Easy ideas for your outdoor container conservatory – Winnipeg Free Press

Outdoor containers create an eye-catching entrance during the winter and especially for the holidays. Adding a wreath to your front door that complements your container design will see you through the holiday season in style. Karen Chopp, also known as Barefoot Gardener, is a professional container garden designer who specializes in creating custom container displays for clients in Winnipeg and surrounding areas. “By incorporating some of the elements you already have, you can reduce the amount of money you spend and design beautiful outdoor container gardens that aren’t like everyone else,” she says. It’s like shopping through your closet and putting together an outfit using the different pieces you have that you know will work well together. The end effect will not only be innovative but also more satisfying.

Before starting his own business, Chopp designed containers and created party displays for 529 Wellington Steakhouse. The historic mansion that was originally built in 1913 for hardware merchant JH Ashdown was absolutely dreamy to decorate, Chopp says. With six mantels and 36 feet of railing to decorate, Chopp created lavish designs using a deft mix of fresh and man-made materials, but also improvisation and digging. It’s a talent she continues to use.

Chopp loves the challenge of finding something unique and coming up with new ideas. Above all, she likes to reinvent. “Just looking at something and thinking about all the different ways you can use it can really help you create the look you want,” she says. A cheap artificial garland, for example, that doesn’t really grab you at first can be taken apart and the individual components you like can be used in your designs. “You may be able to use the leftover pieces in your indoor table arrangements – nothing should go to waste.”

Pictures of Karen Chopp

Garland-wrapped wooden openings and mini LED rice lights are a star attraction in this trio of festive containers.

Chopp has been busy this month visiting local garden centers as well as wholesale outlets outside of Manitoba. She also buys fresh greens from local florists and stops at dollar stores. There are unique discoveries and inspiration to be had by visiting many different places. “There are some great DIY decorator packs available at local garden centers that contain complimentary materials and even exotic items like seed pods on spikes.” Chopp loves the excitement of seeing all the trinkets and trinkets hitting stores this time of year.

If you have a smaller container, you may be able to drop an insert container inside and use soil as the base for your arrangement. Water the soil and the decorative stems you add will freeze in place. Large, irregularly shaped containers are more difficult. “One of the best indoor mechanisms if you don’t want to use dry floral foam is to create a chicken wire base,” says Chopp. “It works really well for scrunching it up so you get all those nooks and crannies for easy placement of the rods you’re using.” Bricks at the bottom of your planter will prevent the wind from knocking it over, especially if your arrangement is tall.

Chopp achieves height in different ways. She gathers willow and red dogwood branches. “Take a drive in the countryside and you may find willow and dogwood in the ditches, or you may have some on your own property. You can take a single branch from a tree or shrub and hot glue a few balls to it.

Birch continues to be popular as it combines with almost anything and adds a natural, rustic touch that extends your container design beyond the holidays and into New Years. Willow is another organic element that Chopp likes to use. in his creations. “I use lots and lots of straight stems of willow or birch twigs and infuse larger pieces of birch.” Chopp always incorporates them in odd numbers with varying heights. It creates a lush fullness with multiples of fresh greens such as white pine, noble fir and Fraser fir, cedar branches and variegated boxwood.

Sugar pine cones, buddha nuts, vine balls and exotic seed pods along with dried herbs and artificial berries are some of the accents featured in Chopp’s winter container designs. Not all artificial berries are intended for outdoor use. Look for ones that are weather-resistant to be sure the outer casing of the berries won’t crack or break in freezing temperatures, Chopp says.



Teal shatterproof ball ornaments have been hot glued to branches in this winter container and tied to the front door design.

Unbreakable hanging balls are great accents. Chopp removes the finial hanging from the top of the ornament and with a hot glue gun she attaches a pickaxe or wooden branch. “The color options are endless and can really add a fun element,” she says. For one client, Chopp used a mix of assorted ornaments of teal balls of different sizes which she attached to artfully arranged branches at different heights for a magical floating effect. The client’s door was decorated with an existing garland to which Chopp added teal accents to tie the design and overall look together.

Shapes and structures such as obelisks or handcrafted wood or metal accents add an unexpected architectural element and serve as focal points to anchor your design. “If you have a medium-sized obelisk that you grow annual vines on during the summer, why not place it in your winter container, put some lights on it, and decorate around the base,” Chopp explains. For a customer who wanted to decorate three large containers, Chopp had wooden openings built in the shape of a star. She wrapped the stars in garland and strands of lights and decorated the base with long needle pine accented with crimson red ball ornaments of varying sizes. Chopp likes to change things up from year to year. She could, for example, cut out the pedestals on which the stars are built and display them differently for a year by hanging them.

Chopp learned welding techniques in a hands-on course so he could create his own garden art. For a client who wanted her to create a unique design for a pair of cast iron urns on pedestals, Chopp made a large metal ring that she wrapped in lights. At the base of the ring, she created a stunning composition using a mix of fresh cut greenery, including variegated boxwood. She slipped in large dried Annabelle hydrangea flowers which she accented with 10 stems of gold Milo berries and 10 stems of gold pickles for a holiday glow.

Chopp lights up its holiday containers with strands of mini LED rice lights in warm white. Also known as micro lights, these decorative rice-shaped lights can be set to flicker or flicker, however, Chopp prefers to have steady lights that are always on.

A wicker chair you normally use as porch decor, Chopp says, can be decorated with a wreath and blanket. “Add an arrangement of containers for a welcome vignette. Or dress up your vintage Cruiser bike. There are lots of ways to add a festive touch by incorporating items you already own. Large lanterns are ideal, says Chopp.” string lights all around the candle and decorate the base with fresh greenery.”



A large metal ring wrapped in lights is the focal point of this winter container accented with fresh greenery and dried hydrangea flowers.

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Choose artificial berries that will withstand the elements and use straight forage branches for the height of your arrangements.



Decorate with what you already have. A lantern with a candle wrapped in warm mini lights creates a welcoming vignette.

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