Constructing The Winter Centerpieces

centerpieces for winter containers (4)Setting the centerpieces in winter and holiday pots has the same procedure, whether we have small or big pots to fill.  The centerpiece often involves fresh cut branches that have considerable weight. The vertical element in a winter pot needs to stay vertical all winter. This large bunch of red twig dogwood been secured with several zip ties, and some concrete wire.

centerpieces for winter containers (5)Buried in the twigs is a stout bamboo pole. When we are ready to install, we cut a hole in the foam that holds the greens, large enough for the twigs to pass through and rest on the soil.  The stake will be driven down as deep as possible into the soil. This pole anchors the twigs in the pot. Very large centerpieces will have short lengths of steel rebar inserted all around.  The steel posts will be wired together. Once the soil freezes, these arrangements will not move, or go over. If this seems like a lot of work, it is. A beautiful centerpiece gets some of its beauty from the strength and integrity of the installation.

centerpieces for winter containers (6)
Any other materials that get added to the twigs can be secured with another layer of zip ties.  For more height, we may wedge additional materials between the branches, or wire them to the branches. The method of choice is whatever method makes the arrangement strong and weather proof. Snow and ice on a winter arrangement can be gorgeous.  Snow and ice that brings an arrangement down is a nuisance.  Once the soil freezes, a centerpiece gone over can be difficult to fix.

centerpieces for winter containers (7)All of the evidence of the construction at the bottom of the centerpiece will be buried in the greens. Florist’s wire is a dark green that recedes from view. Preserved eucalyptus is a versatile material for winter centerpieces.  The color does not run or fade. It is flexible and pliant. Very heavy snow can be gently broomed off-the eucalyptus will spring back. The soft, loose and leafy texture is a great contrast to the twigs. It helps to cover the evidence of the construction. Though making a centerpiece like this is a considerable amount of work, it needs to look effortless.

centerpieces for winter containers (9)There are so many materials available for winter centerpieces that are weatherproof.  Winter berry will hold for a long time outdoors, provided it has been soaked in Vapor Gard, or some other antidessicant. It seals the moisture inside the berries. It also helps keep the berries attached to the stems. In these centerpieces, the faux berries are a believable symbol of the real thing. The centerpieces have been scaled to the size of the pots that will hold them.  The bamboo is just as thick as for a large centerpiece, but shorter.

centerpieces for winter containers (8)This client is interested in an expression of the holidays, in addition to their wintry look. The evergreen base to come will hide most of the stiff stalks of these glittered cone picks. A few more sprigs of eucalyptus will hide the rest. The holiday picks can be removed after New Year’s.

centerpieces for winter containers (10)We do as much of the construction as we can in the garage. Each of the white tallow berry picks in this centerpiece came to us packed flat in a box.  It is so much easier to fluff out a wired pick in the garage, than outdoors. Some of the work is very hard to do with anything other than bare hands. Once the basic form of the centerpiece is set, there is a lot of hand work to come. More than anything, unfriendly working conditions discourage expression.

centerpieces for winter containers (11)I was glad for the two days we had in the shop to ready all of the materials for this holiday/winter installation. It will be cold today. Right now, it is 23 degrees with freezing fog.  The high temperature will be 40. Having everything ready to install with a minimum of touch up work means we will not have to spend the entire day outdoors.

centerpieces for winter containers (13)We make small centerpieces for our garlands, as well as our pots. A variety of materials get zip tied together, and wired to a branch in the garland. If we use pine cones in a garland, we wire them on separately, and loosely.  Having a long wire lead means you can nestle that cone in the evergreens wherever it seems appropriate and natural.  Wiring them too close to the garland makes for a stiff look.

centerpieces for winter containers (14)Since a garland is primarily viewed from below, we don’t worry so much about hiding the evidence of the construction. This new LED lighting we have this year features black/green wires that is small.  The tiny bulbs are mounted on wire stalks that approximate evergreen needles.  It is so light weight and flexible it is simple to attach to the garland. And the light is warm. Based on what I have seen so far, this is holiday lighting that is simple to use, and very durable.  I did not need to worry about dropping the strand on our concrete floor.

centerpieces for winter containers (1)There are 4 of the LED bulbs  barely visible in this picture. The wires will be just about invisible once the garland is hung.

centerpieces for winter containers (12)We are as ready as we can be for today’s work.



  1. Everything is gorgeous, from your luscious photographs of beautiful greenery and accents to your energetic prose. Just beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing your work with your readers. I am uplifted and inspired!

  2. Paula in Boston says

    WOW…that’s all I can say…the amount of creativity and labor put into these GORGEOUS containers. Every year at this time I look forward to watching you create these masterpieces. You have a good following here in Boston. We talk about your blog and your work ALL THE TIME !!! You have set the bar very high !!Happy Thanksgiving to you and your crew. May the cold winds and snow stay away until the installs are over

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Paula, thank you for your kind letter! It does look like the weather will be pretty mild for the next few weeks-that helps so much.We are late getting started with this, as the landscape work went so long this year-so some mild weather will be appreciated. best, Deborah

  3. Beautiful…and gonna be pretty in the pots and gorgeous on the gables.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Thank you Greg. I have such a great crew when it comes to the installation. I am hoping all will go well! thanks, Deborah

  4. Mark Becker says

    Beautiful as always!
    When you are using picks, are they always waterproof or do you seal them with anything?

    Thank you for all the great posts throughout the season and the generosity you show by sharing them. I hope to visit Detroit Garden Works soon.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

  5. Thank you for sharing your working knowledge of decorating with plants. This information isn’t available anywhere else! Your pictures are beautiful.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Pam, I share my experience, as I enjoy doing that. I also hope it will be of some help to someone else. best, Deborah

  6. Gorgeous! Thank you for generously sharing your professional knowledge. Would you consider shipping your centerpieces?

  7. I am so inspired by the vision and color and fun you put into your winter pots project every year. My pals who follow your blog and I do our best to create facsimiles of the colors and patterns you put together. But we wonder, where on earth do you get all your inspiration?
    Sheer magic!
    Many thanks for your generous sharing.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Terry, the idea of magic in the landscape is a topic close to my heart. Mostly nature provides that. But I do try. When you write about how you see things-that is an inspiration to me. Thanks for that. all the best, Deborah

  8. Amazed at each of your gorgeous and informative posts! Thank you so much for sharing them with us! Love, love the centerpieces! The shear size of these centerpieces and pots certainly helps me to consider the scale of my projects. Our Saskatchewan winters are long and cold – time to upgrade the winter visual landscape!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Carol, I cannot imagine gardening in Saskatchewan-my sincerest respects to you! I would think the winter landscape would be very important to you-yes. all the best, Deborah

  9. I so enjoy receiving your emails. Have you sent out any pictures of the store’s outdoor decor?
    I love seeing them! Thank you.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Christine, I have not done the outside of the shop yet-we have been so busy! When I get to it, I will post pictures. best regards, Deborah

    Love all you tricks!
    How do you mean soak the winterberries? do you spray them or submerge them in a bucket of antideccecant?
    Preserved eucalyptus does not bleed? really??? I was afraid to use them outdoors as I thought the dies would run (mistake I made with autumn oak leaves in a window basket – yikes)

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Sophath, This is my experience with materials. I spray winter berries long enough to soak them with an antidessicant. I cannot speak for eucalyptus which comes from other places, but ours does not run or bleed. You can always test your material beforehand by soaking a sprig of it in water overnight. all the best, Deborah

  11. Pippa Honess says

    I do so admire all your wonderful containers. I’ve never seen anything like it here where we live in the south of England, I just wish your store was a bit nearer!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Pippa, sinamay is a simple material, but it can transform the look of any container arrangement. best, Deborah

  12. Your work is so inspiring, Deborah. Seeing some of those hardworking hands it’s clear it’s also labor-intensive.

    Can’t wait until morning to go outdoors to plan at least one winter pot from what’s in our landscape. Wish I were near DGW to add from among your materials. Loved the white pine cones – what can you tell us – are they natural?

    Hope you can find time to enjoy the season.

  13. Anita Gtaber says

    Hi Debra,
    Thanks so much for this post. It was so helpful-I wondered about those twigs staying upright all winter. I usually get to putting my holiday pots together before the ground freezes, this year I’ve been hired to do some pots last minute for some private clients. What can be done to secure an arrangement in a container after the ground is already frozen? I’m in Ohio, we just had our first hard freeze here.

    Also, I made the mistake of working with pine without my gloves. They somehow didn’t make the materials load. Do you have a way of getting the pine tar of your hands?

    Thanks so much for being so open with your techniques and expertise. It’s been so frustrating to assemble a great looking pot on site just to have a stiff wind take it down.I love your containers, you have such a flair for creating breath-taking oments. Thanks again for your help

    • Deborah Silver says

      Anita, If you look in the right sidebar of the blog, you can go to the November posts for the past 3 years-I talked in great detail about how to keep an arrangement upright in all kinds of winter weather.We use a bamboo stake in the middle of the centerpiece. That can be pounded down into the soil-even if it is frozen. all the best, Deborah

  14. Barbara rowe says

    Thanks so much for this! I made a couple of pretty good arrangements based on your guidance. I was thinking “this is so much work!” and then re-read your blog for directions and laughed when I saw you wrote “This is a lot of work.”.
    I bought battery powered lights to illuminate the arrangements in my outdoor containers but they are not nearly bright enough. What a disappointment! I wondered if you could recommend a source for reliable lighting. It’s not feasible to run an electrical cord.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Barbara, I find the battery op lights just do not have much fire power. I would be looking at how you can get a source of electricity where you need it. Or get some very long extension cords! best, Deborah

  15. Mary McGowan says

    You arrangements are gorgeous. My questions are, Do you send arrangements pre-made? Or do you offer the actual materials to make them OR can you tell me the best place to buy the materials. You have an incredible variety.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Mary, sometimes we have pre-made arrangements.All of the materials you see in the pictures came from Detroit Garden Works. If you are local to us, it is worth the trip. We also ship materials. call Jackie @ 248 335 8089. best, Deborah

  16. Love love you photos and explanations of how you make these BIG BIG arrangements. I would love to visit and watch. I don’t make anything on the small size so it’s fun to get new ideas.

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