Nearer To The Last

winter container arrangementsMy entire crew was in today, after a 4 day Christmas break.We had a few late request winter container projects to do. They dove into the work, like they always do. We were down to the very last bits of the hundreds of cases of greens we had delivered in November. The day they arrived, I could not imagine that we would use them all.  Today we took a Korean fir Christmas tree that Rob had placed in the shop, and chopped it up for branches, so we would have enough. This client would get some very special greens. These two centerpieces with pussy willow and blue gray eucalyptus were already installed in my pots at home. They came back to the shop, to be integrated into a new scheme. My driveway pots will need another treatment. I am not the least bit concerned about having to redo them. There are always other choices that work.

December 30, 2015 013This client has a contemporary version of Nantucket style home.  She has a considerable interest in contemporary expression.  For a client like this, we work with materials in a different way.  A more sculptural way. The twigs in the center are artificial, and look like they have ice on them.  If we ever get some winter weather, they will be believable.

December 30, 2015 015No matter the aesthetic point of view governing a winter container design and construction, generosity is an important element.  Our winters are incredibly long, gray, and spare.  All the trees in their leafless state is a study in spare.  This means I like lots of whatever elements I choose to include in a winter container.  I greatly admire the lean chilly look, but what I really like is a warm and toasty response to winter. We shopped the field at Branch for these branches-we bundled lots of them up with steel wire. 4 bunches of a yellow green eucalyptus complete the look. This client has a fairly contemporary mindset as well.

December 30, 2015 017Winter color is the subject of no end of articles about the winter landscape. That color does not need to be rooted in the ground.  Willow and dogwood twigs, in their cut state, will endow a landscape stuffed in to a pot with great color the entire winter. I do not have room to grow yellow twig dogwood or copper flame willow on my small property.  But their cut twigs can energize a landscape gone over to the dark side. The appearance of the color inside the garage under fluorescent lights is a little jarring. Outdoors, on a cloudy day, that color will tone down considerably.

IMG_7765How I decide to dress a client’s containers for the winter-I cannot really explain that process even to my own satisfaction. I favor a subtle expression on this porch, as the architecture is so strong. Some yellow undertones are good with the warm color of the cedar shakes, and the wood pots.

IMG_7766These wood boxes are greatly over scaled for this front door. This was not my choice, but I have come around to like them. I like how much they make me think, before I do. Were these pots placed in a more open location, I would do them much larger. The space on this porch is restricted. How to make the arrangements large enough without them looking overbearing or obstructive is always a challenge, no matter the season. On occasion my client protests that the winter pots cannot be seen from the road. I don’t mind how much they blend into their surroundings. To my eye, the star of this porch is that dark blue lacquered door.

IMG_7772A rear porch has a pair of very large white boxes just outside the doors. Some years I try to match all of that white. As they are viewed from the porch windows that are close by, dark colors read equally as well.

IMG_7771Proper proportion is a design element that drives all of my design.  These greens are very low and very wide. Appropriate for these massive and simple containers. The dark blue eucalyptus has a cube of white eucalyptus underneath it.  This adds visual mass to that dark blue, while helping to bring out the blue color.

IMG_7769I do want to speak to the beauty I see in mixed greens for winter containers. We have so many conifers that grace our zone. Conifers that grow in the Pacific northwest are represented in our mix as well. Many conifers that would suffer in our extreme winters thrive there. I suspect the long and fairly mild growing season out there means that conifers can bounce back and regrow quickly when they are pruned for cut branches. Our mountain hemlock comes from very high elevations, and are only available for a very short time in early November.  Once the snows come to the mountains, the trees are impossible to reach. Silver fir was in very short supply this fall, for the same reason. On any given winter day in Michigan, the evergreens greatly endow the landscape.

IMG_7782The driveway pots we plant up for all four seasons.  Spring, summer, fall and winter. No pot needs to go empty over the winter.

IMG_7784The color of the yellow twig is indeed more subdued when it is placed outdoors.  Even so, it is visually lively, in a landscape that has gone neutral in color.

Flame willow is aptly named.

IMG_7779The 10 containers we fill for winter here add a lot of look to the winter landscape.

IMG_7785We are wrapping things up.


  1. Laurie Cousart says

    Thanks so much for these posts about winter pots and the design and construction process! This has really gotten me thinking!


  2. Silvia Weber says

    Dear Deborah,
    You saved the best for last!
    …Even using Rob’s Korean Fir Christmas tree- LOL!
    Particularly like that none of your final designs have “red”. The yellow, orange, black, chartreuse, blue etc. will provide gorgeous interest until Spring arrives.
    Thanks to you, much of greater Detroit is beautifully dressed for Winter!
    Wishing you, Buck, Rob and the DGW crew a very healthy and happy New Year!
    With love and appreciation,
    Gerry and Silvia

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Silvia many thanks for your interest! We do the clients that want holiday elements in their pots as soon as we can in November. Happy New Year to both you and Gerry. best, Deborah

  3. Jeannine Eitel says

    Love the magic you and your staff create! These containers are so beautiful as all the others were. Your clients must be very happy when they look out their windows and see these amazing arrangements!

    • Deborah Silver says

      I think people especially appreciate and enjoy winter pots-it is a bleak time of year here for anyone who loves the garden. best, Deborah

  4. Mark Becker says

    Beautiful as always!
    I noticed in the 4th picture I didn’t see a stake in the center of the arrangement. How will you secure it?
    Happy New Year to all of you!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Mark, all of those centerpieces have big bamboo stakes in the middle. we pound them down into the soil in the pot when we install them. best, Deborah

  5. so glad someone directed me to you site! whether or not I get to make a pot or two; I get so excited when I see your posts in my inbox – may sound silly, but so true! thanks for sharing & Happy 2016 to you!!

  6. Dear Deborah,
    I’m always happy when I see your newest post and savor your words & photos. Sincere thanks for sharing thought-provoking prose, gardening wisdom, and relevant photos to gardeners like me who are eager to learn form the best! Kudos to you and your staff and Happy New Year to all of you!!

  7. Finding your blog in 2015 was a delight, Deborah. As always, thank you so much for your sharing of info and images. All the best to you and yours in 2016 and a special thanks to your incredible staff, they, too, have brought much beauty to 2015.

  8. Jo Ann Marsh says

    Thanks for all that you add to our lives, near and far, through your words, advice, examples, imagination, and products.
    Wishing you and Rob and all your staff the happiest and healthiest New Year.
    All the best,
    Jo Ann

  9. Like the other comments above- I too get excited every time you post something new. My question would be- how do you keep pots from freezing in the winter? I live in far northern Wisconsin and am afraid to leave my large pots uncovered.

    I have occasion to come to the Detroit area and was in your shop in December. What a treat for the eyes! Love it!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Theresa, not every kind of pot can stay out all winter-its true. As a side benefit, if the foam form is a tight fit, it keeps water out of the pot. Breakage is invariably a result of water that gets trapped, and expands when it freezes.Keep a frost proof pot well drained, and there will not be a problem. best, Deborah

  10. Every morning when I see a new post in the e-mailbox, it is the highlight of my day.
    There’s not much news in the world that sparks creativity, but your posts always do the job.
    The great photos and a cup of coffee are the start to a good day.
    Thank you for all that you share, encourage, and inspire.
    Happy New Year,

  11. I love the photos of your workroom. Since I visited your shop in the Fall, I can visualize in my head from where Rob and his crew are pulling their materials. The thing that impresses me most about your photos is that there is no diminution of creativity or materials even though you are nearing the end.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas. Best wishes for health and prosperity in the New Year!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Jane, I firmly believe in the idea of rhythm. Once you really get underway, all the rust from not having done it for a year starts to drop away. There is a way in which the projects that come last are the best. Happy New Year! Deborah

  12. There is something hopeful about the trio of pots with the yellow twigs along the driveway.
    Happy New Year to you, Deborah, and thank you for a year of thoughtful beauty.

  13. Sandra Barnes says

    I love your creative containers and so glad I found your site. I look forward to receiving your posts. Best wishes for 2016. Sandra, England.

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