The Garden In December

December-garden.jpgEvery gardener’s circumstances are different, but our December is notable for the coming of the cold.  No matter what year it is, my plan for the holiday and winter garden at the shop has to include an element that is warm.  The lighting is warm.  Sparkly or reflective materials can be warm.  The sentiment of the season can be warm.  Rob says the shop garden this year is cozy.  As in yard after yard of thick fir garland.  Concolor fir, noble, silver, Douglas, balsam-fir is a very sturdy and long lasting green outdoors.  The garland was loosely wrapped with grapevine garland.  The contrast of the bare vines and the lush garland   The window boxes have fir blankets.  The windows have fir hats.  It was 14 degrees this morning when I took this picture, but the garden looks warm.


The window boxes are stuffed with mixed greens.  As the mixed greens are long and lax, we do a few rows of noble fir at the bottom of the greens to support the entire arrangement. Noble fir is very stiff and strong.  Winter weather can be fierce.  Snow, wind, ice and various mayhem from the sky can take a toll on a container garden one would want to last until March.  Making an arrangement sturdy and strong is more than half of the work of it.

warm-winter.jpgThe centerpieces are composed of red bud pussy willow, ochre eucalyptus, a few springs of metallic gold eucalyptus, and a ruff of gold sinamay. For good measure, a dollop of sugar pine cones completes the look.  Given that the building is large, and the garden is mostly viewed from the street, or from a car, the materials are over scaled. A smaller pine cone would not have much impact given the scale of the building.

holiday-container-arrangement.jpgOver the summer, these Belgian blue stone plinths supported Italian terra cotta pots with boxwood spheres.  Winter arrangements in my zone ask for pots that are frost proof. Though boxwood is generally hardy in pots, I would be uneasy about an extended period of low temperatures.  We have had an uncharacteristically cold late fall-12 degrees overnight is much more like late January than early December.  This garden would have a very bleak look, but for its winter dress.

holiday-container.jpgWinter gardens are for viewing from a distance.  It is unlikely anyone will be lingering here for long.  Big, warm, and simple gestures go a long way towards banishing the winter blues.  A design which gives the illusion of warmth is appreciated when the weather is so dreary.  Decorating the garden has its benefits.  It feels good to have something to do that at least approximates gardening. And it is nice to have something good to look at while the garden is dormant.  This garden is just about ready for the snow.

warm-winter-decor.jpgThe fir hats over the windows are composed of garlands that are attached to bamboo poles.  Garden has a natural tendency to fall, swoop and swag.  If you want a straight and orderly appearance, a bamboo pole will keep all of the clippings in line.  The poles are then wired to the pediment.  I like this construction technique for mantels too.

wrapped-tree-trunks.jpgMy favorite part of this winter garden are the garlands and grapevines on the tree trunks.  Deciduous trees have a very spare and sculptural look during the winter.  These over sized scarves that puddle on the ground make the trees look protected and warm.

Detroit-Garden-Works.jpgThere are those places yet to finish.  These urns need something.  The pots need some lighting.  A favorite part of this winter project is the ability to work on it as time and inspiration permits.  Last January I had the basic idea for the garden.  I ordered boxes of grapevine garland, for the building, and the trees, and for Rob’s steel hanging spheres.  Taking the time to let a garden space speak back is my idea of luxury, and part of the great pleasure of the doing.  I may still be tinkering with this 2 weeks from now.  There’s no rush.  Winter will be with us for a long time.

Warm and cozy sounds good.


  1. just beautiful!

    • Hi Deborah,
      You are an inspiration! I am starting my pots and window boxes tomorrow. I just wish I had started them a month ago when the weather was more condusive to my attempts at creating pots and window boxes like yours. Wish me luck.

      Winterpeg, Manitoba

      • Deborah Silver says

        Dear Cheryl, I hope you have some foam and a garage to work in! We still have a week or 10 days left to go on our work, so we’ll be out there too today. Deborah

  2. Excellent.

  3. Jo Ann Marsh says

    Love following your blog with your comments and photos.
    May you have the best of holidays and all good wishes for the New Year!

  4. Howard Blume says

    tinker away, we all will look forward

  5. Cara Kazanowski says

    loved all the ideas, especially wrapping tree trunks with garlands!

  6. Wow!! I love it all! Can you tell me where you purchased the strands of lighting from? They are so interesting and different.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Lambrina, we make our own light garlands from different sizes and types of white and clear lights. Deborah

  7. You are, quite simply, brilliant!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Elizabeth, you are, quite simply, over the top encouraging and kind. I have been blushing all day about your comment. The natural world is brilliant. I was blessed with the idea to be observant, and work hard. I have an imagination that hums along. I do not post my failures and disasters. Besides being embarrassing, I would not want the prospect of failure to discourage any gardener. I want to write about those ideas that work. Those experiences of the garden that mean something for the better. I keep trying, and I thank you for your comment. Made my day! Deborah

  8. LOVE your work! You are truly an inspiration. Hope to visit your shop someday….

    • Deborah Silver says

      Anne, my Mom was a teacher. I think I inherited some form of that gene from her. I hope you are able to get to the shop someday-I think it is worth the visit. Thanks, Deborah

  9. I am new to your posts. I am loving your ideas, but especially like how you discuss the garden almost as a person. I talk to my garden all of the time.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Claudia, I am glad you are reading. A garden is a living thing-first and foremost. I get reminded of that all the time. Deborah

  10. Hi Deborah,
    Inspiring and gorgeous! Thank-you for sharing. Can’t wait to see what Inspires you over the next few weeks with your 2 containers.

  11. Nella Davis-Ray says

    Just finished outdoor pot #4 as the snow started falling and the sun went down. Now that I know your use of foam I’m trying to master the look. Thanks again for sharing your secret weapon. They look a 100 times better than past years. Picture worthy but still not quite as full as your pots. I keep underestimating the amount of greens needed to create the look. My area Christmas tree lots are happy to let me take what I want from their trimming pile for free. I thought my last gathering would be enough to finish two matching pots. I was wrong again. Back to the lot tomorrow.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Well done Nella! Sounds like you are well on your way. Most Christmas tree lots are happy to let anyone take from their trimming pile. Load up-the winter pots take lots of materials. If you are on to the issue of planning for enough material, you are well on your way to creating gorgeous winter pots. Good to hear from you. Thanks, Deborah

  12. Shelby staples says

    Also new reader – overjoyed and over wowed to have found this site. Reading a lot last night, and with a Beautifully lit lone tree in the snow on a terrace, you spoke of someone sending you chartreuse little lights. Do you know where any such can be purchased? Thanks so much!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Shelby, I buy chartreuse holiday lights from English Gardens. I buy the contractors grade. There are 105 lights on one string. If you are in my area, you know English Gardens,. If you are not, they have stores in West Bloomfield Michigan, and Royal Oak Michigan. :Let me know iof you need more help. Thanks for reading, Deborah

  13. Diane Birkemo says

    I am a new reader to your site and love it. I love the swirling grapevine. Could you tell me where you get this from? Thank you

  14. Diane Birkemo says

    I have been reading your past posts. You have amazing creativity. I think it was the June 2013 post and saw pictures of huge rosemary topiaries. Where do you find these? I am NC and have not seen anything like this in the southeast.

  15. Just wonderful. I love your attitude of enjoying the work and taking your time. I have an idea that if it is not done for the first of advent, time is up, but as you say, winter is long! Even though I am in the south of sweden it is still, well. sweden. Love what you did with the lights, mixing sizes. That I will steal =)

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Louise, when the work is for the shop, I can take my time. The light garlands are just different sizes of light strings zip tied together. The more strings there are, the more gracefully it will drape. Deborah

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