After Christmas trees, one of the biggest sellers of winter décor is wreaths. There are other decorative options to consider, however, including large porch pots, artfully arranged with greens and colorful accoutrement.

Holiday pots can either be pre-assembled by garden center staff or the garden center can provide the pieces and allow customers to put them together themselves. Either way, there are different directions and approaches to take regarding their creativity. Speaking on the subject at this year’s Cultivate conference were Jim Moylan, director of business development, and Beth Lorentz, director of marketing and product, of Glenhaven Home & Holiday.

The business benefits of offering holiday porch pots include building a winter garden business and increasing sales, growing community engagement by participating in fundraising and workshops, utilizing your resources and extending your staff employment, according to Moylan.

When beginning, the foundation of the pot is critical; begin with a sandbag at the bottom for stability, then use straw to fill the pot about two-thirds full. Use foam for the top third, into which the decorative pieces will be inserted.

“You can use mint instead of foam,” Moylan noted. “Mint is much more environmentally friendly, it’s very easy to grow, there’s a huge cost and labor savings and some customers like having it grow in spring.”

Use the soil with the root system if you do opt to use mint. Just plant it in the pots in July or August, water it regularly and then cut the mint and stack the pots in October. Water the pots thoroughly before making the holiday porch pots.

When you’re ready to start assembling the pots, Moylan provided a list of “ingredients” decorators should have handy. Besides the pots and foam or soil, look for floral wire, strapping tape, live evergreen boughs, deciduous branches, berry branches, pine cones, ribbons (preferably those with wire, as they hold shapes better), bells, shatterproof ornaments and faux flowers. “Look at all the stuff you didn’t sell [in the summer season], save it and use it in three months,” Moylan added.

Over the course of less than 10 minute, Jim Moylan demonstrated how to quickly and artistically arrange a porch pot, starting with greens and working down to holiday-themed decorations. Photo by Courtney Llewellyn

To emphasize how simple the practice can be – once your staff is familiar with the process – Moylan demonstrated how to build a porch pot. Over the course of just a few minutes, his experienced hands used the following steps to create a lush and colorful porch pots:

  1. Select your container
  2. Choose your greenery assortment
  3. Add your floral foam and/or dirt and soak it with water
  4. Start by placing your tall greens, twigs and branches; begin in the middle of the pot and work your way out
  5. Add your “skirt” (the shorter, lower pieces)
  6. Add your filler
  7. Finish by adding embellishments and finishing touches

Selling and promoting the pots is different from actually creating them. Lorentz took over here, describing approaches you could take to do so. She suggested showcasing pre-built display models. In-store demonstrations are helpful, as are in-store and online do-it-yourself classes. If you don’t have space, you could offer kits for customers to create their pots at home.

Community engagement is also important. If possible, offer at-home design services. “Take your services on the road,” Lorentz said, “not to just homes, but businesses and municipalities too.” Sell pots or classes as part of a fundraising program with local nonprofits. And promote the pots themselves beyond their beautification benefits. They can have eco-benefits too; beyond the cultivation of mint, much of a porch pot’s “ingredients” can be mulched or reused another year.

Design Inspiration

If you’re new to holiday porch pots, or need some fresh inspiration, Lorentz provided several ways to zhuzh up one of your creations. “Celebrate with berries,” she began. “It’s an instant way to get a lot of color.” Red is the most popular holiday color, but there are other colors to consider, especially if a customer is looking to coordinate with other decorations or their home’s color.

Other suggestions included using urns instead of pots, which Lorentz said provides a “very elegant presentation.” Keep the ingredients natural – live and local. Accent and embellish with shatterproof ornaments, jingle bells and finials. Complement the look with fabric – either bows in the display or to decorate the container.

If you’re looking to be more creative, Lorentz said to consider “telling a story” – for example, feature a top hat or faux birds and build the color and décor around those. Add an “element of surprise,” such as faux fruit or a twig orb. You could also feature a gazing ball or an orb, trellis or obelisk. Other pieces to build around could include a lantern or the currently popular LED string lights.

Outside of pots and urns, you could also use coco fiber baskets or fill window boxes and wall planters with holiday decoration.

As for the price point, take into account the materials and the labor involved. “Set the price from a base and then a la cart with additions,” Moylan said.

Tom Durkin, president and CEO of Glenhaven, added, “If you’re not in the business [of holiday porch pots], give it a shot.”

by Courtney Llewellyn