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Landscape Planning In Winter: Using Containers

Many gardens and yards flourish all summer long only to look barren in winter. By then, it’s too late in many climate zones to plant trees and bushes for a winter landscape. But the dormant season is also the perfect time to plan your future winter landscape.

When the bare outlines of your yard are exposed, it’s easier to see where hardier trees, shrubs and plants could add dimension and color. Before you let your winterscaping vision fade into spring, seize the season by buying some young tough winter plants for outdoor containers—which, you can transplant into the ground in springtime. Watch as your winter container plants transition from being outdoor decorations to being the backbone of your yard’s landscape through all four seasons.

Winter Container Plants with Colors and Shapes for Every Season

Winter-hardy plants come in every size, shape and texture—in endless colors and subtle variegations.

Green foliage warms a landscape in any season, but shows especially well in winter when deciduous plants go dormant. Evergreen trees and shrubs are perennial fillers in every style of landscape. They form a lush backdrop in summer and become prominent focal points in winter, often popping with colorful flowers and berries. Evergreens—as well as the tougher evergreen conifers, grow in countless hues of green—from blue green to lime green and gold to silver.

No matter what region you live in, you could easily fill your winterscape from among the countless forms of evergreen plant species: A stately blue spruce tree grows to be a strong focal point and provides wind cover for a property. The low-growing wintergreen plant provides red and purple groundcover, with the added benefits of edible red berries and broadleaves, harvested traditionally as therapeutic tealeaves. Many types of evergreen English-ivies retain their colors year round. And old-fashioned boxwoods are one of many evergreen shrubs, which make a sturdy garden border.

For flowering plants, try holly or winter flowering pansies. Whichever types of winter plants you choose, native plants are natural choices for planning a winter landscape. Check local parks and nurseries for ideas and resources. Choose plants which will look as elegant in containers as they will when full grown in the design of your yard.

Keep Winter Plants at Home in the Right Climate Zone

To determine the climate zone which plants are most likely to survive in, refer to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, plant encyclopedias, or local nurseries list each plant’s designated zone—(the minimum temperature a plant can be expected to survive).

Since container plants aboveground are exposed to colder temperatures than plants under the ground, try to choose plants which are hardy, both in your local zone as well as another colder zone. The zone map is a good guideline, but plant survival varies with local conditions and microclimates.

Keep Your Container Plants Insulated from the Cold

Winter container plants need as much insulation as possible, since the roots do not have the benefit of being buried beneath the earth’s surface where temperatures are more constant. The bigger the container, the more soil there is to insulate roots from cold temperatures and fluctuations. More mature plants, with somewhat developed roots, will survive better in containers during winter.

Wood containers make good insulators. Impermeable materials like concrete, metal and plastic are also good shields from the elements. Keep all winter container plants off of the cold cement.

Hardy winter plants add dimensional beauty to your yard, whether they are in containers, transplanted in spring, or full grown in the ground through all the seasons. They balance and enhance the interesting patterns of bare branches and other interesting structures in your yard.

Make it easy by planting next year’s winterscape with this year’s decorative winter container plants.


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A Water-Wise Hamptons Summer

Drought. It’s an ominous word that arrives here in the Hamptons. Ever since the National Weather Service reported that Long Island had been suffering the driest winter and spring in 13 years, concerns about water usage and conservation have been part of every thought and conversation on topics from watering the lawn to making a cool glass of iced tea.

The Irrigation Association is educating irrigation professionals and the public with some sensible programs and promotions for water-efficient products and services. “Using these types of controllers has dramatically reduced unnecessary water consumption,” says Robert Boyle of RB Irrigation in Westhampton Beach.

The first of these, called WaterSense, is a voluntary public-private partnership program sponsored by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Its mission is to protect the future of our nation’s water supply by promoting and enhancing the market for more water-efficient products and services.

WaterSense recommends these simple methods of saving water:

For Lawns & Landscapes:

  • Water lawns and gardens during the coolest part of the day, such as early morning, when there’s less evaporation.
  • Set sprinklers to ensure they’re watering grass and plants, not getting on the street or sidewalk.
  • Use soaker hoses or trickle irrigation systems for trees and shrubs.

Use Your Appliances Wisely:

  • Wash only full loads.
  • Scrape off dishes before loading into the dishwasher, don’t rinse them.
  • Replace old washers with Energy Star qualified appliances that use less water.

Replace Leaky Toilets:

  • Use high-efficiency models that use less than 1.3 gallons per flush.

Conserve Drinking Water:

  • Keep cold water in the refrigerator – don’t run water out of tap until it is cold.
  • If you can, use left over water for other projects such as watering plants or cleaning.

Consult an irrigation professional who is certified through a WaterSense program. A certified professional can design, install and, most of all, maintain your system to ensure optimal efficiency.

At the present time there is a need in the irrigation industry for irrigation professionals to become certified in auditing in order to help conserve water. This gives your irrigation contractor the knowledge needed to inform you and to utilize the types of water-saving technology such as weather-based irrigation controllers and moisture sensors, available for your outdoor watering system.

Another example of this technology is the climate or soil moisture sensor-based ‘smart” controllers which evaluate weather and soil moisture conditions. These controllers then calculate and automatically adjust the irrigation schedule to meet the specific needs of your landscape.

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Use Glass Bottles to Build a Wall

Recycled, Wine Bottle, Shower Landscaping Network Calimesa, CA

Empty glass bottles make a unique and eco-friendly addition to a garden. They can be broken and embedded in stepping stones for a mosaic effect, or they can be used whole as garden edging. However, one of the most creative uses for recycled wine bottles is using them to build walls. Scott Cohen, of The Green Scene, an L.A. based landscape company, used 450 wine bottles to build a wall for an outdoor shower. This idea could also be used to create eclectic free-standing garden walls.

Watch the video about using glass bottles to build a wall for an outdoor shower.