Deck the Yard With Creative Winter Designs | Midwest Living

Deck the Yard With Creative Winter Designs

Add seasonal finery to your yard with these natural materials.

Victorian froth - or simple contemporary

A garden designer's work doesn't stop once snow falls. The season simply requires a different approach, says Scott Endres, co-owner of Tangletown Gardens in Minneapolis, known for its innovative designs.

He likes to decorate his yard with natural materials, such as red- or yellowtwig dogwood and evergreens, usually in the same containers he used for summer plants. (Tip: Don't use clay pots. The leftover soil or snow inside will crack the pots in a freeze-thaw cycle unless you turn the pots upside down.)

Scott also adds strings of lights, plus luminarias and torches for night interest. Contemporary homes require simpler designs, but Victorians (like Scott's house, left), can showcase more abundance. See how Scott's designs can add seasonal finery to your yard.

Cone power

A container doesn't need a lot of different materials to have big impact. This grouping gets its punch from sugar pinecones—10 to 20 inches long. In the largest pot, thick stems of red-stained curly willow add height. Use several greens: boxwood, cedar and white pine.

Start by placing floral foam inside the pot to secure materials. Wire the cones together, and tuck them into the foam. Instead of the boughs, you could use an evergreen wreath to form a collar around the edge of the pot.

Warm, earthy colors

Earthy colors brighten these urns and what's inside them. This arrangement uses common materials, such as yellowtwig dogwood, red winterberries and the greens of Norway pines, incense cedars and boxwoods, plus unexpected touches: Southern magnolia leaves and kuwa pods (available at crafts supply stores). "Southern magnolia is widely used nowadays, dries nicely and offers a warm, coppery brown color," says Scott (carrying package).

Scott also recommends using groupings for impact. If one container is good, two or more are better. Urns flanking a door or sidewalk entry add a formal note. On the lawn, patio or porch, group containers with similar shapes or colors in different sizes for a bigger impression. Keep materials similar, but don't worry about matching exactly. Add white lights to give long winter nights some sparkle.

The layered look

Glass vases, available in a variety of heights at crafts supply stores, are the perfect vehicles to showcase layers of items. Vary the materials and colors according to your own decorating scheme. (Silver and gold ornaments? Red berries?) Put a coarse texture next to a smooth one, and try using contrasting colors, such as green next to red.

This square glass vase has layers of black river stones, evergreens, moss and pinecones. A sprig of winterberries tops it off. Other ideas for layers: rocks, colored glass ovals (found at crafts supply stores), magnolia leaves and dogwood sticks.

Lovely luminarias

The layered look also works for luminarias. Be sure the materials you choose cannot catch fire if candle wax or flames touch them (or use battery-powered candles for an extra measure of safety). To make these luminarias in glass vases, place fat white candles on top of half of the river rocks you wish to use. Continue placing black rocks inside to anchor the candle. Magnolia leaves and a sprinkling of red winterberries complete the look. Don't use holly; in cold weather, it turns black.

For impact, make many luminarias to circle your home or line your porch or entryway stairs.

Tucked-in touches

Start with a black spruce top or a little "Charlie Brown tree." It's fine to use dried materials in outside decorations if you shelter them on a covered porch (see next slide to learn how to make natural ornaments). Curled willow and strings of twinkle lights dress up the tree, as well as its metal container and fancy ribbon.

Even bare trees, however, are beautiful when placed in pretty containers and repeated many times around your property.

Ornaments from nature

Scott says he often decorates an outdoor tree with natural ingredients. Here, he says: "I used dehydrated orange slices made into ornaments with the help of altered Italian paperclips, as well as pepperberry clusters and dried pitcher flowers (Sarracenia leucophylla). All of these items can be purchased at a quality garden center or florist."

A frozen splash of color

"This is a really fun and unexpected way to decorate a birdbath for winter," Scott says. Based on a French floral design technique called pavé, the one-dimensional arrangement is composed of natural ingredients squeezed close together, then frozen in place with water. In this example, Scott used kumquats, polished stones, cranberries and pepper berries.

Memory chips

"Every year, I give my Christmas tree a fresh cut before putting it in the stand," Scott says. "Over the years, I have collected these cross sections and labeled the year and the species of tree used. I find them a nostalgic and easy way to reflect back to holidays past and on memories shared. I will often display them in a bowl on the house or as ornaments for the tree." An eye hook transforms them into something you can hang.

Think outside the box

Scott says he often tries to think outside the expected list of ingredients when putting together a winter arrangement. In this case, he has a little of both— traditional fresh winterberry and boxwood with Southern magnolia and spiral-shape African knobs.

Upside-down does it

The base of this arrangement is a ceramic pot turned upside-down, which protects the container for winter and serves as a pedestal for the arrangement, which Scott constructed on a piece of foam attached to plywood. Scott created a "cage" of willow, which is really flexible when fresh and produces an interesting effect with the nest of cones and berries. Norway pine softens the arrangement.

Resources: Tangletown Gardens, 5353 Nicollet Avenue South, Minneapolis (612/822-4769).

Tangletown Gardens

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