November signals the end to our enjoyment of the heat loving gardens of summer. The psychological reality sinks in that fall is upon us and winter is near. For some, this brings about sadness that the garden is put to rest for the year. For others, the advent of another season brings new opportunities to celebrate and advocate the beauty of this time of year, both inside and out.
Outdoor containers and window boxes are likely outlets for gardeners to corral their appreciation of the season’s beauty and desire to make things pretty. Replace tired summer plantings, and refresh fall combinations with colorful stems and berries, mosses, conifer boughs, interesting cones and grasses. I will usually insert the materials directly in the potting soil left behind from summer. This keeps them in place and the natural refrigeration we call winter keeps most things fresh for months to come. Be aware that frozen soil is difficult to work with, so try to get your arrangements put together before it gets too cold. If the ground does freeze, don’t fret. Simply bring your containers inside overnight to thaw, and once again, stems and boughs can be inserted with ease. Just like summer containers, try to keep in mind the principals and elements of design. Contrasting colors, textures, and forms work together to create a pleasing ensemble proportionate to the container you are using and appropriate for the scale of its surroundings. Nothing looks sillier than a puny arrangement in front of even a modest sized home. There are so many choices to choose from, and remember you do not have to use them all in every combination. Rather, edit your materials to fewer ingredients for maximum impact. Illuminate outdoor displays with white lights, torches, and spotlights to give prolonged enjoyment during our longer nights.
The shorter days (and longer nights) bring us inside more so why not bring the outdoors in by decorating mantles, wreaths, and centerpieces with the seasons finest? There is a plethora of ways to express our creative energy and advocate beauty inside. Let your arrangements evolve, and edit them as the season unfolds. Fall gourds, interesting squashes, and pumpkins might be edited out of an arrangement after Thanksgiving and replaced with more wintery fair like winterberry, rose hips, or pinecones. I also try to decorate using materials that will bridge various holidays. For instance, I might use an orange-red ribbon rather than a bright red velvet ribbon in a design to allow it to be appreciated from Thanksgiving through the first of the year. At that time, I might eliminate the ribbon altogether in early January for a more wintery look. Similarly, some materials used in winter arrangements can evolve into spring with further editing at that time.
Don’t let Mother Nature and Jack Frost get you down. We sometimes take for granted how incredibly lucky we are to have the opportunity to enjoy all four seasons here in Minnesota—something that much of the world cannot do. As a Minnesotan and a gardener, I have learned to appreciate this and challenge you to do the same.