Every living thing breathes. Seals, beavers, dolphins, people, birds-and leaves. The act of taking a breath is an elemental description of life.  I know when I have a bad cold, my breathing is obstructed; challenged.  I am ready and able to take on any issue-but key to my energy is my ability to breathe in and out. Plants do the same thing-but in the winter, that rate of transpiration slows down.  A loss of moisture through the leaf cannot be replaced when the ground is frozen.  Plants go dormant in response to this-but the evergreens are still open for business.  Seeing that evergreens get adequate moisture is an important fall job, as I the time will come when moisture loss cannot be replaced. This Michigan winter seems to be settling in early. This thicket of boxwood pictured is enduring considerable cold.  This morning-14 degrees.    

My holiday and winter containers revolve around live materials.  In this instance, Cardinal redtwig dogwood, magnolia stems and leaves, cut noble fir, and Michigan holly-ilex verticillata.  This giant Bulbeck egg cup-lots of materials are asked for. I think we did a great job of answering.  My winter design for this beautful lead egg cup-generous.  But pretty and generous aside, there is a job to be done. Hopefully this composition will stay fresh looking for the winter months to come. 

Michigan holly berries usually fade and rot when the temperatures go below freezing.  Unlesss you have a mind to intervene.  Newly planted evergreens and boxwood-I spray them with an anti-dessiccant late in the season.  Wiltpruf has for years been the anti-dessicant of choice.  This waxy substance slows the loss of moisture from evergreen leaves and needles.  This can help prevent winter burn.     

For the first year, this year, I researched a new anti-dessicant called Vaporguard.  I was impressed that newly transplanted cabbages treated with vaporgard showed no sign of wilt.  I wondered if it might help cut greens and berries to better retain moisture.  This cut Michigan holly, treated with vaporguard, seems to be holding just fine. The magnolia leaves will eventually loose all of their moisture, but they dry beautifully, and hold tight to the stem. 

These boxwood are located in a fairly protected location.  The house does a good job of shielding them from winter winds. Though their growth began slowing down in August, how well they winter can be helped by an application of antidessicant.  Even when it is very cold, sun and wind can accelerate the evaporation of moisture from leaves. 

These boxwoods have been sprayed with antidessicant for the winter.  My idea is to protect them however I can. Though these plants have been in the ground four years now, I am never sure what the winter might have in store.  Since they are a major feature in this landscape, I am hoping to avoid widespread trouble in the spring.  

This is the first year I have ever included bunches of Michigan holly in my winter and holiday containers.  The berries seem fine and fresh, and show no signs of dropping from the cold.


  1. I LOVE the texture in this composition!
    The mag leaves with the red stick looks great!

  2. as soon as i saw the picture i wondered what the berries were. Always a debate at work, all fresh evergreens and artificially berries just doesn’t cut it~ yet what berries are bright enough and hold color well enough? Tried using some crabapple twigs this year but wasn’t too thrilled (all berries were at the bottom and got covered with evergreens, not to mention wrinkled and wilted).
    All that to say~ job well done let us all know how they look at the time of removal!

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