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Minter: Greening up the porch for winter

Master gardener Brian Minter highlights a natural, renewable trend that adds greenery to your porch for the winter season.
It's time to add some green to your winter porch. Here's how, according to master gardener Brian Minter.

Winter porch pots have become quite a phenomenon over the past few years and are still gaining momentum right across the country.

From household front steps to hotels, restaurants, and even city spaces, folks are creating lush containers of winter greenery which add so much aesthetic value to our homes, businesses, and communities.

The nice thing about this trend is the fact that it is all renewable.

Usually harvested with a permit on crown lands, or on private properties, the outside branches of forest trees are trimmed and bundled for the floral industry to use in winter arrangements. The trees should not be damaged, just lightly pruned.

The most popular branches are white pine, western red cedar, noble fir, silver fir, and balsam. White spruce branch tips also look great and last well.

All these container greens are best used outdoors, preferably placed where the rain and snow can keep them hydrated. When the stems are firmly placed into wet soil they will last for weeks, often until the latter part of winter.

The secret is to create a look in matching the containers you may already have.

Usually front-facing, the greens are often used in combination to form a fragrant backdrop for your added embellishments and other natural materials. The red, yellow or coral/orange stems of shrub dogwoods really add a rich contrast, as do the pure white birch stems chosen by many designers.

The most vibrant addition is the rich, red-berried stems of ilex verticillata, a deciduous holly whose berries last well into winter even in the coldest, wettest weather.

If you’d like to keep everything natural, large pine or spruce cones create a good filler. They are especially attractive if you roll the cones in white latex paint for a frosted effect.

Many folks like to add a little bling with shiny stem balls, white sprayed or glittered branches, and Christmas novelties like snowmen, snowflakes, and even hurricane candles. Mini lights or other LED lighting will give you an attractive evening display as well.

In the spirit of repurposing and recycling, many are also reusing their summer moss baskets and hanging baskets to create stunning winter showpieces. Simply cut the old annuals off at the soil line and the roots will help hold your branches in place.

Layering all around the basket with cedar boughs and other pendulous branches like white pine will produce a soft draping of greenery. Adding stems of ilex berries will add a good deal of charm when creating your welcoming porch décor.

If you have a garden with winter berries, dogwood stems and assorted evergreens, it’s a great bonus to supplement your winter basket and make it that much more personal.

Now is a great time to be creative with natural, budget-friendly, winter décor to enjoy for weeks to come.