Use the bounty of nature - and your own back yard - to create picture-perfect window boxes that will last from harvest to the holidays and beyond.
Now that the frost has zapped all but the hardiest of flowers, it's high time to dress your window boxes and containers for the cold. Even if your budget is tight, you can put together a stunning display -- one that can transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas and on into winter -- if you re-use and recycle.
Scout your own back yard first and see what catches your eye, whether it's pine cones from your spruce tree or seedheads from your sedum. Prune your evergreens, trim some red-twig dogwood stems and snip a few rose hips off your shrub roses. You're not cheaping out. You're making use of what nature has to offer.
"Containers and window boxes should be a concentration of the season's best," said Scott Endres, co-owner of Tangletown Gardens in Minneapolis. "So check out your garden. Go for a walk in the woods. Then go to a garden center for a little inspiration."
We asked Endres to create an easy-to-copy window box of foraged finds and store-bought accents. By changing just a few items, he took one basic design and restyled it in three fresh ways. You can, too.
Inexpensive squashes, colorful gourds and pie-worthy pumpkins serve as focal points that give this autumn window box a taste of Thanksgiving.Materials
adds texture and a burst of cold-hardy color.
Could also use cabbage • pansies • mums
creates a focal point and lends a traditional harvest look with an eye-catching twist.
Could also use edible pumpkins • gourds
bring a spot of much-needed color to harvest and holiday displays.
Could also use bittersweet • viburnum branches • red-twig dogwood branches
For a more festive feel, Endres got rid of the harvest-hued vegetables, added a few Christmasy items and pumped up the red-and-green color scheme.Materials
make for a festive focal point (expecially oversized sugar cones).
Could also use scavenged pine cones (group several together for impact) • seed heads from your garden • groups of stems or branches
give this arrangement a distinctly holiday feel.
Could also use grapevine balls • dried pomegranates • dried oranges • vintage toys • wired ribbon • twinkle lights
provide a wintry backdrop.
Could also use home-harvested juniper • spruce • cedar • hemlock • yew
To transition this window box into the new year, Endres toned down the red and green and worked in several timeless accents.Materials
freshen up the arrangement and add upright form.
Could also use peacock feathers • colorful stems (dogwood, willow)
Could also use strips of birch bark • seed pods from catalpa trees or Kentucky coffee trees
Could also use dried flowers from the garden • plumes from ornamental grasses
Re-use the potting soil from your summer planters to anchor your arrangement. When the soil freezes, it'll hold things in place. (If you need to swap out items, just bring the box inside for a few hours to let the soil thaw.)
Start with home-harvested greens or store-bought ones that "give a lot of bang for the buck, like Norway pine," said Endres. Use pricier items (magnolia, eucalyptus, etc.) as accents.
Make kind cuts if you use greens from your yard. Cut branches at the trunk of the tree and avoid removing lots of branches from one area. Move around the tree and make judicious cuts.
Choose materials with contrasting colors, textures (narrow needles, wide leaves), forms (upright branches, trailing stems) and shapes. Add a few items that drape to soften the edge of the container.
Look for accents that can last: rose hips, bittersweet, even the showy plumes of ornamental grasses. Tuck in moss - or any other inexpensive green - to fill in the holes.
Fill the entire box. Don't concentrate all of the materials at the front of the container. Fill it all the way to the window. (Remember, you may be able to see the box from inside, too.)