Make your own outdoor Christmas lights
Make your own outdoor Christmas lights for the garden this year with one of these enchanting designs. Words and styling Kristy Ramage, photography Andrew Montgomery
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. Below you can find out how to make this enchanting light catcher and Christmas decoration yourself.
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.
Gourd candle holders
If you find yourself with a bumper crop of gourds from the autumn harvest, save a few and you'll find that they will start to hollow themselves out and produce rather interesting, speckled-egg-like markings. Some might stay orange and fleshy, but like pumpkins, gourds are easily carved out, and the they make perfect natural tea-light, or small candle holders. Place your candle in a bell jar or similar and add some decorative fern leaves or other seasonal foliage to finish off the look.
If you're looking for something on a more dramatic in scale, try this look. Find a suitable fallen branch, preferably a hefty limb, with well-forked and spaced branches, and wrap it with lights. You'll need to have a sturdy tree near by to hoist the branch into the air using a chain or rope. Create a pulley action to allow you raise and lower the 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. This design uses seed heads and a wreath of rose hips to decorate a vintage-looking hurricane lantern on the top of a gate post. The idea is a simple, but effective and looks just as good in the light of day as it does in the evening.
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. There are many different styles to choose, from 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. Here, a mis-match of glass jars have been paired up with vivid green branches and small wreaths of dried berries. Definitely one for brightening up a dark corner.
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.
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