Evergreen container gardens — beauty lasting year round | Lifestyle

Evergreen container gardens add winter interest to a front entrance, with a variety of textures, colors and shapes.

Now that the geraniums have died back, and maybe even the mums, pansies or perennials, it’s time to start thinking of a different kind of container garden. Have you ever considered doing a dwarf evergreen garden? Evergreen container gardens are a great way to add winter interest to your front entrance this season. We have some ideas on how to create beautiful porch pots that look great all season.

The same principles of design, and taste, that you’d use to design your summer pots apply to a small shrub garden in a pot. Think about “thrillers, fillers and spillers” (which, interestingly enough, are the way plants grow in nature, so you’re duplicating natural processes here).

Thrillers are your tall eye-catcher, your big, bold focal point. Fillers are mid-size, mounding or rounded plants that surround and enhance the thriller and fill the space in the planter, that will complement but not overwhelm the main player. Spillers are splashy plants that cascade and tumble over the sides of the container, adding a little spice, grace and movement to your design.

More design considerations: Will the container be seen from all sides, or will it be up against a wall? Consider scale, making sure they are roughly in proportion to each other. Make sure you have a good container — do not plant small plants in large containers or place small containers in a large area. Plants need to be the appropriate size for the pot, and pots should match your site.

Make sure your plants are roughly no higher than twice the height of the pot and less than twice the width of the pot. A pot that is too tall will lean dangerously to the side, or get blown over, and a pot that is too small may not have sufficient space for roots to grow, which will lead to problems like root rot.

Maintenance on a year-round pot with evergreens, or any perennial, doesn’t stop in fall. Plants in pots are more susceptible to temperature changes than if they were in the ground. Because of this, you should only try to overwinter container-grown evergreens that are hardy to winters considerably colder than this area, or USDA hardiness Zone 5, at least.

Good plant choice will go a long way towards guaranteeing their survival. Evergreen death can result not just from cold but from extreme temperature fluctuations. Because of this, it’s a good idea to keep your container where it won’t be warmed by the sun, only to be shocked by plunging night temperatures.

Also, keeping a container garden watered in winter is a delicate balance. If you live in an area that experiences a hard frost, keep watering until the root ball is completely frozen, although we don’t get many hard freezes here. You’ll have to water again during any warm spells and as soon as the ground begins to thaw in the spring, to keep your plants roots from drying out.

Equally important is the soil for your evergreen container plants. Suitable soil will not only provide appropriate nutrients and water needs, but will also keep the evergreen from blowing over in windy conditions.

What plants would be suitable for your container? Many familiar garden trees and shrubs have dwarf versions — important, since they will stay smaller.

For a pot in full sun, a variegated yucca would make a great thriller — either “Bright Edge” or “Color Guard” are easy-care and very hardy. A dwarf Alberta spruce is a classic choice, but make sure you water the foliage to reduce the chance of spider mites. An ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae will outgrow the pot eventually, but its deep green color and beautiful texture will be lovely for several years; then you can plant it in the garden. There are some smaller junipers (also known as red cedar) varieties that would be pretty with their blueish or gray foliage.

Combining different foliage colors is a subtle and beautiful way to add interest to your container. A dwarf mugo pine, a “Fire Chief” arborvitae or a globe cryptomeria would be beautiful fillers, and their forms would contrast with your thriller. For your spiller, any of the spreading junipers would fit. Some smaller grasses and cotoneasters cascade gracefully, too, and would make nice spillers.

These pots could be decorated with pretty branches, bows, LED lights or any decorations you like. They would look beautiful 12 months of the year on your porch. Try designing one today.