Outdoor Holiday Decor That Inspires

Creating a Memorable Seasonal Display
By Kristie Moore

THE HOLIDAYS ARE FINALLY HERE, AND WHAT BETTER WAY TO GREET YOUR FRIENDS, FAMILY AND NEIGHBORS, THAN WITH CREATIVE OUTDOOR DECOR? Decking your home out for the holidays involves more than just Christmas trees and seasonal music. The real magic of the season happens outdoors, where strings of twinkling lights illuminate the fresh snow and sprigs of evergreens add vibrancy and interest to a sleeping landscape all winter long.

It’s tempting and common to use the same decorating approach year after year. But keep in mind that styles change, and fresh ideas bring exhilaration. When it comes to dressing up your yard for the holidays, a little inspiration goes a long way. Whether you’re a festive fanatic or a minimal holiday celebrator, there’s a unique option for everyone. Here’s how to make a statement this season.


Container gardening doesn’t have to stop when the growing season is over. Keep color and interest going all winter long by showcasing a variety of fresh-cut evergreens, hardy plant clippings and other decorative objects. Go au naturel or glitz and glam and explore new ways of seeing your outdoor planters.


The same pots and planter boxes that showcased summer’s glory can be converted into winter focal points. Philip Nicklay, with Viola Nursery and Greenhouse, says, “There are many treasures right in your own yard and garden that can be clipped and added directly to seasonal containers. Start with some spruce tops, then add in things like hydrangeas, Irish pods, evergreen cuttings, grapevine, seedpods and pinecones, to name a few.” 

Brianna Prudoehl of Fox and Fern Floral agrees. “Forage in the yard what you can, and incorporate a variety of textures.” Some of her favorites are birch tubes or logs, winter berries, pomegranates, oversized pine cones and dogwood.

Prudoehl has a method when designing an arrangement. “I always keep in mind how each plant that I’m working with moves and flows in the container…does it stand straight, bend over, drape down? I also love wrapping garland in pots and containers.”


“Make your holiday pots versatile and long-lasting,” Nicklay encourages. “Add festive holiday elements like pops of red or shiny accents that can then be removed come January, so the display can transition to a more neutral winter pot.” Winter containers can be enjoyed for up to five months, well beyond the holiday season. He adds, “The bonus of winter containers, unlike live plant pots, is they are no maintenance!”

Landscape Design Manager Scott Moon, from Sargent’s Gardens, gives an important reminder. “When working with ceramic, clay pots or glass containers, consider making seasonal arrangements in a slightly smaller-sized plastic pot and inserting that into the finished look. Pots that are not plastic can be vulnerable to breakage during the winter months.”


A container does not need a lot of different materials to have a big impact. In more sizable pots, use chunky, large-scale objects for big drama. Keep materials similar but don’t worry about matching multiple pots exactly. Remember to embellish garland around the front door and wreaths in a similar way to tie the look together.


Stringing lights on the house is a holiday classic, but well-balanced outdoor decorating incorporates plenty of natural elements as well. Lit trees, shrubs and even ground covers play an important role in providing varied height and dimension to your outdoor display. Design an interesting theme with colored LED lights. Or opt for strands of all-white lights that are versatile and neutral, complimenting landscape from the holiday season through March, giving long winter nights sparkle. Use an outlet timer to make managing your lights effortless.


Not everyone has the time, resources or desire to create their dream seasonal display. Not to worry, a variety of professional help is available. Options range from budget-friendly, pre-made winter pots (fresh or artificial) found at most big-box stores to custom-designed planters made and delivered directly to your front step. Viola Nursery, Sargent’s Gardens and other local garden and floral centers specialize in this kind of full-service offering.

Overwhelmed with putting up your own lights? Companies like Red Nose Lighting can take the hassle out of designing, hanging and managing the lights display for your home.


What better way to embrace the holiday cheer than with a DIY winter container workshop? Go solo or gather your besties, church group or company peers and get your decorating groove on. Nicklay, who books private group events, explains, “Many groups have made it a tradition and come back year after year. People love the ability to experiment with lots of unique options and then only pay for what they finally select.”

Moon elaborates on the extensive offering Sargent’s also features for their container workshops. “We feature several types of fir cuttings; sustainably sourced spruce tops (from Northern Minnesota and Canada); several types of curly willow, dogwood, winter berries and rosehips; and many other unique options.”

Sargent’s Gardens and Viola Nursery both host winter container workshops at their greenhouses in November and December. Bring your existing pots or buy new containers. These workshops are great fun and fill up quickly. Head over to their websites for info on their workshop calendars (sargentsgardens.com and violanursery.com).

Whether you decide to go it alone or bring in a professional, embrace our long winters by decorating your outdoor space.

Kristie Moore is a certified home stager and stylist at Soul Purpose Home Solutions in Rochester, MN. soulpurposehome.com