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Twin Cities designers share tips on adding pizazz to spruce-tip pots

November 9, 2018 GMT

Bundles of spruce tips that winter perennial are now plentiful at garden centers and supermarkets. Many of us plunge the evergreen branches into planters, then stick in a few red dogwood twigs, nest a couple of pine cones, and call it a day.

This year, try dressing up your pot like its the centerpiece at a holiday party. To give you ideas, we enlisted two designers to craft creative containers mixing eye-pleasing textures, colors and shapes to decorate your front door or patio for the holidays and through the winter months.

It feels good to see a beautiful pot welcoming you home in the winter, said Paula Thrall, Gertens designer. You can copy these creations or borrow ideas to design your own. For the how-to recipes, go to H8.



Designer: Paula Thrall, Gertens, 5500 Blaine Av., Inver Grove Heights, gertens.com.

Design tips: Red, brown and green hues are repeated throughout the arrangement.

Recipe for success:

Half a whiskey barrel filled with soil.

Bundle of 10 spruce tips; place the tallest in the center. Leave space for a small metal truck in front.

Vibrant Cardinal dogwood branches.

Vintage-look red metal pickup truck. Use a size that best fits your pot. Place a metal lighted tree in the truck bed. If its exposed to the elements, spray it with an acrylic seal coat or just let it get rusty, said Thrall.

Three different varieties of textured evergreens she used shore pine, blueberry juniper and oregonia tucked around the edge.

Frosted medium pine-cone picks.

Dried red-tinted grevillea .

Dried and dyed milo berries .

Believe tin letters on twine tied around the barrel.

Black and red buffalo plaid ribbon, a popular print this year.

If you wish to illuminate your creation, add an LED-lit red cranberry branch.


Designer: Paula Thrall, Gertens.

Design tips: Earth-tone color scheme is repeated in the birch, lotus seed pods and magnolia leaves.

Recipe for success:

Concrete planter filled with soil.

Bundle of 10 spruce tips; place the tallest in the center.

Birch poles.

Curly willow tips.

Layer princess pine, eucalyptus, Carolina sapphire cypress and incense cedar.

Eucalyptus bell seed pods.

Frosted lotus seed pods.

Magnolia foliage.

Artificial white/brown poinsettia picks.

Drape silver snowflake ornaments around the birch poles.



Designer: Kris Schreder, Otten Bros. Garden Center, 2350 W. Wayzata Blvd., Long Lake, ottenbros.com.

Design tips: Use three different-height materials (thriller, filler and spiller), three different textures and three different colors as a rule of thumb. Break the pot down in sections, design one section and then repeat it.

Recipe for success:

Bundle of 10 spruce tips. Arrange to resemble a mini-Christmas tree.

Plastic container that can be placed in another decorative container. Schreder fills it with sand, which is less expensive than soil, and holds stems in place until they freeze.

Layer greens along the base Norway pine, incense cedar and oregonia.

Red faux rose-hip picks.

Red birch branches.

Frosted sugar cones.

White and black buffalo plaid wired ribbon.

Shiny red cardinal picks.

Sparkly white snowflakes.


Designer: Kris Schreder, Otten Bros.Garden Center.

Design tips: Forage materials from your yard, such as white pine and hydrangeas for this muted pink and mauve arrangement.

Recipe for success:

Bundle of 10 spruce tips. Arrange to resemble a mini-Christmas tree.

Layer Western red cedar, white pine, burgundy dried sedum.

Dried hydrangeas.

Dyed mauve seeded eucalyptus.

Green seeded eucalyptus with blue-green foliage.

Brown curly willow branches.


A well-designed winter planter can brighten a dreary landscape until the snow melts.

Choose a weather-resistant container, such as a whiskey barrel, cast iron, heavy plastic, resin, metal or concrete with drain holes.

Use a pruner to cut the ends of the fresh greens at an angle before placing in the pot.

Use the excess spruce-tip cuttings to tuck in the arrangement at the end.

Select greens and accents with different heights, colors, textures and forms.

Add materials slowly, making sure the arrangement is balanced.

Spray Wilt Stop to help greens last longer over the winter.

After the arrangement is done, water the pot so the pieces freeze in place.

Dont skimp, said Paula Thrall, Gertens designer. You want your pot to look bountiful and overflowing.