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"Concentrate on texture," Susan Whiteley says. She's an expert on ornamental container design, which should be obvious from this one. It sits on a low wall on her back patio. Has a lot of elements, but one thing they have in common is unusual texture.

Susan has combined red twig dogwood, one of her favorite "anchor plants" for its color and verticality and something she grows in her yard, with skimmia, which has shiny green leaves and gorgeous copper-color flowers; osmanthus, which has yellow and green foliage with small fragrant flowers; a trailing juniper, and carex ('Ever Gold').

And note the cranberry ball, something Susan just whipped up to give the arrangement a rounded shape and yet another texture. She bought a Styrofoam ball at a craft shop and attached fresh cranberries with floral pins. "It's something original to put in a container," she says.

I think this pot is a plastic composite, not too expensive. Susan is a serious shopper for pots. She buys wherever she finds something good, which could mean the high-end Campania, where pots range from $75-$350, or Home Depot, where a good sized one can run $50-$125. Costco also sells polyethylene planters in the spring that are similarly priced.

As always, the greens in these designs are critical. But "green," as you see in this photo, can actually be quite yellow or variegated.

Story about Susan and her beautiful holiday containers is in the works for Friday, Dec. 23.