Snow Glow

Blue skies and fluffy clouds the likes of which are pictured above are a rarity in a Michigan January. It is a bleak time of year, featuring uniformly gray-sky days, a lengthy twilight, and long ink black nights for what seems much longer than a month. February will bring more of the same. If this does not sound very appetizing, you are right. It isn’t. For that reason alone, snow can be a welcome visual addition to the landscape. Not those mountains of snow that make shoveling, walking and driving a dangerous and exhausting full time job. A new two to four inch layer of fresh snow describes all of the shapes both living and not in the landscape with a precisely applied thick carpet of bright white. A little judicious wind can whip up some interesting snow shapes on fences, benches and sculpture. Snow is water vapor in the atmosphere that turns to ice crystals without ever passing through a liquid phase. Multiple ice crystals make snow flakes. That lightweight flaky stuff can enliven a winter landscape. At least the cold comes to some good.

Our snow came early, and persisted. 3 weeks of bone chilling cold made sure it was not going anywhere. Then a week ago, a few days in the high forties reduced the mass of it considerably. The landscape was going dark again. The light in my winter containers was welcome. Providing light for the landscape is never more important than providing it in the winter. Great landscape lighting can go so far as to illuminate the structure of the winter landscape during the gray and dark days. In its simplest form, it can light the way from here to there. Seasonal/temporary lighting can add a sculptural element to the winter garden.

I especially like a lighting component in winter pots. Not only does it illuminate the materials and shape of the winter container itself, that temporary glow spreads out and encompasses the immediate environment. New technology which has produced warm and flexible LED string lighting that draws little energy, is shatterproof and good for 50,000 hours means it has never been easier or more economical to boost the light in a winter landscape. Adding arrangements to garden pots for the winter season is a must have in my garden. Lighting them means is is possible to enjoy them day and night.

Weaving light strings into the greens in a winter pot, and piling them up at the base of a centerpiece is a fairly simple task. The results are striking from a distance outdoors. And they provide so much visual interest from indoors. One client likes us to wrap the bottom 7 feet of the trunks of 4 columnar gingkos that frame the entrance to her house. She runs those lights all winter long, as they illuminate the way, and say welcome to my door. Temporary landscape lighting done in November that can light the night until the days start to lengthen is a feature of my winter landscape.

Once we had more snow, that temporary lighting was providing snow glow. Each tiny LED light that is virtually invisible during the day was magnified by the snow at night. Ice crystals meeting LED string lighting-beautiful. I miss the digging, the planting, the watering, the staking, the dividing and all else that a landscape and garden provides as much as any other gardener. But the winter has its pleasures.

The snow glow emanating from my pots lights the surrounding landscape in places I can see from inside. Planning for good views out the windows in winter is just acting on one’s own defense. The gloom can be penetrating, as is goes on so long. Is this a substitute for a summer day in the garden?  No. But expecting it to only makes one long for another time and place. The winter is its own season, and there are things that can be done to make something beautiful of the dark. Winter is the only season of ours in which an expression like this is possible.

Our snow is melting again.  We have rain this morning. But there will most assuredly be more snow before the winter is over.

Though creating sculptures with temporary lighting is a winter activity with all kinds of benefits, permanent landscape lighting is a feature I would recommend to any gardener. I like my front porch lit at night. I like my sidewalk lighting just as much. My house is set almost 4′ above the grade at the sidewalk. I would not want guests to have to negotiate 3 sets of steps without proper lighting. Big pools of light come courtesy of the snow.

 Landscape lighting is all about trying to endow the winter season with some visual interest. This pot is on axis north and south with the sidewalk, and east and west with the den windows. That placement makes it possible to enjoy this from multiple vantage points.

Yesterday morning at dawn, my snow covered winter pots were, in my opinion, the best intersection of electricity and snow that I have ever devised. Fire and snow look good together.

Those LED lights can set a a landscape on fire. Inspired to walk through the snow on the upper deck, a long exposure reveals how bright that temporary lighting can be. I can see Milo in the yard-nice. This past summer, I took all of the landscape lighting out of the trees, and placed them facing up against the fence. That permanent lighting is much more subtle, and silhouettes the trunks of the maple trees and the branches of the yews. This is the best of both lighting worlds that I have to offer my winter landscape.




  1. I love this snow glow post! ❤️

  2. kate boschetto says

    Mornin’ Deborah , That was Excellent to go with my morning Coffee ! Already thinking of next Winter and doing a better job with Lighting just a Few Urns ! I’m just outside of Boston , finally warmed up a bit after 2 weeks of bitter cold , now 2 rainy days . I Luv to see Snow , since I consider March 1st Spring so Bring it Mother Nature !! Still have Paperwhites and an Amarylis Bulb to pot up , left over from Christmas ,that will be fun. Have a Nice Day !!!

  3. I see on my calendar that it was a year ago today that I traveled to Michigan for 2 weeks – stunningly cold, every single day, with highs in the teens…..and snow, little layers of fresh snow every few days. The striking thing to me (aside from the fact that I was expected to drive in the snow, I don’t do that here in the land of little street clearing) was that there was little or no of the black ice under tire or foot that makes snow so dangerous here on the east coast….maybe it doesn’t warm up enough to make liquid to freeze? Your lights, especially the masses of tiny ones, are especially lovely.


  4. I love your work and the way you make the most of each season!! Can you tell me more about the led lights that you use? How are they wired? I’ve seen some led light strands that are battery operated and I’ve also found some that are solar powered. Are yours on extension cords or tied into the exterior lighting system somehow? Thanks

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Cece, all of our LED lights are plugged in to extension cords and exterior plugs.They draw very little power. Batteries do not like cold very much, so mu experience with them outdoors is mixed. best, Deborah

  5. Teddee Grace says

    So beautiful. I live in an apartment, but I love winter because I can have all of my many small lamps on as well as all of my battery powered candles and they create an especially warm, cozy and welcoming environment.

  6. Wow!!! So beautiful!!! It almost makes me want to be in Michigan in winter!! I do think the lighting strands and vertical “trees” in the pots could be used in my summer garden though so do you sell the lighting and all supplies in your shop? I live in Northern Michigan.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Karen, what little we have left from this season is packed away,but we will have them again the beginning of November. Give us a call them. best,Deborah

  7. Deborah – your posts are really wonderful … fun, informative, enlightening and inspiring. Thank you for sharing so generously. Can I ask what brand of foam form you use above the dirt in a pot that’s getting a winter arrangement?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Rosie, we buy foam directly from the manufacturer, as we buy in huge quantities. If you look up dry floral foam on line you will find places that carry it. best, Deborah

  8. The LED lights in your winter pots and landscape is outstanding and so uplifting especially during our cold winter months. The glow through the snow is very magical. I particularly like vistas and focal points and you have designed both beautifully. Thank you for sharing! In no time it will be Spring. All the best, Susan

  9. Great post — the soft glow of the lights against the dark Detroit sky are magical.
    Sheer magic.

  10. Thank you for this thoughtful, enlightening(no pun intended) and beautiful post. I so look forward
    to viewing your work and reading your text!

  11. Love this post. Thank you for so generously sharing your talent.

  12. Carol Watkins says

    love the lighting thru the snow- a fairy land sort of- and here in Indiana, living along the river, sometimes we get a hoar frost- very magical in appearance- love it too. Not sure all have seen this phenomena

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Carol, hoar frost is rare for me, but so beautiful. You are lucky to have seen it. I can only recall one time in my adult life when I saw it-magical indeed. best regards, Deborah

  13. Hi Deborah:
    You’re work is stunning!
    I’m a bit overwhelmed by the lighting choices for my large outdoor containers here in Zone 6 Boston – Is battery-powered worth a try if I buy a premium product?
    Would you be able to recommend a manufacturer(s) – Kaemingk, Luminere, etc?
    And what “type” is best for using in the base of large outdoor containers – regular string, firecracker, etc?
    Many, many thanks!


    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Robin, I do not recommend battery op lights-I think they are still too unreliable in really cold weather. We use Lumineo lights in different light colors and shapes, which we stock at Detroit Garden Works. best regards Deborah

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