Colorful Winter Containers

Colorful Winter Containers

Part of Ep. 1604 Winter Landscapes

On a visit to Björklunden Vid Sjön in Bailey's Harbor, Shelley Ryan learns how to create a winter wonderland garden from Caleb Whitney of Greenside Up Landscaping. Caleb creates whimsical garden theater with found objects and plants from the garden.

Premiere date: Nov 16, 2008

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
This is the most important aspect of a gorgeous outdoor winter display.  I'll explain why in just a moment.  We're at Bjorklunden, a 400-plus acre estate on the shores of Lake Michigan in Bailey's Harbor, Door County.  This wonderful setting is owned by Lawrence University, and is used for a wide variety of educational seminars.  They've been very gracious to let us use the lodge and the land today.  I'm with Caleb Whitney.  He's one of the owners of Green Side Up Landscaping.  Hi, Caleb, you've got me very suspicious right off the bat.  This is a very ugly stake.  Why is this the most important part of an outdoor winter landscape? 

Caleb Whitney:
It's a very useful tool. 

Shelley:
For hurting people! (both laugh)

Caleb:
It is the backbone of what we're going to be doing: a little bit of garden theater.  You need that structure on which to hang our set and figures. 

Shelley:
A winter landscape needs a structure of poles. 

Caleb:
Correct, because the winter landscape is blank.  It's white or green. 

Shelley:
Or dead. 

Caleb:
There's not much else going on.  And what's fun about winter displays is you can step outside the normal boundaries of gardening because you can set up temporary displays that actually give you a long season of interest but then are temporary, that come away. 

Shelley:
We're creating the back curtain or wall. 

Caleb:
Right, the backdrop of our garden theater set. 

Shelley:
So we could have a wall of brick and then we wouldn't need this.  Or if we had a really lovely house wall.  But you're going to put something on these. 

Caleb:
In areas where you don't have much and you really want to change the character we often use inexpensive field-cut brush pile or an electrical Christmas tree, evergreens. 

Shelley:
Evergreens, something like that.  You're going to have a row of that as your backdrop.  You're going to have another row of stakes for the front part. 

Caleb:
Correct, because we're going to add some color. 

Shelley:
Color and entertainment.  Let's look at that. 

Caleb:
You now have a background.  You want to add some fun.  This is actually just a dead tree.  We've painted it with outdoor latex paint.  We mixed it 50-50 with water and sprayed it on. 

Shelley:
Why blue? 

Caleb:
Blue has a winter feeling, but pops off the white. 

Shelley:
So if we do have snow, it's going to stick out.  Then you've got different things hung on it.  I mean, it's hysterical.  It's just an old Christmas tree without its needles and it's really neat looking.  You've got some natural elements, like the pine cone.  I look at that and think that I'd dip that in suet and hang it on for the birds. 

Caleb:
That'd be great.  You can also work with many seed heads out of your garden.  The ornamental onion, the allium heads.  Sometimes a Siberian iris.  Even the autumn joy sedum, after its fall display it's a great head to paint, even, and have even more color. 

Shelley:
So use them natural or paint them.  Then you've also got some artificial things.  The icicles are great.  A whole tree hung with that would be fantastic. 

Caleb:
Everybody thinks outdoor Christmas display and this can be, but it changes to winter. 

Shelley:
Winter is a long season in Wisconsin. 

Caleb:
So have some fun.  Valentine's Day, Mardi Gras, St.  Patrick's Day.  Whatever your imagination comes up with, it can be great fun. 

Shelley:
Speaking of imagination and great fun this is hysterical, I love it! 

Caleb:
They're great fun.  We do a lot of different kinds of seasonal displays for commercial businesses in particular.  And people just love these kinds of elements.  And they're very simple.  This is just a wooden skeleton with a lightweight Tyvek coverall. 

Shelley:
And a scarf, old skis or something. 

Caleb:
Sleds, ice skates.  That'd be neat, too.  The smallest detail, even if we change his hat. 

Shelley:
He's no longer French!

Caleb:
He's straightforward Frosty. 

Shelley:
He also attaches, I assume the tree-- we would've wired to one of these.  How do you attach something like this? 

Caleb:
The same concept.  I would use the heavier gauge stake.  Pick an element within the structure. 

Shelley:
And hide it behind a leg, or something. 

Caleb:
And then you can either use screws or duct tape is one of our favorites. 

Shelley:
Plain old duct tape. 

Caleb:
Just wrap a band, and there's quite a bit of strength to that.  If the color's bad you can always wrap something around with color. 

Shelley:
You said you also use these as interchangeable elements in this outdoor landscape. 

Caleb:
Right, these are great.  For Christmas, you can do great big packages on them.  Once that's done, and the season has moved on... 

Shelley:
Snowflakes! 

Caleb:
This is just scrap lumber painted blue again to pop off that background.  We just use a cordless drill and some drywall screws. 

Shelley:
So you definitely want the holes in these. 

Caleb:
Yep, they're real lightweight, so that goes on.  And when that season's gone, away you go.  With another piece of painted plywood, here's your heart. 

Shelley:
Cool, yeah, that'd be great!

Caleb:
It can be shamrocks, Easter eggs.  And kids love to paint this stuff. 

Shelley:
I would think kids would be very involved in this kind of decorating the landscape.  But you've got the ultimate kid's toy.  Let's bring that in.  We put it on this block for demonstration.  Normally, we're doing this outside, right? 

Caleb:
Correct, it works really well outside.  It works on any number of scales. 

Shelley:
These are just blocks of ice. 

Caleb:
Big chunks of ice with food coloring.  You pick your buckets.  You pick your sizes, work with what you have.  Kids love playing with it.  I recommend rubber gloves. 

Shelley:
We'd normally be doing this outside in the wet snow, too.  And what's holding together?  Is that the snow? 

Caleb:
You go out and you grab some snow and you make your own mortar.  If you want your mortar to be colored put food coloring in the water. 

Shelley:
Oh, excellent!

Caleb:
And then you've got green mortar. 

Shelley:
Kids would love this. 

Caleb:
It's fun color theory in action with mixing and matching. 

Shelley:
What might you make? 

Caleb:
This is just a simple castle.  But you can structure anything you want to in terms of animals.  You can use it as details on snow figures.  Picture a sequined gown on a snowwoman. 

Shelley:
Or they could just do building blocks and have a blast. 

Caleb:
That's right.  With little kids, it ends up looking like fruit cocktail.  It's still great color. 

Shelley:
And it's beautiful in a landscape.  Caleb, this is wonderful.  This isn't just for little kids, thank you. 

Caleb:
Thank you, Shelley.

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