The Finishing Touch

The moment I saw this winter project, I knew a lighted garland wrapped around the front door surround would bring all of the winter elements together. A garland attached to that limestone surround some 25 feet off the ground that would describe the entrance to this home is the stuff of fairy tales. I told my client it would take a lot of people and equipment to make this happen. There would be no ladder tall enough and safe enough for an installation at this height. Expecting her to say no, she said yes. Given her go ahead, Templeton Building Company was kind enough to send out four sections of scaffolding, and two of their people to set screws in the mortar over the doorway, and down the sides. Four of my crew met the two from Templeton early one morning.

I was not especially happy about the process. The scaffolding was on wheels, for starters. Really? It got built skyward, section by section, until it was high enough to provide a place to work. Would I want to be up there working? No. Was I worried about each and every one of them climbing this expanded ladder to the sky-yes I was. It only took Matt 40 minutes to set the screws that would hold both the magnolia garland, and the light garland. So far, so good. My crew on the ground delivered the materials to those people who were aloft.

Once the screws were in place, LaBelle made his way up the scaffolding, hauling one end of the magnolia garland. David LaBelle is a leading fabricator for my company, the Branch Studio, and he has no fear of heights, or scaffolding. I cannot imagine how that can be, but he seemed relaxed about it, and I knew he would be entirely capable of wiring on the garlands. As the scaffolding was but 7 feet wide, we would have to install one side of the garland at a time, and then move the scaffolding to the other side.

The top surface of the top layer of scaffolding was only one board wide. LaBelle was not in the least bit concerned. The best part of all of my companies are the people who make things happen. Our group of 20 something has varying skills. The variety of work we are able to do depends on this.

Once the first sections of garland came down the right and left side, I knew the big effort to set lighted garland over this two story doorway was a good idea. The final sections of garland could be attached from a ladder.

Once the magnolia garland was secured, the light garland went up next. The garland is 50 feet long overall, and is comprised of a 100 foot strand of LED C-9 lights, and a 100 foot strand of Lumineo mini LED lights, each folded in half, and twisted together. Frequent zip ties keep the twist from unraveling.

LaBelle was ready to take this light garland up high. The LED lights represent a vast improvement in exterior lighting. This garland is amazingly light weight. LED’s now have a quality of light very similar to warm incandescent lighting.  They consume very little power, and are economical to run. But the best feature for us is the fact that the light covers are plastic – not glass. They are shatterproof.  So no harm if you drop them, or bang them against a brick wall. When first introduced, the big bulb LED lights were very expensive. 1 25′ strand would run 27.00. That same strand is less than 10.00 now.

The lighted magnolia garland over this door is beautiful – day and night. The backs of the leaves echo the color of the brick and wood architectural elements.

From the drive court, the scale of every winter element looks appropriate. From the ground plane to the sky, this winter landscape has a lot going on. That lighted magnolia garland better than two stories up over the front door does not look too big or overly elaborate. It is fairly simple, just sized to fit.

From the far side of the drive court, some rare late day December sun describes a landscape and garden ready for winter. This winter landscape has volume, structure, texture, mass, -and most importantly, lighting. A routine winter day in Michigan is gray.

Once the December light fades, there is a garden to be seen of a different sort. Light your own winter landscape as you wish. I would suggest that any effort you make to light the landscape is well worth the effort.



  1. Susie's Gardens says

    Absolutely stunning!!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Susie, what is truly stunning about this project is my client’s intense interest in every aspect of the landscape. I am very pleased to have met her, and be doing work for her. all the best, Deborah

  2. Jeannine Eitel says

    Yes this is the finishing touch!! It Makes a huge difference! The house looks so beautiful!!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Jeannine, that garland over all is a finishing touch, yes. So pleased about the outcome of this project. Thanks, Deborah

  3. wow!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Kim, I especially like any gesture in the landscape that delights. I design with that in mind. Your “wow” is an affirmation of that. thank you, Deborah

  4. Shelly Minette says


  5. Just Stunning and very inviting on a Cold Winter’s Night !

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Kate, a winter display should be all about being inviting. Our winter is gray and cold, with a topping of more gray, and more cold. I like any gesture that is lighted, and warming. best, Deborah

  6. Darcanne Nixon says

    Stunning, as usual!

  7. This is fabulous, a wonderful accompaniment to the large 40″ planters with the Branch hoops. Its all an integrated masterpiece including the outlining on the roofs and peaks. Where do all the wires connect and how are they hidden? To me that is an equal part of the magic, hiding what makes it all glow. Can the LEDs run on batteries? Does it run on a timer? those details are what stops me in my tracks….

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Marguerite, All of the exterior lights in this project are hooked up to electrical outlets outside. None of them are battery operated. LED lights draw so little power that it would take loads and loads of them to test the capacity of a single plug. I did not do the roof line lighting-another company did that. But there was enough power available for all of us. We do not recommend running LED lighting on a timer. The LED’s take so little power that the surge of electricity generated from a timer turning the lights on can push too much electricity to them. Individual bulbs can burn out from that power surge. We recommend running LED lighting around the clock. Your electric bill would barely notice. best regards, Deborah

  8. Jennifer Taylor says

    Spectacular! The garland really does tie everything together. Thanks for sharing Deborah,

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Jennifer, tying everything together is all about what good design contributes to any project. thanks for writing, my friend! best, Deborah

  9. lisa hansen says

    Spectacular, fabulous winter decorating and the lighting makes it exquisite! How nice to read about your concern for the safety of the people working with you. Hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and a happy healthy new year!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Lisa, if you knew me in person, you would know I am a fanatic about safety. I drive my crews crazy about it! I hope your holiday and New Year is a happy season for you. best reards, Deborah

  10. DJ Hatch - Sherlock says

    Exquisite ! The vignette is done with absolute perfection. It conveys peace and Merry Christmas.

  11. Perfect example of when the skill of the village pulls off magic.
    Bravo to David and crew.
    Congrats to you and the client.
    Mirabilis !

  12. Deborah,

    Your post leaves me feeling like I’m reading through a thriller!
    I could feel my palms growing damp just scanning those high-wire photos of David and crew making their way up the scaffolding and around that arch.

    The effect is gorgeous — sheer elegance.

    Thanks for sharing your vision,


Leave a Comment