christmas tree. This is undoubtedly why I have no problem walking by a bare Christmas tree in my living room multiple times a day without losing my mind. 

Fortunately the weather cooperated as much as it can in Wisconsin at this time of year. After an unseasonably cold November with a fair amount of snow, December was warmer than usual and dry. Perfect conditions for making holiday containers. 

I did a mix of more complicated designs and very, very simple designs this year. I’d like to tell you that I did that because I thought they balanced out the overall picture, but I’ll be honest: at some point I just needed to get them finished up, so the simple containers had the great advantage of being quick and dirty.

What I discovered was that the amount of time and money you spend on a winter container is not necessarily relative to the amount of enjoyment they bring. It’s a good lesson. I mean, don’t get me wrong, you know I’m always to go just a little bit too far on some containers, but now I know I’m doing it because I enjoy the process, not because I think I have to in order to have a beautiful container.

But why don’t you be the judge? Here’s a peek at some of my outdoor containers and holiday decor this year.


Holiday containers urnThis pot just begs for a tutu skirt, doesn’t it? I felt compelled to go full Sugarplum Fairy outfit on this, so I started with short, firm evergreen branches sticking straight out, and filled in with cedar from the trees that line the driveway. 

From there, I used a great orb (sphere?) in the center and filled with red and yellow twig dogwood, seeded eucalyptus and wrapped some bittersweet harvested from the side of the road not far from the house around the structure. It felt like it was missing someone so I put some dried hydrangeas  in to add a little more dimension.

A light snowfall was the perfect finishing touch.

holiday containers urn


tall winter containerI don’t love this container. I found it on sale in midsummer and it filled a spot, but it doesn’t really go well with the garden. But I did love the idea of having another area in the middle of the garden to add a little winter color.

I used a sphere I had kicking around, spruce tips from a tree in our yard, a bit more bittersweet and lots of dogwood in the center. The dogwood looks a little bit like it has been imprisoned. Wonder what it did to deserve that?

winter container closeup


curly and fan willow container

Here’s where things got a little involved. This year I sprung for a variety of branches from Blue Sky Flower Farm and I really wanted to show off the curly and fantail willow I bought. The idea was to make it look like I had a huge bunch of branches in the center, without actually having a huge bunch. I took a note from a method used by Deborah Silver and attached branches to a tomato cage, then lit the inside to create that beautiful lit-from-within glow. 

Then I bleached pine cones and individually wired on pine cones and finished the bottom with fir and cedar, and of course more lights. I could have used more branches and more pine cones (don’t look at this one from the back), but all of it is reusable, so if I decide to do a similar design in future years, I can add more. 

Because the front door is set at the top of several steps, this container always needs something bold and big in order to feel in scale to the door. I think this design accomplished that. 



holiday window box

You know how I love a good window box display, so I tend to go all out here no matter what the season. For the holidays, it always starts with the lighted ring. I’ve used this for several years now and love it enough to repeat it year after year. 

I used more yellow and red twig dogwood as well as some curly willow tips in the center of the ring and I liked the combination of materials. That yellow twig dogwood is really stunning and I’d like to use more of it in the future. Faux berries add a big splash of color. 

holiday window box

As with the other containers, I filled in with fir and cedar and then a few clusters of bleached pine cones. Light always plays a big role in this containers, so in addition to the LED lights around the ring, I also dotted some bigger lights through the greens and put a string of lights at the base of the branches to help create uplighting that is best appreciated from inside. 

lighted holiday window box

winter window box from inside


simple winter container

By the time I got to this point, I was craving something a bit simpler, so for both the planter by the back door and the trough by the garage, I just used spruce tops and seedlings from our woods, the rest of the dogwood, a few faux berries and, for the garage container, some birch branches.

I topped the bare soil with pine cones to make it look nicer, although this touch seems to be appreciated only by the red squirrels, who have found a new winter stash.

I always do very simple garland on the garage, which is in keeping with the “theme” in the nearby container.

holiday garage


I couldn’t resist adding a little holiday cheer to the vegetable garden, so I just added a simple garland and a purchased wreath to the entrance. A lit wreath on the side of the garden that faces the road is a little surprise for the neighbors. 

I love these little touches so much, and it is making me appreciated the vegetable garden even at this time of year.

You can watch how some of these containers came together in a couple videos I made. Watch them here or on YouTube

You can also see some of the winter containers I’ve done in the past here, here, here, here, or just by searching “winter containers” in the search bar. 

What would you like to know? Search, or jump to categories below. 

28 Responses

  1. I love your container arrangements! All except the white one! I think that container needs a very contemporary arrangement. Thank you for sharing your talents. I hope you have joyous holidays!

  2. They are all wonderful but your window box is always a stunner. I love that photo from inside as that really says it all. Isn’t it wonderful to have your own supply of greens from your trees and woods. I only did a little bit by the front door but I love being able to go out and cut what I want. I think the tall pot would be fine if the red twigs were taller. I think having them not shoot out of the sphere made it a bit unbalanced. I will be waiting for the post where you tell us how you painted that pot next summer!

    Trying to enjoy this weather instead of wondering what it going to die this winter.

    Have a great holiday.

  3. Absolutely gorgeous!! I feel like a lazy lump in comparison, I did nothing for the winter but put away all my non frost proof pots and harvest all the veggies! Even the gardens didn’t get cut back…..I’m so worn out by the end of gardening season I really need that bit of a break between the end of the season and starting my seeds for 2020….which will begin in January. It’s not a ton of a break, but at least it’s something!

    Merry Christmas!

  4. I like most your window box display. I fall love into these beautiful flowers. I want to grow ornamental trees in my own garden. This article helps me a lot.

    Keep up the good posting, Linda.

  5. Sorry, I mistake your name in the previous comment.
    I like most your window box display. I fall love into these beautiful flowers. I want to grow ornamental trees in my own garden. This article helps me a lot.

    Keep up the good posting, Erin.

  6. Hi Erin,
    Thank you for mentioning in today’s video that you are also having a blog.
    Didn’t know 🙂 so I went here to read your article about clematis. Love those too and want to add a few too. Anyhow now I see you shared your 2020 plant order and awaaawh I can’t read your post. It seams there is a broken link.

    Would you be able to check on your end? I can read everything else.
    Thank you already

  7. Hi Erin. As I sit here perusing ideas for winter containers…while I rest my broken ankle!! I was VERY excited to see your window box…especially from the inside. I will be using a lit…lighted ???…circle in my trough and I wasn’t sure where to place it …but now I’m exactly sure. It will go right outside my kitchen window just as yours is. That looks awesome! I was wondering if I should place it far away in the garden…I always like to see something in the distance. But seeing yours from inside the kitchen has made up my mind. It all looks great!

  8. Hello Erin! I just found your site! Love it! I love how you used the lighter steel firepit round in your window box!
    So unique with a simple sophistication!
    Keep your ideas coming!

  9. Erin: your window boxes and globe are just beautiful and I’m going to imitate your design on my own iron globe in the center of my back yard. I learned from a friend in NYC that I could simply cut (lots of) branches from my boxwood trees and decorate my window boxes with them. It looks elegant but simple.

  10. Hi, Erin,
    Your containers are FABULOUS!! And I LOCE your garden gate. Where can I find a metal ring like the one in your window box? And how did you attach the lights to it?

  11. All the white container needs is a dark coat of paint … there’s nothing wrong with the shape and you got it on sale!!

  12. I’d like to know what the circle is ? Can’t be a a hools hoop as they are rounded . Am wondering what it is as needs to be fairly light . Thanks

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