Outdoor Christmas lights

Bring the joy of Christmas lights out into the garden this year with one of these enchanting designs. 


In the run up to Christmas, the garden is often forgotten while the house fills up with festive decorations. Kristy Ramage brings the joy of Christmas lighting to her garden in Monmouthshire and creates six enchanting designs that help to lighten up gloomy winter nights. 


Gourd candle holders

I had the slight misfortune to grow an enormous crop of gourds last year when I would rather have grown pumpkins. Somehow seed got muddled but a year on, these hard-skinned gourds were hollowing themselves out and getting rather interesting, speckled-egg-like markings. Some were still orange and fleshy, but were easily carved out, and the result was perfect natural tea-light, or small candle holders.



Branch chandelier

Between a pair of 400-year-old yew trees we have a table on a terrace, above which we have always wanted a light. Against these enormous trunks we needed something of dramatic scale and character, and a fallen apple tree from the orchard provided the answer. A hefty limb, with well-forked and spaced branches, was hoisted into the air on a chain hung on a rope between the two yews. A pulley in one tree allows us to raise and lower the light.



Post light

Lighting up an entrance, whether it’s a gateway that leads to the house, or one that takes you to another part of the garden, is not only about the practical illumination of a point of arrival. It’s also about the welcoming of guests and building a sense of anticipation for what lies ahead.





Garden chandelier 

The shelter provided by an arbor, a loggia or any partly covered structure in the garden is a great opportunity for making a garden chandelier. I’ve seen wonderful, shell-encrusted creations that would befit a 19th-century grotto; sleek, modern chandeliers, exquisite in their contrast to a rustic wooded surrounding; and simple wire and jar chandeliers, enchanting in a home-made garden pergola. The trick seems to be not to take it too seriously – gather elements on your travels, have fun and decorate at will. A candlelit chandelier, especially in the outdoors, never fails to thrill.


Jam jar lanterns

Trees offer their branches so happily for hanging jam jar lights that it would be wrong to ignore this familiar way of bringing festive lighting to the garden. However, you can maximise the effect by embellishing the jars and hanging them en masse. Pleached trees call for jars to dance along their levels like notes on a musical stave; with more natural-shaped trees, jars can be hung in waves or clusters or be scattered throughout. Just remember to light the tea-light candles before you hang the jars in the highest branches.




How to make an old man's beard light catcher


While crystal chandeliers splinter light, scattering it with refraction through the facets and bevels of the crisp, cut surfaces, the fluffy seedheads of Clematis vitalba (known as old man’s beard) catch and diffuse light in an opposite but equally magical way. Every seedhead has about 24 individual seeds, each of which has a wiry tail called a style, delicately feathered with the finest silky hairs that capture light in their gauzy grasp.







To make

To seize some of this magic for the garden, I wanted to make something that both contained lights and caught the natural light, especially at dawn and dusk.

The base is a globe made out of four wire wreath rings (30.5cm diameter) with their centres cut out to leave single rings. Three of them were wired together at the top and bottom and opened out to form a globe (picture longitude lines). Wiring on the last ring around the centre (like the equator) keeps these in place.

Two sets of 60 warm-white LED fairy lights, each on six metres of clear cable, were tied on to the wire frame, along the ribs, then the ribs and the centre were covered in sheep’s wool to hide the wire frame and the battery packs.

I used florist’s wire to secure the vines holding the seedheads to the base, and the wool core was dense enough to hold extra stems of old man’s beard, wired individually and pushed in to fill any gaps.

Warm-white connectable LED fairy lights from Lights4fun; florist's wreath rings and wire from Floristry Supplies



Taken from a longer feature in the December 2015 issue of Gardens Illustrated

Words and styling Kristy Ramage

Photography Andrew Montgomery








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