The Light Rings

If my memory serves me correctly, it was 7 years ago that Rob wound strand lighting around a few vintage wagon wheels, and suspended them from the ceiling of the shop for the holidays. I doubt they were on display for a week before the lot of them was purchased by an enthusiastic client. Over the next several years he designed and redesigned custom made steel circles, carefully engineered and fabricated to accept lights that would hang from a stout tree branch. Of course the light cord was disguised by a substantial hank of jute. An extension cord run up the trunk of the tree would connect to the plug at the top of the branch. They were so beautiful. Arresting. A circle of light with with no visible means of support shining in the winter night. What could be more simple and more joyful? This version of winter lighting is spare and eminently satisfying, both in its shape, and installation. Tie the ring to a substantial branch, and plug it in. Winter gardening in my zone is all about the quality of the light. Not only the body benefits from vitamin D.

A later design of Rob’s included a four pronged mechanism that would enable the light rings to be set securely into the ground, or the soil in a container. This revolutionized my winter container design. How I love incorporating lighting in winter pots. The ring set in the pot encouraged a whole new avenue of design. A few years ago, he suggested that his lighted circles had run their course, and perhaps he should move on to another design or shape. I was incredulous. Those light circles had enchanted clients both near and far. A restaurant in Newfoundland Canada bought 7 of the largest size, and five of the medium size-for their outdoor dining space. They, and countless other design and private clients both local and nation wide have spoken for those lighted circles. Year after year. I suspect I will never tire of them.

A circle is a simple shape. It is a closed and regular curve that divides a plane into two regions. The interior, and the exterior. This from Wikipedia. The interior of this light ring is inhabited by a brightly burning light burst. The exterior is the greater landscape. The circle here is a means by which to focus on a particular albeit temporary feature-the light.  A circle has no beginning or end. It’s recognizable symmetry is a source of visual delight in nature, and in designed spaces of all kinds. The circle is the basis of all kinds of graphic design, of which the polka dot dress is a familiar example. The circle was also the basis for the wheel, which makes all manner of modern machinery possible. It is interesting to note that all circles are the same, except for their diameter, and the width of their border. Circles of different materials and sizes that intersect create other shapes.

The space between 2 endpoints marked on a circle is called a chord. I do not know the history of this definition, but I can attest to the fact that landscape designs that strike a chord with a client or a viewer are engaging, and emotionally satisfying. A circle is a complete entity unto itself. A circle comes standard issue with a sense of completeness. As in the rotation of the seasons.  Though I may not have so many words to put to the experience, circular shapes and spaces evoke a response. In laying out a curved area in the landscape, I start with a chord-or a section of a circle. This is fairly easy to do, with a bamboo stake and string. Finding the center of that circle which will produce the desired chord may take a while, but eventually there will be consistently curving line.

Taking the time to draw the chord on the ground helps to eliminate the squiggles. By squiggles, I mean those bed lines that curve in and out in rapid succession around this shrub and that tree – without an overall sweeping curve that is visually cohesive. It helps to provide focus to what landscape elements belong in the exterior of that partial circle, and what belongs outside. The light ring pictured above is made from steel, but that steel does not need to be that thick. Steel rolled into a circular shape is as stable and strong physically as it appears to be. The ring celebrates the centerpiece. The pussy willow that pushes past the edge of the circle creates a relationship between the geometry of one element and the natural form of another. Both materials are stronger visually given the form of the other. The ring also compliments the rectangular geometry of the planter box, and narrower and wider rectangle of the greens. The composition without the ring would be fine. But its presence completes the composition in a way that organizes all of the other shapes and materials.

Rob has the rings made in a variety of sizes, from two feet in diameter up to seven feet. The ring pictures above is five feet in diameter – a good size considering the size of this pot. The first rings were strung with strands of incandescent twinkle lights that had brown cords.  Now we use only LED lights, for longevity’s sake. The lights go around the outside of the ring, and each bulb faces out. We ship them out with and without lights, and we have made them in custom sizes for a particular application.

This ring is hung high in a window, so it can easily be seen from the street.

Led lights produce little in the way of heat, so the snow has collected on the inside lower edge of the ring pictured above. The contrast of the snow and the light provides a little welcome interest to the winter landscape, even during the day.

This is my first year with light rings at home. I drive up to them, and I can see them from the deck above.

The 6 inches of snow that fell yesterday just made them look better.

H sent me these pictures of her winter boxes last night. She is enjoying hers too.

I have indeed talked before about these rings recently, but the fact is we are looking at more weather that looks just like this for quite a while yet. These lighted circles make it easier to bear with the winter.



  1. David Martin says

    I love the look. The thing about lights especially when dealing with LED’s is to get the “colour” correct expressed in K value 2700-3000K is closest to older incandescent bulbs, that give a warm glow. Nothing ruins a good Holiday decoration than brash cheap Blues/White LED’s. Don’t even get me started on CFL house lights..

    BTW where do you source your lights I am having a hell of a time finding similar lights.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear David, we carry lighting made by the Dutch company Kaemingk. What we had left has been packed away, but we will have them again come next September or so. The light quality from them is quite good. best regards, Deborah

  2. I’m fond of the circle, too. The suspended ring with the lightburst is so so pretty. The creative blessing is mutual between you and Rob, one inspiring the other!

  3. Angela hastings says

    Hello, beautifully done. Are these available to purchase? If so what are prices for small, medium sizes?
    Thank you.

  4. Jane Cruickshank says

    I love the rings and first used three in 2014 and they brightened up my yard. I thanked you and my neighbors thanked you. This year I used a smaller one that I could see as I drove up and as I was in the kitchen. Next year I am thinking of using a few inside. I love them and the way they have evolved.

  5. Michaele Anderson says

    These lighted circle rings are endlessly pleasing…whether suspended and magically ethereal or anchored in a container composition. I truly love them.

  6. The last photo is especially interesting. The window reflection creates two circles!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Marilyn, that second ring of light was a bonus-I hadn’t even thought about how the window glass would reflect the light. best, Deborah

  7. Susan Iseman says

    The rings are magical! What are the branches with the green balls? Looks like you made them also?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Susan, those are tall faux fuzz ball picks that we had in the shop for the fall and winter season. all the best, Deborah

  8. Beautiful! Stunning! How in the world do you get the lights all to be on outside of ring?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Pat, we only apply the lights to one side of the ring. best, Deborah

    • Deborah,
      I am so excited! I ordered my first purchase from Detroit Garden Works. Jackie was so helpful in getting me information about the light rings. Your posts and pictures are so beautiful and inspirational. Keep up the great work!

  9. So Amazing. Almost makes me like winter.

  10. margaret atwell says

    Thank-you for such wonderful inspiration. I was wondering what the smooth green balls are in the second photograph? I see that you mention “green fuzz balls” but I think that may pertain to a photo further down.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Margaret, those smooth green balls on a bamboo like armature are another type of faux stick. We carry lots of them in the winter season. They provide scale and interest to winter container arrangements. best, Deborah

  11. Those steel lit rings are beautiful! Are there any problems shipping them to Toronto, Canada with all the Covid supply issues?

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