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  • Writer's pictureAlexandra Ward

What's In The Christmas Containers?

The 2021 Christmas Season Containers and the Greens That Are Making It Happen At Potomac Flower & Garden Design

We all love to celebrate the Christmas season with decorations that remind us of the wonder of the holidays. We turn to the comforts of red and green, of fir trees and candy canes. We do our very best to create our own versions of the Christmas spirit we knew as kids. At Potomac Flower, we love this process even more than most, which is why we take the importance of creating a holiday atmosphere very seriously. When our homes feel merry and bright, we find that we have a little more in our cup for what the season has in store. We know that our relatives will be filled with joy when they come to stay with us, as the essence of our holiday cheer is shared through how we decorate our homes. Our children will learn from the traditions we put in place, and they will forever be moved by their earliest impressions of the Christmas season. Friends will gather in kitchens filled with the warmest scents of sugar cookies and snickerdoodles, elated by the visual cues that remind us of why this is the most wonderful time of the year.

This year, our clients who have scheduled holiday décor with us will get to experience an extra bit of magic. Holiday containers are a great way to take the awe that we work so hard to create within our homes and bring it outside. We do this with an abundance of fresh-cut winter greens, expertly arranged on-site to create the highest quality in custom seasonal creations.

We couldn't be more excited by this year's selection of winter greens. Here's a guide to a few of the materials you might find in your Christmas containers, including three of our favorite greens and a couple of additional decorative elements.

White Pine

In our holiday containers, greens such as White Pine are an appealing and reliable option for a thriller. Thrillers are the initial focal point of our container designs. The idea behind a thriller is that it provides a vertical element to draw the eyes from the top of the design down to the densest portion of the container. White Pine works best as a thriller in wider containers that can benefit from the natural height of the longer branches. The needles flair out brilliantly to create instant volume, building a lush backdrop for additional thriller pieces, such as the painted red-twig branches shown here. White Pine is not strictly a thriller element, however. We commonly use its needled branches as both a filler and a spiller. This means that pine branches are also great for thickening up the mid-section of the design, and they also work well as a skirt that "spills" over the edge of the container.


Our cut Magnolia branches are next on the list. Much like the White Pine, Magnolia branches can be found in a variety of roles within a container. Shown here is a container with Magnolia used as a filler. The filler refers to the element at the center where the design is most dense. This may not be the most exciting portion of the container, but it surely does the most heavy lifting. In order for a filler to be effective, it must be both attractive enough to take up such a large portion of the design while also being sturdy enough to support the thriller and other higher elements. We love the way Magnolia tips accomplish this. Nature has a way of bringing together the greatest color combinations, and Magnolia is no exception. These leaves range from dark green to yellowish on one side, and from dark brown to a light tan on the other. The leaves are striking from any angle, but even more so when clustered together, creating depth between the leaves. In order to achieve this filler look, we remove the majority of each branch, leaving only the tips with a few leaves on each end. This allows us to build our design out from the center to make sure that it is weighted properly, becoming wider as it moves down, but not necessarily wider than the lip of the container.

Incense Cedar

The final component in any good container is the spiller, or the element that drapes over the edge of the container. There are many gorgeous options for spillers with our holiday cut-greens, but one of our absolute favorites is Incense Cedar. This is a popular green for garlands as it has such a lovely cascading movement about it. So while it's not necessary that it be used as a spiller, it seems like an obvious choice to us. Incense Cedar mixes well in both traditional and contemporary settings, making it the perfect compliment to any design. We take care when making our cuts to include many of the plant's beautiful golden incense cones while also incorporating the plain green ends for variety in color and texture.


Once a container has all of its greens tucked into place, it's time to get decorating. Every year, we find new, creative pieces to add the finishing touch to our containers, but we will always be fans of the classics. Among our favorites are, of course, pinecones! Here again, nature inspires with its unique patterns and the unexpected textures they create. Pinecones are the perfect addition to an eye-catching design as they are so universally recognizable as a symbol of the winter season. We keep some of our pinecones natural for when we are looking for a rustic expression in a design, and we paint others gold and silver for when we need a pop of shimmer and shine to get the party started.


Would it even be Christmas without a touch of red? Maybe, but it wouldn't be traditional. And while some of our clients request a break from tradition, we like to keep Winterberries abundant for those who wish to stick to the classics. Not only do these berries add a vibrant contrast that awakens any design, they introduce a festive texture fit for the season. Winterberries can be added as an accent to a lush filler, or stand tall as a thriller piece all on their own. Either way, a fresh bouquet of Winterberries is the perfect finishing touch.

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