The Winter Ahead

We finished the last of our winter container work this past Friday, January 4. The pots on my driveway were the very last of the late work. I do not mind that dead last slot. We have a long winter ahead of us. If I am ready for what Michigan winter weather has to dish out come January, my winter will be all the more tolerable. I was fortunate that we had a few cases of mountain hemlock left. It will stay green the entire winter. But the star of the show will be the lights. The technology behind LED string lighting revolutionized the options for landscape lighting. Every year, this lighting becomes more affordable, durable, and easier to use. Since the light is bright, but diffuse, it makes sense to use them in the winter months, and en masse. I know I wrote the beginning of December about lighting as an element in winter pots, but given that our winter is dead ahead, I thought to broach the topic again.

Detroit Garden Works manufactured steel circles expressly designed to hold multiple wrappings of these lights. It is astonishing how much light they emit. The ring has a four pronged base that goes into the foam and soil in the pot.  They are equally stable with an in ground installation. Each of these winter pots have a 110 foot long strand of warm white LED’s in the greens. The burst of lights in the center come from an all in one lighting product called a lightburst. Multiple bark like stems studded with lights are mounted into a pointed base that can be set in a pot. The overall height is three feet, so it makes a statement on its own. Set in the middle of a grouping of twigs or branches, it provides light from within.  Each stem is flexible, and can be positioned to suit. The end result here is the route from the car to the back door is well lit. This is the practical application of seasonal lighting.

The pleasure of the light is equally important, given there will be little sun and no being outdoors gardening for at least 10 weeks. I see this coming from and going to work. I can see it from the balcony above.  Bear with me, as I have said this too many times. Arranging for temporary winter lighting is a form of gardening. Every plant in the garden that I know of needs light.  So do people.

We took the last 10 bunches of curly willow, and zip tied them to a modified tomato cage. We cut the cage open, so we could encircle the two lindens outside the gate at the shop with them. Once they were in place, we zip tied the forms shut. A length of leftover garland covered the zip ties, and the extension cords.  It only took three of the light burst to illuminate that willow from within. David had the idea to bend and bring some of the light burst branches to the outside. Light inside and out-I was game.

At 5pm today, those lights were already creating a visual stir. As the lighting options get more sophisticated, I feel a need to try them out. Rob makes that easy, as he vets every new product. He sees a lot, and buys a few. He furthermore goes to the trouble of displaying how he thinks the lights can be used. I am always behind him in this regard. I just discovered those light bursts two weeks ago. In the garage, I had the time to study his twig display with a light burst tucked inside. He promises to have them again next year.

These five light rings set in the ground in front of a wall covered by Boston Ivy is the antithesis of the summer view. Do I like one season more than another? No. Every season has its time to shine.

pergola with light garlands and a polestar. The light rings in the foreground are so easy to hang in a window or a tree, and plug in.

Winter container arrangement with LED string lighting in the twigs.

Curly copper willow lashed to a tomato cage, and lighted from underneath

Lighted London Planes

We repurposed these dead crab apples as winter topiaries. The branches were hung with nine inch long glass drops. All of the light came from the bottom. Bottom light in a winter pot

winter light

winter light drama, given a substantial snow

lighting the stairs, 2016.

late day lighting

Night light. Winter lighting that looks like fire warms me up.

That cast iron cistern at the end of the driveway at Detroit Garden Works has for years been dressed for the season at hand, and the season to come. This year was no exception. That cistern is ablaze with light. Rob too several days to bring his lighting idea to a finish.

Thanks, Rob.


  1. Have a great break! You and your team deserve it. See you in the spring.

  2. Patricia Mullan says

    Thank you! Inspirational.

  3. With our long Michigan nights and overcast days, it is welcoming to see some light in the landscape. I put out seasonal lighting as much to shed some light on the situation as to celebrate the holidays. Nice to look out the window and see illumination.

    Really like the brightly lit circles. For those of us who lack a metal fabrication shop, am thinking that maybe hula-hoops (do they still make those?) could serve as a poor man’s substitute. Maybe double them up and paint black. Inexpensive, light weight and easy to store.

    Your landscape lighting really brightens the winter surroundings.

    Also triggers lots of ideas!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Jim, I am sure there are plenty of ways to make light rings. Ours are just engineered so the lights are captured in a channel, and each light faces out. They are a durable and permanent lighting device that looks good in the daytime as well as the night. We sell a lot of the rings without lights-to people who like to purchase their own, and string them up themselves. I like the functional part of the winter lighting too. best regards, Deborah

  4. Dr.sharon mckenna says

    Happy New Year, Deborah. I have been following your posts for a short while; you are both inspired and inspiring! I live in the interior of British Columbia, Canada about 400 miles northeast of Seattle Washington. This is a semi arid are with long hot dry summers and long cold snowy winters. At least we did, until climate change muddled things up a bit; I was out in my garden today serenaded by robins and chickadees and annoyed by squirrels.

    It is too late for me to do any winter pots this year, but on my list for next winter is some kind of light circles, LED lights and curley willow (available here in abundance). I draw a lot of inspiration from your posts, and while I will never be able to replicate what you do, my gardener and I can have a lot of fun making adaptations of your work. We both have added Detroit Garden Works to our Bucket lists! Thanks for all your hard work and inspiration, and a very lovely 2019.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Sharon, many thanks for your letter. A lot of what it takes to do something is the belief that you can. The process is fun and satisfying. best regards, Deborah

  5. Patricia Gordon says

    These are beautiful ideas. Here in Arizona we are not pressed into this kind of Winter Beauty for obvious reasons<:) I appreciate the creativity and use of willows, etc. This is a lovely set of ideas.


  6. lesia domnik says

    Absolutely love the curly copper willow….Stunning displays !!

  7. Arlene Gamble says

    So beautiful and inspiring

  8. Alice Sassone says

    Love your fiery arrangements!

  9. Deborah,
    Thank you for this burst of light.
    Here in Boston it’s dark by 4:30 pm. We could do with your lighting art.
    I think I could warm my hands and heart just by looking.
    Loren Eiseley was onto something:
    “In the days of the frost seek a minor sun.”
    My best,

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Kate, thanks for your letter. It is dark here by 4:30 too.That is what I dislike about the winter more than the cold and snow-that gray and dark. best, Deborah

  10. Michaele Anderson says

    It will not surprise me if some of these container arrangements literally show up in my dreams tonight…esp. the curly willow ones.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Michaele, I like the curly willow around the tree trunks. This is not the first time I have put winter coats on them! best, Deborah

  11. Jennifer Sauer says

    I do believe you’ve left the best for last! These take my breath away. And they are unlike any other display I’ve seen. These lights will keep you warm all season long. Well done!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Jennifer-they are indeed a pleasure. A bright spot outdoors when all else is dark and gray. all the best, Deborah

  12. Joyce Baker says

    Thank you for the effort you put forth to share these beautiful ideas, creations, with the subscribers to your newsletter. Makes my day worth living when I receive one.

  13. Michelle Frothingham says

    Outstanding! I must visit Detroit Works this year. I am interested in the circles of light. Thank you for sharing.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Michelle, the light rings are simple, and delightful. I have clients who run them all year long. best, Deborah

  14. Susan Iseman says

    Deborah: These are incredible. Do you give classesl? If not , you should! I live in CT and see this as a inspiration!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Susan, thank you for your letter. The shop is always arranged with the idea to help our clients see how to use or arrange what we sell. And we coach.The blog is a way of passing something along to gardeners further away. all the best, Deborah

  15. I am in agreement with all of the other comments! You are a total inspiration!

  16. Delightful!!!!!
    You and your squad!!!
    Thanx ever so much for sharing-

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Libby, we are a tight knit group! I like writing about what we are doing. The sharing of it is a pleasure. best, Deborah

  17. Roiann Ridley says

    Dear Deborah
    You and your team of creatives have been inspiring me here in Kentucky for several years, thank you for your generosity in sharing information and always inspiring photos. Many good wishes to all for a healthy happy 2019.

  18. Happy new year and best wishes from Alberta, Deborah. Thank you so much for bringing some light to the dark! Though the days are already noticeably longer, for which we are thankful.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Johanna, winter’s dark days are a challenge for any gardener who experiences them. I try to find reasons to enjoy the winter, as best I can. regards, Deborah

  19. lisa hansen says

    In your picture “lighting the stairs”, there are multiple tall twisted poles that look like some sort of natural product. Can you elaborate on what they are please?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Lisa, Rob bought these poles that had braided grapevine around them. They were sharpened on one end. best, Deborah

  20. Frieda Hickman says

    Just beautiful. Makes me almost wish I was there to see it in person.

  21. Wow….just wow…I can’t even contain myself 🙂 …..I love absolutely everything in this posting….everything!!! 🙂 The dead crab apples with the glass drops, love it….very elegant looking! The steel circles… I call them ”hoops” :), I think I am leaning to having those as a favourite…I dont know why but I just love them and not to mention those curly copper willows…they create such a ‘fire’..they emit the colour of a true flame…. Really awesome Madam Silver….really awesome. 🙂

  22. Absolutely incredible! I want to start planning for next Christmas, I’m a Christmas light junkie but I’ve met my master 🙂

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