Winter is a quiet time in the garden. The flowerbeds have been cleaned and tidied up. The last of the carrots and Brussels sprouts have been harvested and the leaves raked. The lawn has gone dormant, even the birds are quieter. Spring seems a long time in coming. While you're waiting put together some interesting winter garden containers.
If the temperature stays below freezing plants won't survive in containers, but that doesn't mean you can't use the containers. Place a layer of stones, glass marbles or sea glass on the top of the soil. Fill half gallon juice or milk container with water. Place on top of the stones. Remove the carton leaving the frozen cube. Set a drinking glass full of hot water on top of the cube. The glass will melt an indentation into the cube. When the indentation is about 3 inches deep, remove the glass and replace it with a candle. The heat of the candle will continue to melt the ice. As the candle sinks it will be inside the cube. Battery-operated lights may be used in the frozen cubes if you don't want to use candles.
Force Spring Bulbs
Use the containers for bulbs in the spring. In autumn remove the potting soil from the top 6 inches of the pots. Plant daffodil, tulip and hyacinth bulbs in the soil. The pointed end should be up and the flattened root end down. Cover with 3 inches of soil. Plant grape hyacinths and crocuses in the same pot on top of the first layer of bulbs. Cover those bulbs with 2 inches of soil. Water well. The pots may remain outside as long as the temperatures are above freezing. When temperatures dip below freezing, move the containers into an unheated garage or basement that doesn't freeze. By early spring the bulbs will have sprouted and be ready to be placed outside again.
Evergreens stay green even when it gets cold. Most will survive in a container during the winter if the water in the soil doesn't freeze. Locate the container by a south or west wall or building so it's sheltered from the cold. If the roots do freeze the plant will die, but the needles will stay green. In very cold areas use artificial evergreens. Two small artificial Christmas trees placed in containers on either side of the entry way will cheer visitors from late autumn through spring.
Frost-Resistant Flowers and Plants
Winter pansies, ornamental cabbages, trailing ivy and flowering kale all withstand light frost. Combine the flowers so the tall varieties are in the middle surrounded by bushier flowers and the trailing ivy. Place the container where it gets eight hours of sunlight a day. Paint the container a dark color like navy, burgundy or brown. The color absorbs heat and will keep the soil warmer. Protect the container on nights when the temperature falls below freezing with a sheet or blanket thrown over and around the pot.