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. Ann says:

    hi Karen. Love your ideas. Love your humour more. Can I play in your corner of the playground? Kind of hard, mind, considering we are opposite sides of the pond. Look forward to reading more of your blogs. x AA

  2. John Ferrell says:

    I love your picture of the boxwood. When I saw it I decided that I love the red berries with the green. It may be time for me to consider getting planters and doing something like this.

  3. Debbie says:

    Ha, you had me hooked at power tools. We too have a cottage but we call it the cabin and it’s on forty acres in NW Illinois. Just this morning I was cleaning up some tree branches that we had cut down yesterday. I was looking at the amazing lichen & moss and the brain started clicking. We have a flower show at the Chicago Botanic Garden in July. I’d love to enter the competition with a high heeled boot covered in lichens, pine cones, grape vine twirls, etc that I find while playing with my chainsaw. I’m going to try your preservation hints. Wish me luck!

  4. Karin says:

    i’m just gonna print this out and shove it under anyones nose, who gives me the hairy eyeball when i’m scavanging for birch logs on my doggy walks. it’s b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l.

  5. Penny says:

    I have some solar mini christmas lights I want to try so i can eliminate the wires

  6. Jan Cameron says:

    I am Charity Director at St. Vincent de Paul in Great Falls, Montana. We have a thrift store that supports our charity services – Food Bank, Emergency Financial Assistance, Prison Ministry, and Angel Services (Free furniture, clothing, household for people in need).
    Anyway, I am always looking for ways to repurpose/rejuvenate/ items and am hoping to make some space for a repurposing/repair room. I love this idea! We have done some pretty neat things, although I don’t get enough time to do what I’d like to. We have auctioned some of the items at our annual fundraiser. Just recently a local artist refinished a couple of small tables and painted artwork on them. I especially like to save items that may have been heading for the trash. Last year we took an old tall wall cabinet that was going in the trash and fixed a few small things, refinished it and put a piece of granite on top – a beautiful TV stand with lots of storage! Like you had said in one post, recycle, reuse, etc., and our thriftstore is a perfect place for it!

    So I do want to subscribe to your emails here at this address at home and as well at my work address of jc.svdpgreatfalls@gmail.com.

    Now for my original question! Do you do anything special with the tops of the birch branches?

    Thank you!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jan! I don’t do anything special with the tops of the branches, no. :) I also repurpose these shades into bird feeders and garden blogs. If you search “orbs” in the search bar under the picture of me holding the fish you’ll find them. ~ karen!

  7. cynda douglas says:

    Hi, beautiful. I would like to do it, if not in a nursing home now, using maybe a bit fatter and shorter birch, and some how making a light on the top of each, lookinglike a flame, fake with colored paper or real using an idea of yours. Bingo, candles in a Christmas candle holder. Your greeners and globe instantly made me think of birch candles. Merry Christmas, many months in advance.

  8. Michele says:

    You’re Kewl! <3 a fellow COFFEE junkie!

  9. sandy says:

    My first time seeing your post…………….you are a funny girl:} I found you on yahoo so I hope I can find your website. Please add me to your list of friends to share your ideas.


  10. Rev. PL Pearl-Kirkby says:

    Lol…and here it is, Feb of 2015 and I’m STILL checking out your site!!

    And no, not even “ma’amsir”! Name’s Rev. PEGGY L Pearl-Kirkby…so I’m a gal! Sorry it took so long to shake your hand, but I’m still here, preparing early for THIS year’s holidays!! Have a wonderful spring/summer…I’ll be back! :D

  11. Alicia Manolas says:

    Hello! I’m in Bunbury, Western Australia and have never heard of ‘planters’ until I slipped on the internet and landed on your site. I am hooked now! Your writing style is exquisite, tongue in cheek, and droll, and the projects you share are brilliant, absorbing, and engrossing. All in all a real treat !!! Thankyou so much !!! (And if you like I will teach my giant talking parrot to call you Princess Leia.)

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Alicia! I seem to have a bit of an Australian following for some reason. I attribute it to Australians being smart. And having a similar mentality to Canadians. ~ karen!

  12. Teresa D says:

    Wow, that is really cute. I don’t have to run to the store or a second hand store, my house is full of these things. And if I ever run out, I will just go our to the shop and dig into my husbands stash of outdated lighting. #shoemakersson and #theplightofanelectricianswife

  13. Audrey says:

    Found your website “The Art of Doing Stuff” as I was looking for some lighting ideas for my dark pathway. Solar is out of the question, since the sun is too low in winter time. I wanted to use a similar idea of lighting the walkway as I did last year… a glowing Santa Claus and Snowman, but that is a seasonal theme.
    I like the globe idea, yet concerned if the little mini Christmas lights won’t burn the globe from the inside, is it safe enough since they will be touching, or is there a way of making them not touch. And… I believe 100 light set (all I have now) would be too much in a 12″ globe. I also decided to use the acrylic ones (used for street lamp posts) and not glass shades.
    My other concern is … can or should the opening to the globe be taped?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Audrey – Thanks for visiting my site! I’ve been using these lights outside for years now and I’ve never had a problem with them. There’s no need to tape the bottom of the globes if you’re using outdoor rated lights. Depending on the size of your blog, you’re right, the 100 light set would probably be too much, but those lights usually don’t get very hot. Where you might run into trouble is if they heated up really fast and touched a glass globe when it was really cold. The instant hot on cold will make glass break. But since yours are plastic they shouldn’t be a problem. When I have 100 lights, I just distribute them (by tying sections together with a rubber band) into different globes, set side by side. The lights that run between globes, I just cover with mulch so you don’t see it. Again, if you’re working with lights that are rated for outdoor use, this isn’t a problem. Hope that helps/reassures. ~ karen!

      • Audrey says:

        Thank you for your quick response. As you explained, you answered my other question about being able to use indoor lights. Now I know. I have 3 different size globes, and I am really looking forward to this project.
        I was also very impressed with your idea of the winter project with pines, spruce branches etc, and incorporating lights and globes….its definitely something to admire.
        Thank You Karen.

  14. Lori Brown says:

    Just now came across your blog, LOVE IT! Love your sense of humour and writing style (am in Canada, so humour is spelt correctly). I am making these for our annual craft show and will let you know how much I got for them. Thanx so much for the entertaining and informational blogs, please, keep em comin’.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Lori! Good luck with the planters. No need to explain the spelling of humour. I’m in Canada, lol. ~ karen!

  15. Ok, so here it is, July, 2014. I’ve only JUST now finished taking down my Christmas decorations from Dec. 2010 (Had to. We just moved into my son’s old house in April.) and came across your blog…this post in particular (go ahead…go back and refresh your memory. I’ll wait….la la la di da…get it? got it? Good!) and am having flashbacks of all the great things I was going to do with the front-end loader’s worth of woodsy, foresty stuff I collected about, oh, 100 years or so ago.

    Got old. Got forgetful. Can’t remember where I put it all, but HEY! Bet I can start another collection! Good thing most of my kids still live in CT and can send a care pkg full of birch and stuff I can’t find in FL!

    Great blog, Karen…I think this post will be my all time favourite, though…”First Time” and all.

    Pleased to meetcha! Keep it comin’!

    • Karen says:

      Thank you ma’am! Sir? Maamsir? (Sorry it’s hard to tell from the teeny, tiny picture, lol) Welcome to my site and I’m happy to hear you took down your 2010 Christmas decorations! :) ~ karen!

  16. Cate says:

    oh behave! I can’t stand it!!!! First the summer lighting….now this?!!!!?

  17. keil richard says:

    love your blog. i will read it daily

  18. jyothi says:

    I found this idea very useful. Do keep posting more such innovative/creative ideas. Keep it up, good work done.

  19. Jeanne says:

    just found you and I am in love!!! <3

    • Karen says:

      Well Jeanne, I love you too. Actually, I’m probably more fond of you than anything, but who knows what time will bring. ~ karen!

  20. Marjorie S. Kohler says:

    I don’t know about the law in Canada, but I live in Michigan in the good ol’ USA. Since the time I was a child, I have always heard that it is against the law to cut down birch trees. I have even heard of people getting in trouble for having birch limbs that were dead. Birch trees are not a very common tree anymore, so I can see why it might be illegal to cut them down but to have branches that have clearly fallen off the trees blows my mind. Just thinking you might want to ask in the area where you are looking whether or not it is legal to cut them down.

    • Karen says:

      Marjorie – Birch trees are definitely not in short supply in good ol’ Canada. Limbs like this are sold in every garden centre around. I’ve never heard of it being illegal to cut down a regular birch tree whether in Canada or the US. In fact I was so intrigued that I did some research and found nothing. It isn’t even illegal to cut them down in New Hampshire where they’re the state tree. As far as I can tell birch trees are free for the cutting. Provided they’re on your own property of course, lol. ~ karen!

  21. Kerri says:

    Very nice. What does the top look like? Do you have a photo of the whole set up?

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Kerri – The top is nothing on the top. The base is the big fluffy greenery and then coming out of the centre are the 3 tall birch logs. So the planters end up being about 8 feet high or something ridiculous. So the top is just the top of the birch logs. :) ~karen!

  22. Cindy Nauss says:

    You are toooo funny, and this planter is so beautiful, and easy. I will be making the orbs filled with lights this year. Thanks for this idea. Merry Christmas.

  23. linda scott says:

    love the ideas karen

  24. Irene Cilliers says:

    Found you on Pinterest and just spent half an hour reading all these comments out loud to my husband – we love the humour and your fantastic planter/lighting ideas. Now I’ll have to spend another 2 hours going through all your blogs! Yeah! Keep it up Karen – you are amazing.. love from Cape Town, South Africa.

  25. Marti says:

    I still can’t believe you didn’t eat those pomegranates. Wait… did you do that after the holidays were past?

  26. Mary says:

    You are hysterical. And very clever! Thanks

  27. Kari says:

    Love your decor tips and sassy writing style. Such a pleasure to read!

  28. Bridget says:

    Hilarious. Love your posts!

  29. Beth says:

    I found you thru Pinterest while researching outdoor lighting. I like the glowing orbs idea. I think I could use house paint or acrylics to make brown branches look similar to white aspen branches.

    Now.. What to do with all these pine ones , buttons, and scraps of fabric??

    • Karen says:

      Beth – If you meant Pine cones (as opposed to “pine ones”), keep searching my “holiday posts” and you’ll find about 101 ideas for pine cones, LOL! ~ karen

  30. amy watson says:

    I am NOT a blog reader…usually….But I LOVE yours…It spoke to me in some crazy kinda way….maybe it was the balled up mini lights in old globes?? Of which I have both…. But really I am pretty sure it was the use of PINECONES of which I have a love affair with, being from Ga.and all…I have pinecones scattered throughout my house and decorate like a mad woman with them at Christmas..but whatever it was,,, you have a new fan and follower…Now where can I subscribe so I can get to in my email?????

    • Karen says:

      Hi Amy! Well. I’m starting to think you like it here. :) If you want to subscribe just type your email address into the box that says subscribe right under the picture of me holding the fish. You’ll be sent a confirmation email right away. Just click on it and you’ll be subscribed by email! ~ karen!

  31. Kay says:

    LOVE your ideas

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Kay! I’ve been known to have a few disasters too, LOL. But … that’s necessary in order to come up with the good ones. :) ~ karen

  32. Regina says:

    I’m thinking maybe colored lights would be great…orange for Halloween, Red and Green for Christmas, purple for our college…Kansas State. Can’t wait to go shopping for the light covers!!! Thanks!!!

  33. pam hill says:

    Love, love, love your site!!!

    • Karen says:

      Love, love, love you! Kay, I don’t even know you. But if we met I’m sure I’d be fond of you at the very least. ~ karen!

  34. Shae says:

    LOL! I am so glad there are others out there like my daughter and I. Thanks for the humor. Today that really helped.

    • Karen says:

      You’re very welcome Shae. (every once in a while someone leaves a comment on a very old post and I have to go back and see what they thought was so interesting/funny/strange.) So .. I’m leaving you now to go read my post again. I can’t imagine what’s funny about Outdoor Holiday Planters … can’t wait. :) ~ karen

  35. Busy Bunny says:

    You and me = same sense of humour. LOVE your posts/design and style girl ;)

  36. Mary- Beth Bridges says:

    You gave me a grat idea for Xmas a a tickle I love how you wright with a little humor. Keep it up. Love this site.

  37. Charlotte says:

    Thank you for your great ideas and your wonderful writing style. Those Glow Balls are amaaazing!

  38. Cindy Alvarez says:

    Very funny, witty, and clever explanation of a beautiful project!!! Craft on! :)

  39. Jordan says:

    Best. Blog. Ever.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jordan! Hmm. This particular post, or the blog in general? I’m fine with it either way. You’d get a bigger thank you with ya know, balloons and singing monkeys and crap if you mean best blog in the world. But best post still gets a hearty thanks. ~ karen!

  40. gail says:

    This is fabulous. Forget going to the second hand store I have a whole house full of them. Just bought a brand new house that has those stupid bulbs as fixtures everywhere. They don’t belong in the house, but in the garden….. outstanding. I must go retrieve from my own garbage . I suppose with wire you could hang in a tree as well. Thanks for the great tip. Keep them coming.

  41. Erin says:

    Love it- I always scour the woods too- Every year I bring home bags of sheet moss (and the bugs living in it) to use at Christmas time- for my planter, to hid e the soil of my paperwhites etc. Can’t wait to check out your site further.

  42. angie says:

    wow!! amazing!! love this idea and the summer idea as well… fantabulous!! thanks for sharing this!

  43. Breanna Arling says:

    You are just full of spectacular ideas woman! And flippin hilarious to boot! Thanks for the great ideas and humor, its awesome!

  44. Kelly says:

    I totally have some of these orbs, just didn’t know what to do with them. But mine are clear and faceted…maybe a shot of Krylon Looking Glass to the inside before I insert the lights….can u imagine these as mercury glass orbs in the garden??! SWEET!

  45. DrLorna says:

    You are very creative, and I enjoy your sense of humor. The dead tree branches seem a bit odd to me, though, unless the greenery had been placed at the top to create a faux palm tree effect. Otherwise, I would skip that extra effort of chopping logs and just go for the decorative bush effect. Thanks for sharing your ideas. I love the lighted globes idea and hope I can find some secondhand if I hunt around long enough. I also love eating the rather expensive pomegranates too much and would go for good-looking plastic ones.

  46. Marci says:

    Hi Karen,
    I just stumbled onto your website when I was looking for a good way to use birch logs in my planters. I love what you did with the birch trees. The planters are beautiful. They look like the holiday decorated planters I see at upscale malls that I’ve been wanting to replicate. Your story was so funny, especially since I could relate to your hunt for branches and “stuff” to use for decorating. I just came home from Lake Erie in Ohio with a bunch of large driftwood branches, masses of red twigs, and logs that look similar to birch to be saved in my garage until I’m ready to decorate. After reading your post, it just occurred to me to scrounge around our local yard waste dump site for evergreen boughs instead of buying them this year, then onto our local recycle center for globes and such. Thanks for the inspiration!! You’re so funny.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Marci – Welcome to my site. And you found it just in the nick of time. There will be contests coming up soon … ~ karen!

  47. Kat says:

    That is a thing of beauty. One day after Halloween and I am scrounging your posts for Christmas Ideas!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Art of Doing Stuff