Well, in case you didn't notice, it seems as though winter is here to stay! We had a wet heavy snow move through on the 13th that caused quite a bit of damage to some mature trees around campus. We filled 5 or 6 dump trucks full of debris to be hauled away to compost. We also had our cities forestry crew come in to take care of broken and damaged branches that we could not reach up in the canopy of many trees. A lot of the branches were buried by the icy heavy snow, and will have to be cleaned up in the spring once all of the snow melts.
In addition to storm cleanup, our outside crew is putting some final touches on grounds before they leave for the winter. One easy way to spruce up a somewhat dismal landscape is to put out some winter display containers. Using only materials found on grounds (most from that storm damage), and using cut-back perennial materials, we have put together some pots in front of our office building on the zoo. We used cuttings from evergreens including white pine, Chamaecyparis, and a Douglas Fir with interesting pine cones. We also used cuttings of red-twigged dogwood, miscanthus flame grass (silver plumes), and chasmanthium (oat-like seed heads). Using all of this material, we arranged the cuttings in a pot of soil, and then watered it in. These plants are no longer alive, and don't need water, but the cold temperatures will cause all of that water to freeze, and hold everything right in its place. The best part about these displays are that they are free! You might not have all of these materials in your yard, but think about what you do have. Any everygreen branches will provide color and structure all winter. Grasses add a flowing look, and many hold up all winter long. Colorful branches, such as the dogwoods are a great added touch. Also, any plant with berries adds that extra pop (if the birds don't eat them all!). You can also find some interesting curly willow, or branches with a unique form and structure to add interest. Hopefully this will inspire some of you to try out a beautiful winter display of your own!