Flipping The Switch

night lightThe beginning of the winter season is marked by the scarcity of daylight. By mid December, it seems like it is dark most of the time. Winter days are likely to be gray days. It is no wonder that outdoor lighting is a hallmark of the holidays. I have always thought that holiday lighting is a form of winter gardening. The lights may outline the roof of a house, or decorate a specimen tree or evergreen, or be draped over the shrubbery. No one but the most ruinously serious of us thinks their holiday lighting will be subject to a taste test. The materials are relatively inexpensive, and people express their dismay with the coming of the dark, and the celebration of the holidays with abandon. I like all of the light at this gloomy time of year.

DSC_3753I will confess that most landscape lighting does not interest me-except during the winter.  It is light late in the summer, and equally as light early in the morning.  The light from the sky is like no other.  But once the skies go dark, in tandem with the landscape going dormant, I am more interested in some night light.  Rob’s lit spheres have been a staple at Detroit Garden Works for a number of years.  We manufacture raw steel circles that we infill with brown corded lights in 2 styles. We make them so they can be hung from a low branch of a big tree.  We also make them with long prongs that can be pushed into the ground in a garden. These light rings are more about winter light, than holiday light.  What a relief. It is OK to run those rings all winter long.

DSC_3765Winter containers are the perfect vehicle for some temporary winter lighting. The greens do a great job of obscuring the cords. When the dark comes early, it is a pleasure to enjoy what is in those pots day or night. The advent of warm light LED light strings means that lighting the landscape in the winter is an inexpensive affair. They draw so little power-about 1/10th that of incandescent light strings. The color of that light has improved so much in recent years. When LED string lights first came out, that cold blue light had no grace or charm whatsoever.
DSC_3754Electric light in the winter landscape adds a little sparkle to a gloomy morning and afternoon. Company coming to my house for dinner at 7pm are walking up to the front door in the dark.  Landscape path lighting is utilitarian.  Lights in the pots dispel the gloom, and say welcome.

DSC_3755My landscape lighting skills are poor to middling.  There are lighting designers who do an incredible job of featuring the landscape at night. Should I have a client who is interested in landscape lighting, I refer them. I myself am not interested in lighting design. I am interested in a warm, friendly, and unstudied look.

DSC_3756There are those places and moments when night lighting is theater. That theater is not my forte. I like a blush over the landscape. In the very late afternoon, the light in pots is as soft as it is sparkly. This much light is enough.

DSC_3804Once the skies go dark, those lighted pots glow. This brick wall is bathed in a warm subtle light.

DSC_3802This client has a covered porch, with no ceiling light fixture. One string of our 1000 light LED strings illuminate the perimeter of the ceiling, and each side of the front door. Another 750 count LED light string strewn on the floor of the porch around a grouping of pots makes this porch glow.  A winter with a glow in the landscape is a winter that has a landscape that is lively.

DSC_3797My advice this 6th day of January? Stay warm.  Plug something in.


  1. I’m new to your site and have only read two posts so far. Both have been inspiring with tasteful, fitting garden design. They give me ideas to use on projects.
    Thanks very much.

  2. If I win the lottery, can I hire you to landscape my entire neighborhood? I just thought of it now, being (always!) so inspired by your incredible designs! 😉 Hope springs eternal!

  3. Jo Adkison says:

    I love the lighted pots and that glowing porch…..so welcoming & a nice gift to their neighbors!

  4. Rob Beebe says:

    “Stay warm. Plug something in.”
    Good advice, I must say, for these gloomy grey days of deep winter.

  5. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I have a more typical light arrangement, our Japanese Maple tree has a few strands running up the trunk and out over some limbs. It is on a timer. It is so cheerful to come home in the evening and have this bright wave of light greeting us.

  6. Jill Banfield says:

    Your posts always make me happy Deborah! Thanks!

  7. Mary Mayercin says:

    I couldnt agree more! My street was lit and festive and neighbors would leave their holiday lights on all night, including me. Once new years is over, the lights no longer glow and the street is dark except for a few houses here and there, those who refuse to let the dark of winter prevail, including me! I will keep my lights glowing until march. And youre right; even a string of lights along the floor of a porch or balcony provides a nice glow at night. I love your work and thanks for sharing it!

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