Why not create a seasonal doorstep container?
A seasonal doorstep container can create that wow factor. And you’d be surprised just how easy it is to do!
They say that first impressions are everything! And at this time of year when we have friends and family coming to our doors, we want to look our best!
I’m not talking about a prancing reindeer, Santa or even a pink flamingo in lights! But I’m all for that if it raises money for a good cause.
I’m talking about using seasonal plants, which are not packed away in the loft in January, but can be planted into your garden to grow to maturity and continue to provide a spectacle every day of the year!
Each Christmas outside our front door we fill a large pot with a mix of evergreen plants. To that we add coloured twigs and other seasonal hardy plants. Then the whole thing is topped off with one of those inexpensive battery powered pin-prick white light sets.
It’s easy and quick to do and I’ll let you into a little secret- we don’t even remove the plant pots!
So we just ‘plunge’ them in a large pot filled with bark or potting compost and cover those pots too.
Which Plants to Use
There’s no shortage of suitable plants and I find that it pays to look for plants with small pots if at all possible. Once you start packing your plants into the container you will see why I say this. The best effect is achieved with contrasting plants but they also need to complement one another too!
In my photo my wife Felicity – who has a far better eye for colour than I do – has chosen six plants.
Firstly she’s chosen a couple of coloured stem dogwoods [‘Sibirica‘ and ‘Midwinter Fire‘].
She’s also used an evergreen called Skimmia and the variety is ‘Rubella’. This male variety of Skimmia has showy red flower buds right now. It will look great all through winter but in spring those buds open to reveal strongly scented white flowers. If you want red berries then you’ll need to use a female Skimmia.
Bay laurel is also a good seasonal evergreen plant to use in this mixed seasonal planting. Rather than using the regular dark green variety Felicity has gone for the bright gold leaf version. This less common bay laurel is just as useful in the kitchen as the green one. It’s a real eye-catcher in the garden in winter and one of the very best large golden evergreen shrubs there is. It’s called Laurus nobilis ‘Aurea’
Colour low down
To add colour low down, Felicity has chosen two very reliable small plants.
Both look their best at this time of the year and I think that you will agree that the Checkerberry – Gaultheria procumbens – with its large red berries is the perfect colour for Christmas. This little ground hugger is very hardy and, given soil that is acid, will slowly spread to form a carpet in the garden. Best perhaps planted under other lime hating plants such as Rhododendrons and Azaleas.
The tiny hardy and winter flowering cyclamen that she is using in this seasonal temporary doorstep container is Cyclamen coum. This species cyclamen waits until winter to start flowering. And yet it will carry on blooming right through until late February!
Add that extra touch!
I suggest that you might want to add one of those battery driven tiny pin-prick light sets to this doorstep seasonal container. The tiny lights look great during dark winter days and of course really work at well night.
Maybe you’d like to keep things natural looking?
You can buy stems of a deciduous holly from florists in winter. These are covered in bright red berries and look fantastic. They’re often sold as “Ilex Berry Stems” but are in fact Ilex verticullata.
How about spray painting some dry twigs ghostly white or gold? When dry, they can then be pushed in between the shrubs and I think you will be surprised at just how this ‘lifts’ the whole display!
Alternative hardy plants to use in a doorstep seasonal container include –
Coloured-stem willows instead of dogwoods.
Try box bush or Christmas box [Sarcococca] instead of the Skimmia.
You could alternatively plunge one or two small variegated leaf Euonymus such as ‘Emerald ‘n Gold’ or ‘Emerald Gaiety’
Perhaps a pot or two of winter aconite, dwarf iris or snowdrops could replace the cyclamen? They’d be later flowering but they’ll be something to look forward to in January and February.
And maybe instead of the golden bay laurel you could use a nice variegated holly?
You’ve got a really big container? Well plunge them all in but come spring you will need to get them out of their pots and planted into your garden! This way you get pleasure from those plants now and pleasure when they grow bigger planted out in your garden too.
I’ve recently written a blog on colourful stem Cornus [dogwoods] and so you may care to read that here.
Perhaps you fancy having a go at propagating some of those coloured stem dogwoods and willows that I’ve recommended? Find out how to do it here.
Have you ever tried planting a seasonal winter pot like this yourself?
What combinations did you find worked well for you?