Keep The Lights On, Please

The only thing warm about my garden this late December afternoon are the lights. Some years I think to skip putting them up; I am invariably glad that I don’t give in to that idea.  I cannot imagine what it must have felt like, seeing a city street or home lit with electric lights for the first time. Though in 1882 the first commercial power station ever built supplied light and electric power to 59 customers on Pearl St. in lower Manhattan, the widespread availability of electricity is a 20th century phenomenon. The landscape lighting permits me some interaction with my garden, at a time when there are more dark hours than light.   The magnolia garland does a good job of concealing the substantial light cords.  My glassed in front porch is a winter home to a pair of Italian terra cotta urns on plinths.  Just having them where I can see them , and lighting them, helps drive away the winter blues.  Though hand made terra cotta is vastly stronger than machine made, I would not leave these pots out over the winter.  Our winter weather is predictably vicious.  Luckily, this pot is beautiful in its empty state.   Though these pots appear to be terra cotta, they are actually fiber reinforced concrete.  I like the look; I like even better that I can leave them out all winter.  I left a double ball taxus topiary in the pot; I am hoping it will successfully survive the winter.  The volume of soil in this pot is huge, compared to the rootball in question.  I think that gives me better than decent odds of survival.  I watered right up until the ground froze.  Adequate water both late into the fall, and early in the spring, helps improve your chances of wintering evergreens in pots.  I wound lighted mixed evergreen garland on top of the soil. 

The yellow twig in the pots is a pale color, but it does not read well at night.  The lights in the evergreens helps light them considerably.  But once it is completely dark, a well placed andscape spotlight does a better job of rescuing them from the gloom.  The yellow twig does stand out against the dominant blue grey of the winter. 

The view into my side yard from the street would be bleak indeed without my lit evergreen tree. This large Italian style square concrete pot looks good planted for the winter.  A short statured cut Christmas tree is vastly less expensive than a live dwarf or topiary evergreen.  I really don’t mind being free of the responsibility to keep plants alive for a few months.  I have no plants inside my house-for exactly this reason.  Having 2 live topiaries in pots to worry through the winter was enough. Though I think my untrimmed Limelight flower heads look great over the winter, they are not much to look at in the dark.  

From inside the garden, the side yard gets to be tough to navigate, unless you are a corgi.  My lit tree not only lights up the entire side yard, it provides me with something bright to look at out of all of the south side windows.  I have no thought to pull the plug after New Years.  It is my plan to let the light shine until March first.  Though March is a winter month, but it is vastly better than January and February.  By that time, the days will be much longer than they are now; I will be ready to do without the lights.

I only have landscape lighting in the front of my house.  In the summer, it is light so late, I do not feel the need.  I am thinking it might be a good idea to plan for some lighting here for next winter, but in any event,  I do not have any plans to give up this lighted tree. 

Rob put these pots together for me.  I see them first thing when I come home at night, and when I leave for work in the morning.  He cut a disk of floral foam that fit each urn, and frosted them with strings of C-7 white lights.  Then he stuck umpteen dozen stems of dried rose hips, and several bunches of copper curly willow into each disk, taking care not to puncture a cord.  This pair of pots are giant night lights; they glow.  This construction would be great for those places in the garden that could stand to have the lights switched on. 

This cheers me as much as a fire in the fireplace-maybe more. I like that this winter pot uses no evergreens whatsoever-just sticks, and lights.  The rose hips dried and are stuck fast on the stems, making them an ideal material for a winter pot.  All you need is the patience to collect lots of sticks, and stick them.  I like the big old fashioned C-7 lights.    

A neighbor behind and several doors down from me stuffed a giant yew in his front yard with lights for the holiday.  This is one of the better parts of living in an urban community; the good lighting works of others make my winter better.


  1. …”all is calm, all is bright.”

    Love, love, love what you’ve done with your winter light-scaping scheme. Perfection.

  2. Judy Cornellier says

    I agree whole heartedly, “the good lighting works of others make my winter better.”

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