Outdoor Holiday Planters

Most people go to the cottage to relax. To sip coffee in the morning and lay in the sun. Maybe read a book and roast a wiener or two.

I go to the cottage to pilfer from the forest and judge people wearing inappropriate swim trunks. Honestly. There is just no place for G-String bikinis in cottage country.  For a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is sand spiders.

I spend the majority of my days scouring the edge of the water, the beach and the forests for things I might want to bring home.  Could be twigs or reindeer moss or small children I think are especially cute.

For me the cottage isn’t about relaxing, it’s about work, which often requires power tools, safety glasses and prescription strength deodorant. Oh! And those little boxes of Froot Loops that you tip on their side and eat right out of the waxed paper liner.

So last year when we went to the cottage my boyfriend didn’t even raise an eyebrow when I told him I wanted to bring some Birch branches home. I do that sort of thing all the time. The eyebrow raising came later when he saw me sawing and shoving entire Birch trees into his obsessively well maintained car.

Birch trees are the perfect thing to pilfer from the cottage because they aren’t the hardiest trees around and, in fact,  tend to fall over and die with great frequency.  Those trees that had fallen over and died?  I took em.   In the middle of summer, drenched in sweat, I had the foresight to bring em home for Christmas.

Once I got them home I cut them into  equal lengths of 6 feet and stored them until it was time to do my planters.  I stored them for the past year and brought them out again this year and they’re still in perfect condition.  Granted, there are many of you who don’t have the inclination or opportunity to pilfer the forest.  Lucky for you, you can now buy birch logs at garden centres.

Here we go!  The basics of how to make a stunning outdoor planter.

If your budget allows, buy a variety of greenery.

If it doesn’t allow, steal a variety.

Incense Cedar

Western Cedar


Shore Pine

White Pine

Birch Logs

If you’re using large tree trunks or smaller branches, dig a hole for them.  Insert the log/branch and then pack the dirt around them tightly.  Tight, tight, tight.

At this point if you’re going very minimalist you can call it a day and go inside for a Hot Toddy or whatever you fancy.

The rest of us will continue on, adding in the greenery.

I don’t ever have a real plan other than dividing up the branches evenly between the 2 planters before I start working.

This eliminates the pesky problem of having used too much in one planter and not having enough for the other.

Once your greenery is in you can add whatever other embellishments you have.

I used pomegranates and a huge pinecone.  The pinecone you can keep from year to year.

The pomegranates?  Not so much.

As you can see, the result is very pretty.  Mine looks a little more contemporary with a hint of tradition.

If you were to do yours in a more traditional urn, it would appear heavier on the traditional side.

Now most bloggers would be done here.  This would be the end of the story.

But not here.

Remember in the summer I told you I used my Glowing Orbs in the winter as well?

Yup.  It’s time to break ’em out.

Tie a wire around them … I used picture wire, but you can use whatever wire you can get ahold of.

Then tie one or two of them to the lower portion of the logs in your planter.

And then stuff them full of mini-lights.

Scatter the lights among the branches as well.

You have now created a thing of beauty …

… that will only get more beautiful the darker out it gets.


There are a few more tips and tricks I could tell you about with regard to creating holiday planters but frankly I’m sick of writing this post . I’m dying for a coffee and my G String is starting to itch.


  1. Carol says:

    Sooo gorgeous Karen, Luv them!!! Years ago before you could buy birch logs at the garden centres,,,I ‘gathered’ some large fallen branches from a park one day but they weren’t birch,,,,,so I took some white paint and dry brushed them to look like birch! I had fake birch logs in my planters. I’ve since replaced them with real ones from the flower market though not the forest. Fall and winter planters are so much more interesting than summer ones aren’t they,,,,I always hate to take them apart in the spring.

    • Karen says:

      :) Thanks Carol. My mother nearly killed me last spring when I took the birch logs out of the planters. She wanted me to leave them all summer. I wish I had the money to put huge trees in them and change em up all year. Magnolia in the spring, then Snowball bushes, then Rose of Sharon, and on and on. :) ~ karen

  2. Lesley H says:

    EPIC! Your planters are absolutely stunning and confirming that my idea of putting special-color-changing-lights on my potted evergreen is just not gonna cut it. Off to find some downed branches….thanks for sharing :)

  3. Maryann Pusateri says:

    i love white birch trees, and everything else in these pictures!! very pretty.

  4. Beth says:

    thank you Karen! I needed some inspiration and your planters are perfect!!

  5. Hey Sanj — not sure where you’re located but Target has something similar (in stock and not *too* pricey) right now: http://www.target.com/gp/detail.html/192-5280790-0329416?asin=B002RTXNCO&AFID=Froogle_df&LNM=|B002RTXNCO&CPNG=patio%20garden&ci_src=14110944&ci_sku=B002RTXNCO&ref=tgt_adv_XSG10001.

  6. lori says:

    OMG!!! I love it now i have to go out and try to find some downed trees.
    UUMMM you would want to come to Tennessee and help would you?? HAHA
    No really i just love your blog!! and the comments are just as funny!

  7. Shauna says:

    Looks great Karen!! Thanks for sharing! Also impressive that you fit the birch in Fella’s car!!

  8. Oona says:

    How long does the greenery typically last before it starts to die?

  9. maventheavenger says:

    haha! I am always dragging something home from somewhere hoping I’ll have a use for it!
    Your decorations are beautiful, and I love the patio too!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Jamie! I love draggin’ stuff home. If you take a look here you can see how I built my backyard. It was stupid and I don’t recommend anyone do it. Because it was stupid. ~ karen!

  10. Sanj says:

    That arrangement is really stunning! It looks like something you’d find outside a swanky skyscraper downtown!!! I also second the sentiment – I love love love the planters! I’ve been searching for something tall and dark grey like them for months!!! I got so thwarted in my search that I seriously considered making them myself…any chance you’ve got a killer plan up your sleeve for a DIY Contemporary Tall Outdoor Planter? :D

    • RODI says:

      I, too, wanted cheap but classy planters for my front door. I found tall black plastic waste baskets, put a bunch of rocks in the bottom, some empty plastic nursery pots to take up space and then I planted coleus, green sweet potato vine and red geraniums. They filled and nicely and look expensive.

    • Susie says:

      I found my planters like these at cosco this past spring for 40.00 !

  11. maggie says:

    I have convinced Wayne to put in a plug outlet on our back porch which is really the front porch since it faces the road. Our front porch faces the lake and has plug outlets. Next year lights in my barrel arrangement are a must. That is if he gets around to plug work. Love the effect especially the poms.

  12. Sherry (BTLover2) says:

    I’m so inspired by your projects (and jealous if I’m being honest). Everything you do is magnificent! You make it all look so damn easy. I love this project and think it is one of your best!! What can I do to get you to come visit me in SC?

    • Karen says:

      Sherry ~ Something like this IS really easy. Especially if you have a basic pattern (like this) to go by. It wouldn’t take much to get me to go to South Carolina! :) ~ karen

  13. Robbin says:

    Love, love, love them. Simply stunning.

  14. Gina says:

    Where did you get the vases,certainly not at the dollar store….hahaha. I love them.

    • Karen says:

      Gina ~ Heh. Nope. Not that Dollar Store. :) I did get them at a discount store thought. Although they still weren’t exactly cheap, they were at least discounted! ~ karen

  15. Jeff says:

    I am glad I am not the only one who uses large dead tree branches as decoration. Years ago I took a Red Bud tree branch that had fallen and shoved it in the ground. I then hung small pumpkins with faces drawn on them from the branches. When Halloween was over, I hung a grape vine wreath wrapped in Christmas lights on it and added a couple of strands of addtional lights to it. One neighbor who was taking a walk stopped me to ask what kind of tree it was because it looked so great he wanted one. When I told him it was a dead tree branch he looked at me like I was a mental hospital escapee and double timed it away from my house. I still laugh at that. Beautiful planters Karen. Your restraint enhanced the overall effect.

  16. Todd@PhitZone says:

    I agree with Jennifer… about it being stunning, not for making fun of your failure to use the spel cecker.

  17. Melissa says:

    I bought a couple orbs at a garage sale this summer and want to use them on my mantle but I’m having a hard time finding mini lights that are battery operated – any tips?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Melissa! You should be able to get battery operated mini lights anywhere at this time of year. They even have them at Dollarama but I’m not sure how strong they are. Ikea also sells them ($1.99) and most hardware stores that have a Christmas aisle. I’m not sure the battery operated ones will be strong enough to light up the orbs however. :( If you have a plug near your mantle, you’re better off with a small strand of plug in mini lights. ~ karen!

      • Debra says:

        You may also be able to find solar powered ones. I found some at a Rite Aid pharmacy near my house in W. MI last year.

    • Kathrine says:

      Wal-Mart & General Dollar have the battery operated ones, if you can find the ones that use a C cell battery they last forever (mine lasted 5 years just changed the batteries)

    • Marina Abbott says:

      If you are in Canada you can pick up battery operated lights at Canadian Tire or Dollarama.

    • Maryanne Cadwell says:

      You can find the lights in craft stores year round in the wedding section.

    • jan mca. says:

      again, Home Depot

  18. mbb. says:

    you might be the most creative (and well planned) canadian there is. i am so impressed!

  19. Bobbie says:

    OMG You are a genius! Fabulous! Of course, I’d need those planters first. Minor detail. Other than that: a-pilfering we go, a-pilfering we go, Hi Ho… :-)

    • jan mca. says:

      you can buy a really nice planter at Home Depot, taller and square at the top….looks like wicker, dark grey and about 2 1/2 ft. tall, for only ……wait 4 it…..$19.99.

  20. Laura says:

    really super duper cool

  21. Honestly you are the “Designer MacGuvyer”! I heart you the way that I heart Krispy Kreme donuts.

  22. Stunning! Just absolutely lovely, and per usual, something I’ve not seen anywhere else. Though admittedly I don’t get out much.
    (Btw, is ‘dieing’ a special Canadian spelling?) :-)

  23. Jamieson says:

    Brad is very excited by this. I’m guessing his version would have about 1000 lights though.

    • Karen says:

      Jamieson ~ I had 1001 lights on them last year and they didn’t look as good, so I cut back. Too hard to hide all the wires plus they were so bright it looked like a UFO was landing in my backyard every night. ~ karen

  24. Ciscely says:

    Wow. That’s is all.

  25. Angie says:

    Oh my goodness you crack me up! Aside from that- these photos are gorgeous and I can’t believe how amazing the planters turned out!!

    • patti templeton says:

      Dear Karen,
      I loved your article and as I live very close to the woods, it is quite convenient in the great Northwest in Oregon. I had a article that had a picture of two glowing orbs made with glow in the dark spray paint. I was on my way to hunt for the globes when I found your picture on Pinterest. It is such a cool idea you had with the square planters. We don’t have a lot of birch around here and( not in a neighbors yard) so I might have to figure out how to get them from somewhere. Maybe make a few fake ones? I will see.

      Thanks for the wonderful article and photos,

      • Karen says:

        Hey Patti! I’m always amazed when people are looking at my winter planters in summer, lol. But that’s the beauty of Pinterest I guess. It’s seasonless. Welcome to my site and good luck finding birch! (sometimes nurseries carry it around the holidays but if you can’t find it plain, straight branches would look just as good.) ~ karen

      • Gia says:

        Hey Pattie and Karen!
        … and you could spray paint the branches white!

      • Sharon Snyder says:

        I have actually seen fake birch limbs made out of pool noodles, paper mache and paint. I thought about trying that and I love the lighted orbs …..ideas are flowing….

      • Karen says:

        Pool noodles could save the world if we let them, lol. They can do anything! I’ve used them to make wreaths and floats, and last night I was at a local parade and people turned them into huge cacti. ~ karen!

      • Sheri Packett says:

        If you have any access to a florist wholesale supplier you can save a bundle . .. if not, your florist can order them for you. I like spray painting branches with my fave metallic for a little extra bling. Copper shot over natural wood is beautiful without being too over-the-top.

      • Deb says:

        I spray paint any old logs that have smoother bark white. DO THIS. SPRAY PAINT LOGS WHITE. Scuff em up a bit afterward. Depending on how closely you will view them. Yes, inside, outside. SIMPLE.
        I use low sheen or flat. Whatever is in my workshop.

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