Carefully Picked Winter Containers Add Focal Points to Home Exterior By Rocco & Fiore

January 10, 2010

The frosty arrival of Old Man Winter typically signals the official end to outdoor gardening activities for most horticultural-happy homeowners. But not every green thumb dream has to go to pot when the weather gets cold. Pots and containers, in fact, are the perfect panacea for those who aim to add vibrancy and visual interest to their home’s exteriors during Chicago real estate’s winter season.

“Months like December, January and February are when your home’s outdoor appearance tends to become drab, lifeless and less colorful than the growing seasons,” said Laura Szyjka, garden and floral designer with Rocco Fiore & Sons, a landscape architecture, site development and management firm based in Libertyville. “But just because your annuals and blooming plants have passed their prime doesn’t mean that you can’t use live and fresh cut flora to liven up your property—particularly the path to your entrance.”

Using winter containers around your steps, porch, front door and other specially targeted exterior areas, said Szyjka, “creates focal points on the outside that serve as eye-catching transitional cues and esthetically pleasing segues prior to entering the home. It’s an effective way to harmonize your home’s exterior with its interior and create a great first impression.”

Szyjka said the first step is to select containers that match your home’s exterior so that the styles, shapes and colors don’t significantly clash or stand out like a sore thumb. If your home is a ranch with blocky, square, flat lines, for example, choosing a geometrically similar large pot or container—perhaps one that is short, flat and not rounded—is preferable. Likewise, the texture and shade of your container should blend well with your home’s siding or masonry.

“If you have a reddish-brown cedar exterior, you may want to opt for a pale, rusty-colored iron container that has a weathered, distressed look,” she said. “Your container choice will depend, of course, on your personal tastes as well as the style of the house. If you aim for the bold, sturdy look, heavy and durable choices like concrete or lead—which can be more expensive—may be your best bet. Iron or lead withstand the elements better, especially if you’re going to be growing a live plant within that requires soil, which will freeze, expand and contract during the winter. Cement containers can make an elegant and strong statement, but they tend to crack easier.”

If you’re on a tighter budget, there are many varieties of affordable plastic containers—available in a range of shapes, sizes and colors—that are both functional and charmingly tasteful, said Szyjka.

As for the container’s contents, the goal is to select foliage that complements the surrounding architectural, geometrical and chromatic elements that are visible. You can opt for freshly trimmed clippings, transplant live, growing foliage into the container or implement a combination of both.

“Using that hypothetical of a low-set ranch home with a reddish cedar exterior, you could fill two rust-tinged iron containers with fresh-cut noble fir or Douglas fir branches, pepper the pot bases with incense cedar and place one pot on either side of the front door,” she noted.

To incorporate a bit more color into your display, you can add magnolia leaves, which will incorporate a dark brown, velvety texture. If you really want to make it pop with a bright red color, insert winterberry branches—an excellent choice around Christmastime. Or, if you don’t want to date your container once the holidays pass, you can substitute winterberry with eucalyptus.”

Szyjka said she recently helped a homeowner client “who had a pea soup-colored front door. It was difficult to find the right shade of plant to match that door, but we eventually settled on a species of euphorbia that balanced well with the door.”

So long as Jack Frost isn’t too cruel, cut foliage should maintain its color, shape and rigidity throughout the winter—provided it doesn’t dry out too quickly, Szyjka said. If it’s live vegetation you’re after, boxwood shrubs, dwarf Alberta spruces and smaller evergreens are resilient choices that can survive and thrive in the colder months. These plants can easily be transferred to your backyard when spring comes around again. Another alternative is silk/synthetic foliage, which may provide longevity but which can often be more costly than the real thing.

“The initial visit with the homeowner is the key. I ask as many questions as I can to learn their preferences in terms of plant types, colors, styles and goals. I also try to bring samples of live foliage and artificial materials that they may not be familiar with. Additionally, I’m careful to evaluate the exterior and surroundings, noting the targeted area’s architectural design, existing colors, spatial dimensions and exposure to sunlight and the elements.”

Ultimately, “when done right, winter containers should bring out the natural character of the home and serve as a visual expression of the homeowner’s distinctive personality,” she said.

For more ideas on winter containers and maintaining gardens during the colder months, contact Rocco Fiore & Sons at (847) 680-1207 or visit www.roccofiore.com.

Founded in 1947, Rocco Fiore & Sons is a proud family-owned-and-operated firm based in Libertyville, Ill. that spans three generations and specializes in North Shore landscape architecture and site development/management. Headed today by Rocco Fiore Jr., the company continues to stress quality, service and value—the core guidelines that have helped Rocco Fiore & Sons achieve tremendous success throughout Chicagoland and earn a stellar reputation among hundreds of satisfied clients over the past six decades.

Categories: Single Family Homes

About The Author

Read All Stories By Walsh Communications

Lynn Walsh is the President at Walsh Communications, LLC. Walsh Communications is a full-service public relations, marketing and advertising agency for home builders and real estate-related industries.



Thanks pal. Awesome submissions you have here. Got some more sites to point to which have more information?

Leave a Comment