Tag Archives: Landscaping

Making Winter Planters

Planter Christmas planter










Now that there’s snow on the ground, and the pumpkins and fall mums are all put away, my front step is looking awfully barren and boring.  Luckily for me, I have the great opportunity at Lacoste to have our designers make up a winter planter for me to bring home and pop onto the step!  Luckily for you, you can too! We offer both custom and pre-made winter planters that will add colour and flair to your outdoor Christmas decorating.

However, I know that many of you are fantastic diy-ers, and can create your own fantastic arrangements.  If you’ve never tried before, here are some tips from our expert container designers!

The Container

First, consider the planter that you’d like to use.  I typically re-use the same containers that I plant with in the spring.  Re-using is great, because it means that it already has weight in the bottom, AND I don’t have to move anything around!  Just make sure that you empty out the top bit of soil from the planter when you remove your plants, to make room for your greens, and to make sure that the planter doesn’t crack as the soil freezes.

The Greenery

Evergreen branches and boughs typically provide the main structure of a winter planter. Cedar boughs offer soft draping texture, and spruce and pine will create a sense of structure or height.  The different tones of each of these boughs will give texture and depth to your arrangement.  In our arrangements, we try to use a little of each!

In addition to the greenery of coniferous boughs we often add in twigs and large branches to create height in tall containers.  Birch trunks are a local favourite, but red and yellow dogwood, and twisty willow are some other great choices.  Including both in your planter can balance a tall design.

The Bling

My favourite part of every winter planter is the bling and accessories.  This is where you get a chance to express your style and personality! By using similar elements from your interior décor, you can create a sense of cohesion from outside to inside. The options are as endless as there is variety in Christmas décor.  Seed pods, berries and pinecones will enhance the feel of an outdoor Christmas, but it doesn’t need to stop there.  Sparkly twigs, artificial flowers, shiny ornaments, and lights and lanterns all add colour and style too!

The Design

The biggest consideration in creating the arrangement is proportion.  A balanced arrangement is generally two-thirds the size of the container, and widest at the bottom

Begin by outlining the container with evergreens draping over the edge of the container.  Once the outline is complete, fill in the rest of the shape, working in groups of three, five and seven.  Using a variety of lengths and types of evergreens, and branches, fill the container as much as possible

Once your arrangement is well formed, add the embellishments.



winter planter how to

Creating your own design is easy and it adds a personal touch to your decor. With very little effort you can have a gorgeous container to beautify your garden until spring arrives.

Vegetable Gardening

Twice in the last month I have had each of my sisters ask me about how to start a vegetable garden.  One has a rather large-ish city lot, but more interest in eating local than the actual act of gardening.  The other is helping a school create a large garden plot.  As I was researching various aspects of their projects for them, I came across mysquarefootgarden.net, which had a great comparison of three different types of veggie gardens:

Traditional Gardening

  • A large plot of earth tilled up, and organized in long rows.
  • Requires a lot of space, and a lot of work.
  • If you have good soil the startup costs can be very low–just purchasing some seeds.
  • Challenge:  weeds. Mulching can help, but you will inevitably battle as many weeds (or more!) as you have plants.

Square Foot Gardening

  • Garden beds are built and filled with soil. Raised beds are easier to access, especially for those with physical limitations.
  • Plants are spaced very close together, eliminating “rows.”
  • Utilizes vertical gardening–supporting plants with trellises, staking, etc. This reduces the space needed on the ground by growing vining plants up instead of out.
  • Challenges: startup costs can be much higher because beds must be built or purchased, and soil must be replenished each year. You may need fertilizer to provide enough nutrients for the plants to grow and thrive.

Container Gardening

  • For those with very small yards or just a balcony or a porch to use, container gardening is a great option
  • Many “dwarf” varieties have been developed to help those growing in such small areas.
  • Benefit: requires very little space.
  • Challenges: harvest may be limited, the soil will need constant improvement and fertilizer, and plants grown this way can be more susceptible to disease.


And because whenever I begin looking at pictures of veggie gardens, I have to dream a bit, here’s my ideal garden, a blend of traditional and square foot gardening!

Potager Garden

Lacoste Staff Plant Pick of the Week

Itoh Peony

itoh peony

The Itoh Peony, is cross of a woody-stemmed peony and a herbaceous peony.  It was bred in Japan, and has strong stems to hold the flower upright, without peony rings for support.  They have a variety of flower colours, and bloom vigorously.  They are quite disease resistant, and the foliage remains attractive into the fall.

Scientific Name: Intersectional Peony

Plant: in Partial or Full Sun

Grows: 30-36″ (75-90cm) tall by : 30-36″ (75-90cm) wide

Regular (weekly) watering will help maintain a healthy plant!

Stems will die back to the ground each fall, and quickly grow back in the spring.

What to Plant in Sunny Planters



Last week, I outlined some basic ideas for containers in shady spots.  The same principle of “thriller, spiller, and filler” applies for sunny containers too.

Sun Plants:

Thriller: Plants that add height and a bit of unique appeal.

Dracena (spikes), Ornamental Grass, Canna Lilies, Banana, Gaura, Cleome, Geraniums,                   Kanga Paw

Filler: Mounding plants that won’t reach the height of your thriller, but will fill in around and in front of the thriller.

Geraniums, Angelonia, Annual Daisies, Alternanthera (red threads), Potunias

Spiller: Adds interest and flows out of the pot. Can be either flowers or foliage.

Lobelia, Bacopa, Wave petunias, Million Bells, Silver Falls/Emerald Falls, Creeping Jenny


The thriller is usually placed in the middle (if seen from all sides) or towards the back (if front/side views only). Then moving outwards/forwards add the fillers. Then finally along the outside edges add your spillers.


12″ pot= 5 plants

14″ pot= 7 plants

16″ pot= 9 plants


Remember, when you first plant your containers they will look sparse. They will fill in as the plants mature. Try not to over stuff them as it can result in over-crowded and unhealthy plants.


What to Plant in Shady Planters


I love planning out our containers to plant each year; trying out new combinations of plants, and configurations makes the yard seem new and unique each year.  I certainly have some standby’s that I use each year, but trying something new is always fun! If you’re new to gardening or have been planting for years, I think it is always nice to have a fresh perspective to add ideas.  I’ve gathered a few ideas here for some shade planters to help inspire you as we wait for spring to arrive, and more importantly, stay!

The general rule for planters is to include a “thriller, spiller and filler”.

Shade Plants:

Thriller: Plants that add height and a bit of unique appeal.

Dracena, Ornamental Grass, Palms, Gartenmeister Fuschia, Elephant Ears, Coleus

Filler: Mounding plants that won’t reach the height of your thriller, but will fill in around and in front of the thriller.

Begonias, Impatiens, Fuschia, Coleus, Ferns,

Spiller: Adds interest and flows out of the pot. Can be either flowers or foliage.

Ivy/Vinca Vine, Torenia, Nico, Ivy, Creeping Charlie, Silver Falls, Lysmachia


The thriller is usually placed in the middle (if seen from all sides) or towards the back (if front/side views only). Then moving outwards/forwards add the fillers. Then finally along the outside edges add your spillers.



12″ pot= 5 plants

14″ pot= 7 plants

16″ pot= 9 plants


Remember, when you first plant your containers they will look sparse. They will fill in as the plants mature. Try not to over stuff them as it can result in over-crowded and unhealthy plants.


Lacoste Staff Plant Pick of the Week

Snow on the Mountain


Bishops Goutweed is an invasive groundcover that is perfect for sun or shade. It can be quite aggressive, but is great for difficult-to-grow areas.

Scientific Name: Aegopodium podagraria

Plant: in Sun or Shade

Grows: 12-18″ (30-45cm) tall and spreads

Goutweed can be stunning when used in mass plantings.


Lacoste Staff Plant Pick of the Week

Alternanthera Red Threads  


Red Threads is a new variety to Lacoste; we carried it last year and it sold out very quickly.  It’s a great choice for container planting as a “filler”.

Scientific Name: Alternanthera ficoidea

Plant: In sun, 16’ (41cm) apart

Grows: 10 - 12″ (25 - 30cm) tall by 16 - 18″ (41 - 46cm) wide

Red Threads grows in a tightly mounded shape, and thrives in hot sunny conditions.


Fall Garden Clean-up Checklist

We can certainly all remember the joy of jumping into a pile of freshly raked up leaves, and perhaps we can also remember the frustration of having to rake up that pile again and again and again.  However there is more to fall clean-up than simply raking.  A bit of searching around online, I’ve compiled this list which will hopefully assist in your end-of season tasks!

Not included in the list is of course, the fact that you should be rewarded at the end of all the work with a bonfire with friends, while drinking some warm apple cider (or Pumpkin Spice Latte, if that’s your style ;))


*Fall is the time to plant many favourite spring flowers.  Crocuses, tulips, allium and daffodils are all planted in the fall.

*Dig up tender bulbs (Canna Lilies, Calla Lilies)


*Rake leaves

*Rabbits love to chew the bark off of newly planted trees, but damage is easily prevented by wrapping the trunks.

*Springtime damage from cankerworms is also easily prevented by banding with Tanglefoot


* Fall is a great time to both divide and plant new perennials.

* As perennials finish, trim off the dead foliage. You can compost the healthy trimmings to continue the cycle of nature.  Alternatively, some perennials, if left alone, look great as winter interest and can provide winter food for wildlife. Leaving the perennials can also ensure greater snow cover, which can help protect tender perennials against winter kill.

*covering any marginal (tender) perennials with mulch will also protect these plants from exposure to the elements

* Clean away any and all diseased plants and dropped leaves.


* Vegetable gardens are best completely cleared up to prevent any disease or pest overwintering.

Tropical Plants

* Tropical plants should be brought inside before the first frost


* Tools should be cleaned and sharpened so they are ready for action in the spring

* Containers should be emptied, at least partially and covered to prevent cracking

* Even the best quality cushions on lawn furniture need to be dried and stored inside

Philosophies from the Garden

As the summer changes into fall, I look around the garden and, as always, make a list of things to remember for next year!  This year, looking at my list many of my things to remember for next year can be translated into good life lessons.


  • Be flexible:

Bedding plants can work very well in containers, and basket-stuffers can work very well in garden beds! 

In our front garden we planted geraniums and sweet-tunias, and they spread so nicely! If it wasn’t for our neighbourhood bunnies, we would have had a beautiful mat of colour! Similarly, I had two extra packs of impatiens after planting an area in the backyard.  I had an empty container.  The light pink impatiens in a large planter mounded gorgeously, and it was my favourite planter of the entire yard!

  • Good intentions need to be followed through with action:

Planting a new herb is not enough; make a plan to actually use it!

Herbs are one of my favourite things to plant.  Every year I plant at least one container of mint.  This year we had two; both peppermint and mojito mint.  Unfortunately, this and every year at the end of the season I throw it away, not having used a single leaf. Writing this right now fortunately means that I still have enough time to squeeze in a mojito on the patio before it’s too late.

  •  Large projects flourish with regular attention:

You can never have too much basil, or prune it too much!

In past years I’ve planted 3-4 large terra-cotta planters of basil, which has never been enough for our pasta –loving family.  This year, I took over two large cedar planters, and filled them with 24 basil plants.  With this much basil, I was never afraid to use it up, and so made pesto almost every week.  Each time I picked the basil, I made sure to pluck off and throw away any of the stems that had extra-large leaves, and any that had gone to flower. With such regular pruning, the basil flourished, and continued to produce small sweet-tasting leaves.

  •  Every individual is unique:

Even plants that are the same, and seem to be in the same spot can grow differently!

We have a row of 12 cedars along our back fence.  They are the exact same variety of cedar, all planted at the exact same time, and all receiving the exact same amount of fertilizer and water.  The 1st cedar however is approximately a foot taller than the last.  I am sure that the height difference is due to varied light conditions, but it’s a good reminder that there are many factors that allow for differences in plant growth.

  • Change is good, and healthy:

It is okay to replace plantings mid-season!

You may recall in spring time the excitement that surrounded planting croton in containers.  I eventually managed to grab one for home, and planted it by itself in a container on the deck.  Despite how much I loved the look of Croton in our planters in the greenhouse, it just wasn’t thriving at home.  Eventually I gave up, and replaced it with some extra Magilla Perilla that was still lying around the yard, and the whole planter looked much much better!

  •  Short-cuts are wonderful:

Mulch is a great way to reduce weeding!

We’ve covered all of our garden beds with cedar mulch.  Cedar mulch does break down, and blow away, and in the case of a garden with kids……get carried away for “crafts”.  This year we debated topping-up the beds, but decided it could wait until next year.  I am still convinced we can wait until next year, but wow! I needed to weed WAY more often this year.

  • Trying new things is an adventure:

Dividing up the responsibility of who plants which containers is a great way to see plants in new ways!

We have about 15 planters throughout the yard, some are planted by consensus; both of us agreeing on what to plant where. Some however are divided and we each plant some on our own.  Even the kids get in on the action, and this year, theirs were two of our favourite planters yet!





Q & A for New Gardeners

I’m looking for some shrubs to plant on the north side of my house; what are some suggestions for such a shady location?

The two best choices for shrubs to plant in the shade are Hydrangeas, and Viburnum.

Nannyberry:  Viburnum lentago


Mature Height: 8-10’ (3m)
Mature Spread: 8-10’ (3m)
Flowers: White (blue fruit)
Zone: 2

This native shrub produces white flowers in June, followed by blue-black fruit. The upright growth form with brilliant red foliage in the fall makes this a great landscape choice.

Annabelle Hydrangea:  H. arborescens grandiflora‘Annabelle’


Mature Height: 3-4’ (1.25m)
Mature Spread: 3-4’ (1.25m)
Flowers: White (mophead)
Zone: 3

A large flowered hydrangea that requires a sheltered location.  The large flowers produced in July are long-lasting.  Spring pruning will renew the plant.

Of course, there are also many many perennials that will grow quite large in shady areas!