There is nothing that provides a better shot of B-12 to a winter landscape than some red. And no material provides that color better in our zone than red twig dogwood. Some of the newer hybrids, such as “Cardinal” have an even lighter and brighter red than the dark red of the species. I love that red! If you are like me, you do not have room to plant and maintain a hedgerow of red twig dogwood. There are other options for red in the winter. The cut branches can endow a winter garden with a little electricity. It was our good fortune this year that Rob was able to secure 50 bunches of red twig branches that were 2 years old. This means they have great size, and are well branched. Pictured above are 2 of 6 centerpieces destined for some very large lead pots. We had just the pots for these large scale branches.

This client is interested that their pots represent the holiday as well as the winter. The red twig does well in either scenario. It can be dressed up with holiday style picks, or made more wintry with the addition of berries. In any event, the red twig will look just about as good in March as it does now. On more than one occasion we have found that the cut stems have rooted into the soil over the course of the winter. Amazing, that.

Like all of our centerpieces, the true center is a stout bamboo pole which will be driven down into the soil as ballast. Nothing worries me more than a winter centerpiece that gets blown over by our winter weather. I like winter pots that can stay the course until March. We make sure that the winter pots are as beautifully constructed, as they are beautiful.

It is a process – creating a centerpiece for a winter or holiday container arrangement. That second year dogwood had other materials added to it. It took plenty of time to get them road ready. If you have a pair of pots that need to be dressed up for the winter, it can be hard to tell how much material you need. More than any other season, filling the winter pots asks for a liberal hand. A skimpy display looks cold. An overflowing look is warm and inviting. No winter container arrangement grows. The look on the day you install is the the look you have all winter long. My advice? Take your own advice.  Start small, and see if an austere look is to your liking.  If not, add more.

This winter pot has a very tall centerpiece. Visible in the above picture is a length of steel rebar pounded through the foam and into the soil below.  Four of them will be wired together with concrete wire.  The steel provides more stability to a centerpiece that is tall and heavy. Another option to provide volume to a centerpiece is to hand stick each of a number of branches into a foam form or the soil, one at a time. If I were constructing pots on my own, this would be my technique of choice. Lifting and securing a big centerpiece is a job that takes a lot of strength. The eucalyptus in this arrangement is added last. It has an important job visually. It softens, integrates, and relates the vertical elements to the horizontal ones. Sticking each eucalyptus stem into the foam is too flimsy to handle a snow load.  So we zip tie, in two places, 4 or 5 stems to a small bamboo stake. Lots of them. The stake gets pushed through the foam and into the soil.

Arranging the materials is a matter of personal choice. Grouping like materials together into a defined shape or layer is a more formal look.  This densely layered arrangement will also keep its shape in spite of wind, snow and ice. We’ve been known to broom off a container arrangement after an exceptionally heavy snow. The width and density of the branches in the above container helps to break the snowfall. The red twig branches are admirably suited for this job. They will retain their flexibility throughout the winter. The faux red berries will slowly fade over the course of 4 or 5 months, but the red twigs will retain their gorgeous color for the duration.

Curly copper willow applied over red twig takes on a red cast. The colors do not mix to make orange. They interact.

The finished container features a number of shades of red. The base layer of noble fir features a ring of German boxwood at the center.

The foreground pot features dried red Asian willow, faux red berries and green preserved eucalyptus.

I have previously written that our supplier of eucalyptus closed his business.  We bought all of the red that he had left in stock, so Detroit Garden Works does have some available.

ready for snow

The last bale of the 2 year old red twig branches went in this pot, which measures 43″ square at the top. The mass of dogwood looks remarkably graceful, given that it has a very trim waist line. Ha. That was an engineering feat which makes for a satisfying overall shape. We did put a long string of pearl lights in the center, so that red twig will glow red at night. Dressing pots for the season is a way to keep gardening for a little while longer.


  1. beautiful theme, did you see the Red Christmas trees this year in the Whitehouse yet? I just love these huge planters!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Love the White House trees! Red flocked trees were all the rage in Paris last season. best, Deborah

      • mollie duvall says

        I love the red Whitehouse trees. A few years ago, I attended the Holiday Walk at Meadowbrook Hall. The most memorable tree there was all red….a stunner!

  2. Thank you so much for the inspiration AND explanation of some of the support structure.
    Lovely , as always.

  3. Jaw dropping beautiful and so well constructed!

  4. Laurie Whelan says

    Thought of you last night after buying my first bunch of red twig dogwood and a beautiful spray of fir branches. I’ve holly trees in my yard and bought two bunches of red berries. My “thriller, filler & spiller won’t be as glamorous yours but I’m going to give it my all! Thank you Deborah. Happy Holidays to you, Rob & all our furry friends.

  5. Angela Hastings says

    You are amazing! Thank you for sharing.

  6. Charisse Andrews says

    Debra, what are those white round flowers in the first arrangement? I am smitten! The arrangements are absolutely gorgeous. I really enjoy your sharing how you put these together. Makes one appreciate the effort as well as the results. Happy Holiday to you.

  7. Karen L Harding says

    Thank you for the last line. I do numerous winter pots and you made me realize why-it allows me to still be outside and creating. I look forward to your winter pots as inspiration.

  8. So beautiful and informational! I’m a new follower on Pinterest. So glad I signed up to be able to read your blog.

  9. Darcanne Nixon says

    I look forward to every post and admire your work. I have used some preserved eucalyptus and it has such a potent scent. I tried to ‘air it out’ with some success, but in a covered doorway it’s so unpleasant. Any known remedy? Thank you!

  10. Michaele Anderson says

    Maybe it’s the exuberant inclusion of so much of red, maybe it’s the surrounding abundance of the additional materials but these arrangements today blew me away. I love, love love them! And, yes, to the rooting phenomenon of red twig dogwoods if cut stems are stuck in soil over the winter. I started out with 3 ‘Strawberry Daiquiri’ red twig dogwoods and, inspired by your blog, I used cut stems to jazz up some winter containers. I now have 11 of these dogwoods because I “harvested” the rooted stems the following spring. I was giddy with such an unintentional bonus.

  11. Nothing says Christmas more than red. Love your red holiday container plantings. Stunning and very regal.

  12. Those pots are beautiful! Regarding the actual pot, what type of material should the pot be that would withstand the winter elements in Zone 5 (Illinois) without cracking? I would love to do a winter pot but don’t know what to use.

    Just found you on Pinterest and read your article on hydrangeas. I wanted the Annabelle but now you have convinced me to go with the limelights.

  13. Frieda Hickman says

    Love the red twig dogwood and all the information you share. Just wish I lived closer in order to get some.

  14. Catherine Wachs says

    Do you push the fir cuttings into the soil or foam to form the bottom layer? Or is that a pre made wreath?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Catherine, we stick all of the evergreen branches into dry floral foam. You can get the whole story by typing Constructing The Winter Pots into the search line. best, Deborah

    • mollie duvall says

      Catherine, I know that they use foam in the containers to anchor the branches. I do that, as well, and it is pretty easy. I have also used a wreath to make the base.

  15. lesia domnik says

    Simply spectacular….looking forward to creating my winter planters!! Thank you for sharing your phenomenal talent !

  16. Stunning beauty! As always LOVE your designs! Thanks for sharing Deborah. Merry Christmas from Trish in Delaware!

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