Bundles of spruce tips — that winter perennial — are now plentiful at garden centers and supermarkets. Many of us plunge the evergreen branches into planters, then stick in a few red dogwood twigs, nest a couple of pine cones, and call it a day.

This year, try dressing up your pot like it’s the centerpiece at a holiday party. To give you ideas, we enlisted two designers to craft creative containers mixing eye-pleasing textures, colors and shapes — to decorate your front door or patio for the holidays and through the winter months.

“It feels good to see a beautiful pot welcoming you home in the winter,” said Paula Thrall, Gertens designer. You can copy these creations or borrow ideas to design your own. For the how-to recipes, go to H8.


Designer: Paula Thrall, Gertens, 5500 Blaine Av., Inver Grove Heights, gertens.com.

Design tips: Red, brown and green hues are repeated throughout the arrangement.

Recipe for success:

• Half a whiskey barrel filled with soil.

• Bundle of 10 spruce tips; place the tallest in the center. Leave space for a small metal truck in front.

• Vibrant Cardinal dogwood branches.

• Vintage-look red metal pickup truck. Use a size that best fits your pot. Place a metal lighted tree in the truck bed. “If it’s exposed to the elements, spray it with an acrylic seal coat or just let it get rusty,” said Thrall.

• Three different varieties of textured evergreens — she used shore pine, blueberry juniper and oregonia — tucked around the edge.

• Frosted medium pine-cone picks.

• Dried red-tinted grevillea .

• Dried and dyed milo berries .

• “Believe” tin letters on twine tied around the barrel.

• Black and red buffalo plaid ribbon, a popular print this year.

• If you wish to illuminate your creation, add an LED-lit red cranberry branch.


Designer: Paula Thrall, Gertens.

Design tips: Earth-tone color scheme is repeated in the birch, lotus seed pods and magnolia leaves.

Recipe for success:

• Concrete planter filled with soil.

• Bundle of 10 spruce tips; place the tallest in the center.

• Birch poles.

• Curly willow tips.

• Layer princess pine, eucalyptus, Carolina sapphire cypress and incense cedar.

• Eucalyptus “bell” seed pods.

• Frosted lotus seed pods.

• Magnolia foliage.

• Artificial white/brown poinsettia picks.

• Drape silver snowflake ornaments around the birch poles.



Designer: Kris Schreder, Otten Bros. Garden Center, 2350 W. Wayzata Blvd., Long Lake, ottenbros.com.

Design tips: Use three different-height materials (thriller, filler and spiller), three different textures and three different colors as a rule of thumb. Break the pot down in sections, design one section and then repeat it.

Recipe for success:

• Bundle of 10 spruce tips. Arrange to resemble a mini-Christmas tree.

• Plastic container that can be placed in another decorative container. Schreder fills it with sand, which is less expensive than soil, and holds stems in place until they freeze.

• Layer greens along the base — Norway pine, incense cedar and oregonia.

• Red faux rose-hip picks.

• Red birch branches.

• Frosted sugar cones.

• White and black buffalo plaid wired ribbon.

• Shiny red cardinal picks.

• Sparkly white snowflakes.


Designer: Kris Schreder, Otten Bros.Garden Center.

Design tips: Forage materials from your yard, such as white pine and hydrangeas for this muted pink and mauve arrangement.

Recipe for success:

• Bundle of 10 spruce tips. Arrange to resemble a mini-Christmas tree.

• Layer Western red cedar, white pine, burgundy dried sedum.

• Dried hydrangeas.

• Dyed mauve seeded eucalyptus.

• Green seeded eucalyptus with blue-green foliage.

• Brown curly willow branches.



A well-designed winter planter can brighten a dreary landscape until the snow melts.

• Choose a weather-resistant container, such as a whiskey barrel, cast iron, heavy plastic, resin, metal or concrete with drain holes.

• Use a pruner to cut the ends of the fresh greens at an angle before placing in the pot.

• Use the excess spruce-tip cuttings to tuck in the arrangement at the end.

• Select greens and accents with different heights, colors, textures and forms.

• Add materials slowly, making sure the arrangement is balanced.

• Spray Wilt Stop to help greens last longer over the winter.

• After the arrangement is done, water the pot so the pieces freeze in place.

• “Don’t skimp,” said Paula Thrall, Gertens designer. “You want your pot to look bountiful and overflowing.”