One of the many things I love about living in Connecticut is the ability to experience all four seasons: winter, spring, fall and of course sumMAR. For many of us, fall embodies perfectly clear, crisp days that start with a burrrrst of fresh air. And even though the afternoons often warm up, the leaves begin to float gracefully downward creating a carpet of color on our lawns, walkways, and roads. The holidays are fast approaching and before it gets too crazy, I recommend a simple project that will help the transition between these two seasons in style.

If history repeats, this month I’ll be up to my elbows with festive gatherings and home cooking. But first, there is work to be done in the garden.  “What work in the garden in the month of November you might ask?” Well, if it gets too cold the soil in your window boxes and planters will freeze preventing you from doing this project.  So beat Jack Frost with some unique dÌ©cor before he arrives, as Old Man Winter won’t be far behind.  And if this winter is anything like past winters, you’ll be enjoying the beauty from inside where it’s toasty warm. That said, right now you’ll notice that if you have window boxes or containers, they are probably looking distressed and spent— but there is beauty awaiting you, I promise.

I offer you one of my best sMARt tips when it comes to fall dÌ©cor. I love this tip because it’s simple, very affordable, often free and even better, extremely resourceful.  If you own or rent, have a container on a patio, terrace or a simple planter by your front door, this fall-winter dÌ©cor idea will capture your heart for both seasons. 

Each November, all of my window boxes get some much-needed attention to transition them to the following year. Because I believe in using perennials, such as dwarf English boxwood and Alberta spruce as the mainstay of the box design, I need only remove the annuals. Then I back-fill the remaining space by foraging in the garden to get cuttings of spent flowers as well as my standard evergreen clippings.

I have two window boxes, both of which are on my kitchen windows, one large and one small. Sometimes I dress them the same and sometimes not. For this project, I begin by taking cuttings from my PeeGee hydrangeas. My huge collection of hydrangea flowers goes to good use every year in November.  I take off every last flower, as the PeeGee hydrangea is the key ingredient for this “winter interest” design concept.  If you have other types of hydrangeas in your garden, you will need to start drying them earlier in the season, from August to late September. 

Now that I have my pile ready, I begin by inserting each stem right into the soil in the window box, keeping the now dried, mop-head flowers proudly displayed. These spent hydrangea flowers add a fantastic pop of texture.  I place the sprigs in the soil, starting at the back and then moving forward, creating layers by putting taller sprigs in the back and getting progressively shorter towards the front. These hydrangeas form the foundation of the arrangement. After the main flowers are in, I like to intertwine some Tar Diva hydrangea flowers that are also spent. Then I begin looking for other resources that I might have at my fingertips right in my very own garden.

Usually, there are some rhododendrons ready for cutting and these get interspersed among the hydrangeas. I find my once white Astilbe flower stems still firm and ready for a new assignment. A few of these will be perfect. In the garden studio, summer-dried alliums are waiting for me and get recruited as well. The finishing touch comes with lush green boxwood clippings, which add a pop of color and texture. 

Regardless of how large or small your window box may be, updating them on a seasonal schedule is easy. Your window box should represent a “window” into your own personal style. So this season, why not get creative and discover the fun in creating a new and unique way to remember the beauty that was”_. and now is!  With very little time and effort, you are on your way.

You will love the way this looks and when you’re done, your finished design will look great from both inside your home as well as out. And if you have a neighbor that can see it, you’ll no doubt get a call or a visit.  It’s that powerful of a design.

Another great resource for window boxes is to use branches from your garden.  This is a perfect way for adding a whimsical touch. By simply trimming them in the fall or November, you’ll be promoting new growth in the spring, plus giving yourself a great supply of textural items to work with. To give height to the boxes, insert the branches upright in the back.

How to update for the holidays:

Rosebrook Gardens is home to a vast assortment of evergreens such as hemlock, holly, cypress, evergreen and juniper. Clippings from these will add a wonderful holiday touch to your window boxes.

After Thanksgiving — around the first week in December — make the first switch in the window box including the greens as part of your holiday dÌ©cor. Begin by adding any live greenery from your yard. As I mentioned, I have hemlock, boxwood, holly, cypress, evergreen, and juniper but holly with red berries is my favorite. These will hold their color, leaves, and needles through the winter months, making them a wonderful long-lasting way to welcome the festivities. Cut the clippings about 12-24 inches long and insert into the soil. Have fun and challenge yourself to do something with your empty, dull planters as well. These simple techniques easily turn them into yet another decorative focus for fall and beyond. Add an extra large festive holiday bow and you’re done!  Come January please remove the bow. And while you’re at it, the holiday door wreath as well. Don’t make me come to your house and do it for you!

What you’ll find is that in early spring, the birds will migrate to these clippings and utilize them for building their nests. Because the clippings have been naturally dried, you can feel good about providing them with such a wonderful resource. In late MARch, remove all the clippings from the boxes and planters and begin to prepare for spring. 

So, as the burrrr fills the air, we fill our closets with winter coats, gloves, and sweaters. Filling your window boxes with garden clippings will provide you with some aMARzing holiday dÌ©cor.  Bring it on Old Man Winter”_. you’ll be ready in style.

And there you have it.