The late fall, winter, and early spring in my zone occupies a solid 6 months of every year. For gardeners, this amounts to being occupied by an army of unfriendly conditions. The cold, the quiet, the somber color of the landscape, the desertion of the birds, the leafless trees, the snow, and the sunless skies that preside over the dormant garden are enough to make any gardener black out. There are a few bright and light spots. The late November and December holidays are a celebration any and all can enjoy. There is nothing like a celebration to banish the winter blues. It is not surprising that the holidays have roots in an ancient late season festival of lights. The quality and duration of light is a major consideration in the planning of a garden or landscape. It is equally important to a warm winter garden.
We have sunny skies and 60 degrees forecast for this week, but the beginning of winter is but 5 weeks away. Nature in particularly stingy in the light department given the arrival of that moment. The shortest day of the year, also known as the winter solstice, will be the 21st day of December this year. On that day, my city will have 9 hours and 32 minutes of daylight, and 14 hours and 28 minutes of nighttime. At that moment, the north pole will be tilted away from the sun the furthest distance it will be all year. I rue that day. The gray days and the long black nights that attend our winter are tough to take. I will not be paying so much attention to the beginning of the dark in late December. I have holidays to celebrate. But January, February and March can be dark. A plan in advance to light the winter night just makes sense.
It is a given in my household that all of my containers will be dressed for the winter season. They may have fresh cut twigs, or stems from my garden, fresh cut greens, or holiday picks-but no matter how I choose to handle the decor part, all of them will provide some light. Empty containers over the winter is a lost opportunity. Winter containers without lighting is much the same. Dressing containers for the winter to come is a form of antibiotic that can help make the insult of the winter easier. This rectangular pot which I plant for summer lights the way down the stairs from the deck to the yard. This is a great idea for 2 aging corgis, and my aging self going down those stairs. Incandescent garland light strings have the lights very closely spaced. There are 300 lights per strand. This pots has two strands tucked into the greens. I can see this pot from my bedroom window. This light is the last thing I see before I go to sleep. Sweet.
I go to work, and come home from work in the dark now. The dark days are ascending. This picture of winter container arrangements that were lighted that Rob made for me several years ago at the end of my driveway meant that I had light in my garden, early and late in the day. The morning light was as beautiful as it was cheery. Fiery expressions in the winter-how I appreciate them.
On those winter nights when I was out late, I could see my way to the door, courtesy of these lighted winter pots. I was happy to have my way to the garage door at 8pm easy to navigate. Great lighting not only illuminates the winter landscape, it makes the winter easier to bear. I do have landscape lighting, which I rarely use in the summer months. The summer daylight goes fashionably late in my zone. But come winter, I appreciate my landscape lighting. And a little supplementary lighting in my winter containers makes that just past 4 in the afternoon and at 7am a dose of light that I appreciate. Your containers stuffed with natural materials for the winter, and glowingly lighted, may prove to be an effective antidote to the gray days and the very long dark nights to come.
I do believe that landscape lighting is an integral part of a great landscape design. I routinely plan for my lighting designer, Kevin McMahon from Moonlit Lighting, to propose a lighting scheme. Those lighting schemes are tailored individually to each client. Landscape lighting is not my forte. I take Kevin’s lead. But lighting containers is a specialty. That specialty evolved from Rob’s interest in lighting, and his passion for lighting up the winter night.
We have for many years incorporated his light strands into our winter containers. Like everything on the planet, lighting has evolved. Though for years we stocked all manner of incandescent light strands for containers, the LED light revolution has changed all of that. Finally LED light strings are available with lights that exude a warm glow. Their initial harsh blue light was unattractive to both the landscape and people. No doubt they are more expensive than the 100 count incandescent light strings that were reliable for one season only. The Dutch manufactured lights that Detroit Garden Works carries now are good for 10 years and 50,000 hours. They draw very little power. The investment up front is greater, but the rewards are better than greater. Lighting your garden in the winter has never been easier. Your electric bill will be small.
This pot of twigs that Rob designed and installed last year with C-6 incandecent light strings at the base have the fire power that only incandescent lights can deliver. These lights come with a price from DTE energy. The good news is that any gardener seeking to banish the dark has a lot of choices.
The front of the shop in December from some years ago would have been dark indeed without the lighting. My advice? Dress your pots for the winter season. Do not forget to light them. Light up your night.