Four Ways to Highlight Elements of Your Natural Landscape.

Many people come to the Luminary Walk each year and enjoy the prairie landscape illuminated by Christmas lights.  It is amazing how a few lights can make the natural landscape come to life at night.  Typically, the winter landscape is cold, harsh and lifeless, but warm glowing Christmas lights can invite you in and provide visual interest.  Here are some ways we use lights to warm up our prairie garden.

Up-Light Trees, Shrubs and Focal Points: 

As trees and shrubs lose their leaves, some remarkable architecture is revealed.  What we perceive as a barren, stark landscape in the winter has beautiful, often unnoticed shapes, forms and branching structure.  The simple use of well-placed lights such as spot lights under trees and shrubs brings these plants to life.  Shop lights with an incandescent light bulb are what we use, but LED can be used as well.  Weaving strings of lights through evergreens or draping lights over shrubs illuminate their round shapes.  I have even wrapped tree trunks and branches with strings of mini lights.  Icicle lights, rope lights, lath wrapped with mini lights, and shooting stars are just a few alternatives to traditional mini lights.


Outline Paths

Strings of mini lights along a path or placed on plants next to the path edge are a fantastic way to lead you through your garden.  I have even used rope lights to brighten a path or bridge.  If you are going to be in the garden at night, why not light up your way?


Less Is More

Too many lights is too commercial in my opinion.  I tend to err on the side of putting out less rather than more.  Focus on a few focal points within the landscape.  Accent the most important elements with lights, but don’t overdo it.  Too many lights will only distract from the natural beauty of your landscape.

We have also been using more LED lights.  They use far less energy than conventional outdoor lights and can be connected together in longer lengths.



Avoid Using Colored Lights:

I know this is a preference, but I really believe white lights make everything seem much brighter. At night, they really stand out more than other colors.  Warm, white lights illuminate plants and focal points naturally.  Red, blues and greens are not normal, authentic and look fake in my opinion.


Bald Cypress


I find new ideas from the web.  People more creative than me are always coming up with ways to illuminate the natural elements in the landscape.  I try to keep it simple by accenting points of interest.  Look at the lights from different perspectives to get the positioning right.  By adding just a few lights you can enjoy you landscape even when it is sleeping for the winter.





How to Make a Natural Evergreen Wreath

The other day I made a wreath out of Juniper branches to hang from the Visitor Center chandelier.  We needed a centerpiece for our luminary stroll open house.  It took about 45 minutes.  This natural evergreen wreath was easy to make and looks great.


Here are the steps to making your own natural evergreen wreath:

  • First, find a Juniper tree with large quantities of blue berries.  Prune branches 18 to 24 inches long.  You will need at least 12 branches this size.
  • Next, place four branches in a square overlapping each other by six to eight inches.  Make sure branches are all facing the same direction all around the square.
  • Tie the stems to the upper portion of the branch-ends with fine black wire.
  • Next, attach four more branches but rotate 1/8 of a turn.  Tie stems and tips together like the previous square. Tie these branches to the original four branches as well.
  • Now look at the wreath.  If there are exposed stems (pruned portions), cover them with the last four branches placing them the opposite direction.  Tie these branches to the wreath tightly.  All ties should be invisible.
  • I topped my wreath with some red holly berries.  They really show up well against the dark green of the Juniper branches.
  • You can finish it with some red velvet bows, pine cones or other natural elements.



The fragrance of fresh cut evergreen branches permeate the room plus you have the satisfaction that you created your own wreath from natural elements.  If I can make this, then you can too.  Good Luck.