Create a winter forest in miniature to enjoy all year long by potting low-maintenance dwarf conifers.
Everyone loves evergreens this time of year, when their vibrant color pops against gray winter skies. Dwarf selections of the majestic trees, clustered in pots on a patio table or in a window box, can bring a bit of life to your home after summer blooms have faded. For containers, Sandy Dittmar, of Iseli Nursery, which specializes in these trees, suggests selecting cultivars that are hardy to one zone colder than your region. Plant them in soil with good drainage, top-dress with mulch, and don't let them dry out. If the temperature drops below 20 degrees, move them temporarily to an unheated, sheltered spot, such as a garage. If they outgrow their pots after several years, you can plant them in the yard, and they'll stay green season after season.
Unify a grouping by using limited color palettes for plants and pots. We paired conifers with a yellow-green hue and gray frost-proof pots made from lightweight concrete.
Plants, from left: Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana Lutea,' Sciadopitys verticillata 'Mitsch Select,' C. obtusa 'Fernspray Gold,' and Thuja occidentalis 'Rheingold.'
Room with a View
Our window box, right, is a landscape of silvery-blue conifers in mixed shapes and textures. The sheltered windowsill provides protection from the elements. For an extra shot of holiday cheer, you can decorate them.
Plants, clockwise from back right: Tsuga canadensis 'Jervis,' Picea glauca 'Jean's Dilly,' C. pisifera 'Blue Moon,' Juniperus squamata 'Blue Carpet,' J. squamata 'Blue Star,' J. horizontalis 'Blue Pygmy,' Cedrus deodara 'Prostrate Beauty.'
Large zinc oval centerpiece, $172.50 for a set of 2 (medium and large), campodefiori.com.
Inspired by the traditional Japanese rock garden, we created a tabletop version with tiny conifers. After planting the frost-proof alpine trough, we covered the soil with aquarium gravel and added a couple of small rocks from the garden to mimic larger ones found in the landscape. Plants, from left Juniperus communis 'Corielagen,' Juniperus communis 'Miniature,' Tsuga canadensis 'Cole’s Prostrate,' Pinus mugo 'Sherwood Compact,' and Cedrus deodara 'Snow Sprite.'
Alpine Trough, from $400; pennoyernewman.com.