Article - Floral Encounters
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Keep your garden cheerful in winter with silk flowers

Brighten your winter garden with silk flowers

Lets face it winter can be pretty bleak. It's cold, there are no leaves on the trees everything looks brown and desolate. The garden is looking gloomy not the summer delight it was a few months ago. You can change that by adding some silk flowers and brightening the garden until its ready to grow again! Even better you can use some recycled materials to help with the project and once done it can bring years of summer like joy to your garden.

My kitchen window looks out on our back patio which in summer is a delightful view of bursting blooms and potted plants. In winter not so much, it looks cold and bleak. So I brightened it up. Adding a few pots of silk flowers can really cheer up the area. Now instead of looking out at sleeping brown winter there are colorful silk blooms which bring some appearance of summer into the colder winter months.

The great thing about it is that its cheap and easy to do.

Patio area in winter looks dull, depressing and uninviting
Patio area in winter looks dull, depressing and uninviting

What you will need:

Empty plant pots. Keeping the ones you got the plants in from the garden center or big box store is always a bonus and helps cut down on waste. Your own recycling project.

Some stones from your garden. Hey who doesn't have those. Now you actually have a use for them!

Silk Flowers. Get them in the dollar store. Its not necessary to use expensive ones just something bright.

A can of 'Great stuff'.

Optional- some wire to put through the bottoms of the pots.

The wire option can be very useful if you are intending to put the pots onto wire shelving or somewhere else they may fall off. Pots can get blown over in high winds if they are not heavy enough. Wire allows them to be fixed down securely.

What to do.

1. Buy a bunch of silk flowers from the dollar store, walmart or wherever you can find them cheap. The ones that come in mixed bunches on the same stem are the best option as they need less work. If you cant find these just pick out a selectin of ones you like. Pick larger flowers rather than small ones as they show up better from a distance. Its best to pick a few more than you think you will need as its not that easy to plan exactly what you intend to do and its much better to have too many that not enough.
Suggestion. Don't pick Christmas flowers. Its tempting just after Christmas to pick all the cheaper Christmas stuff but these flowers are going to be out there until spring. It may look great in December but it looks dated by March. A little holly and maybe one or two poinsettias is OK but for the most part pick spring and summer flowers. You will be happier in the long run.

2. Buy a can of 'Great stuff". See if you can determine just how much you will need for the number of pots and buy a can the right size. Great stuff IS great BUT once you start using a can of it you have to use it all in one go. You cant leave some for later. Once started it works fine but left it sets in the can and is of no further use. So you don't want to use half a large can when a full small can will do.

3. Sort out some old plastic pots. The plastic pots that your last purchase from the garden center or big box store came in is perfect. Use only plastic pots NOT ceramic. They have to stand up to the cold and fluctuating temperatures. Plastic will do this fine. Ceramic will crack over time. They are also more expensive and you don't want to waste them. Once these flowers are glued in the pot they are not coming out again. This is a perminant arragment so don't use a pot you might want to use later, use only ones that you don't care about.
Pick pots that are not too big, unless you intend to do a large planter. Smaller pots are easier to work with and to fill with silk flowers. Pots need to be full of flowers to do their job properly so smaller pots are better. I used 5" ( cm) pots.

If you don't have any garden pots left over old food containers work just as well but may not last long. I have used large yougurt pots in the past but the plastic deteriorates over time. For this project you need something that wont do that. Use your imagination any container that will withstand the harsh weather will work.

Can of "great stuff" 
Plastic flower pot saved from earlier potting out
Plastic flower pot saved from earlier potting out
 4. Go find some stones. Stones are essential to keep the pots anchored. Pots need to be heavy if left outside or they will blow away in the wind. The heavier you can make a pot the better. So go out and collect as many larger stones as possible. Some people collect up stones from their garden and put them in a pile. Now that pile is finally useful. If not then a scavenger hunt around the garden will be in order. Use larger stones Make sure that they cannot escape through the holes at the bottom of the plastic pots. If stones are that small discard them.
DO NOT use soil! Its tempting but the great stuff will not bind the soil together and it will leak out the holes at that bottom of the pot as it dries out. Pots can leak soil for years. Trust me I made this mistake with my first set of pots. Don't make my mistake leave the soil on the ground and use only stones.

 

For those in warmer areas, or if you have had time to plan in advance. You can use concrete to do this job. However if you left it too late and it's cold the concrete will not set. Also its harder to keep the flowers in the correct upright position until the concrete sets. Thus "great stuff" is the best fast option.

5. Divide up your silk flowers. Decide which flowers are going into each pot. If you are intending to do a large planter then it would be best to determine how the flowers will be placed before you begin. Plan out which flowers go where. There will not be much time to change your mind when you start working so figuring out your layout beforehand is essential.

6. Wire. If you are going to put your pots onto wire shelving or some other area where they can be fixed down add the wire now. Use a thicker gauge wire. That found in wire coat hangers is ideal. If you have wire ones from the dry clearers perfect (another good way to recycle and reuse). If not buy as spool of similar gauge wire from your local hardware store or some cheap wire coathangers.

NOW TO BEGIN.

1. OPTIONAL. If using wire cut the wire into lengths depending on the width of the pot and how much you need to wire it down. Usually a 24-36" long piece is ideal. If using a coat hanger cut the looped piece off the top of the hanger and flatten it out.
Thread the wire through two holes along the bottom of the pot. In one side out the other. Make sure that the pot is centered on the wire.

2. Fill all the pots with stones to about ¾ of the way to the top of the pot. Shake the pots or tap them on the work surface to ensure that the stones are settled well in the pots you don't want them shifting later.

3. Lay out your flowers ready for each pot. Know exactly what you are going to put where. Check that they will fit where you want them in the pot of stones and cut down the wire stems if necessary.

4. Get your can of "Great stuff" put the thin nozzle on the end and get the can ready to go. If you have not used this stuff before be aware that it will foam up and expand a lot once its in the air so take is slow when using it until you get the hang of it.

flower pot with stones in it Fill pot to 3/4 level with stones

5. Stick the nozzle down amongst the stones and gently press the top. The idea is to get the great stuff to stick the stones together. Work it in from several angles using just a little at a time. Once the stones are in place add a little more on the top to fill the pot up almost to the surface.

6. Quickly place your silk flowers in the pot and hold them in place. Great stuff sets fast so you will only have moments to do this. Arrange the flowers as you want them to appear. Remember you can always bend the stems around once they are set in place.

silk flowers in pot with great stuff
Great stuff fills the pot and hardens quickly around silk flower stalks

7. Move on to the next pot and keep going until you have finished every single pot. Don't take too long or the great stuff can stick in the can and become useless.

8. Once all the pots have set you can bend the flowers around to cover the great stuff in the pots and make the flowers look their best.

9. Place pots around your garden outside your windows where you can see them when you look out and brighten your winter.

When spring comes pots can be taken in and stored until next winter. Once created these silk flower pots will last for years. My first set lasted me ten years before they finally broke apart and had to be replaced.

 

OTHER TIPS.

1. Don't put pots under downspouts or other areas where lots of water will runoff the roof. The water tends to drop on the plants and freeze they you get silk flowers encased in ice. They don't last as long this way.

2. If pots are placed in a precarious position or on shelving wiring them down can be an excellent idea. Strong winter winds can lift up pots that you thought were heavy enough and blow them away. Its not fun having to chase them around in the dead of winter. Also if you have pets that might knock them off wiring down might be prudent.

3. If you choose to make a large planter remember first that this is permanent. Once the great stuff is in there you cant take it out so don't use a favored planter that you want to use again in summer. If you want to use a favored planter then pick another pot that is just a little smaller and put your display in that, then drop it in the planter for display. It can then be taken out in spring and replaced until next winter.

4. If using a large planter not as many stones will be necessary. If you fill it with stone you wont be able to pick it up and move it later. However don't use soil as the great stuff will not bind to it and it can cause the display to break up.
A good way to fill a planter is to use layers of polystyrene packing chips or chucks of polystyrene packing that came you're your last purchase. (another great recycling use). If doing this test the "great stuff" on your chosen material before you start some products react with it and will dissolve. DON'T use starch packing chips they will certainly dissolve.
Mix the material with stones and bind it together with the great stuff. Work in layers until you reach the top of the planter. Make sure you use enough stones to make the planter heavy enough that it wont be blown over by strong winds but still light enough for you to carry around.
Make sure you experiment with the flowers and decide how you want them arranged in the planter before using the great stuff. You wont have a lot of time to work once its out of the can before it sets.

Let your artistic side roam free and create some bright interest for your garden this winter. You will be amazed how many people ask about your wonderful flower display.

winter_patio_silk_flowers
Patio decorated with silk flowers looks much more cheerful for winter months. These pots are wired in place or the blow off in strong winds.