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Deck the Shrubs With Lights A-Twinkling!
by Janet Davis
by Janet Davis


Janet Davis is a freelance garden writer and horticultural photographer whose stories and images have been featured in numerous publications. Magazines featuring her work include Canadian Gardening, Canadian Living, Gardening Life, President’s Choice Magazine, Chatelaine Gardens and, in the United States, Fine Gardening and Country Living Gardener.


December 2, 2007

DecktheShrubslg.jpg (17521 bytes)
Grapevine stars and twinkling lights deck evergreen boughs placed in planters

1pt.gif (86 bytes)As snowflakes fall and the holiday season approaches, I dig out my boxes of old-fashioned Christmas lights, my 8-foot stepladder and a warm pair of gloves and head out to the garden. I add lights to the boxwood shrubs on either side of the front steps and lace them through the garland around my front door. Then I string them as high as I can through the branches of the Japanese maple whose elegant foliage serves from spring to fall as my lacy living room curtain. But because the kitchen is where my family spends most of its time together, and the kitchen table with its windows overlooking the garden is just the place to enjoy a festive light show, I always decorate the back yard too.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)The little hemlock at the far fence, planted years ago to give a restful green backdrop to the strident spring magenta of some PJM rhododendrons around the lily pond, has now grown tall enough to act as its own version of New York’s Rockefeller Center giant. It gets a grapevine star at the very top and cascades of twinkling lights in candy-cane red, white and green. Just outside the window, I add evergreen boughs and berried branches to the planters on my deck, topping each with a lit grapevine star and its own strings of lights. Under a shimmering blanket of snow, the effect after dark is magical!

Safety Tips for Holiday Lights

1pt.gif (86 bytes)This time of year, the hydro companies remind us of some important safety tips for using electricity safely, outdoors and indoors. Here are some things to remember:

  • Only buy lights and cords labelled for outdoor use. These are marked as UL-approved or CSA-approved

  • Don’t use indoor Christmas lights outdoors, and vice-versa.

  • Outdoor electrical outlets should have Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) that are designed to short-circuit and turn off if there’s moisture in the line that can cause a potentially lethal electrical shock.

  • Don’t put more than three strings on one circuit. Make sure that light string plugs connect tightly to keep out moisture, and use electrical tape, if necessary, to cover and insulate the connection.

  • Indoors, be very cautions with electrical cords around curious toddlers. (This is one safety tip that came almost too late in our house. When one of my now-grown sons was crawling, everything at ground level became a potential meal. One day, I grabbed him just as he placed the loosely-connected plug of an older-model extension cord in his mouth. The hydro in half the house promptly short-circuited, and I collapsed in tears in the rocking chair, my toddler upset because the house was dark and mommy was crying -- but thankfully still in one piece.)

  • If you’re using a ladder, especially if there’s snow on the ground, make sure your boots have good treads to prevent slipping on the rungs. And remember that aluminum ladders are strong conductors of electricity so use extreme caution when installing lights on your house or trees.

  • If you’re using a staple gun to fasten lights to your house eaves, make sure it doesn’t pierce the cord.

  • Save up to 30% in energy by using 5-watt, rather than older 7-watt bulbs. Indoors, consider low-wattage mini lights. Put outdoor lights on a timer to save even more energy (and to save you that chilly late-night jaunt.)

  • Outdoors, don’t rest lights in dry autumn leaves which can be very flammable. Indoors, keep tree lights away from paper or tinsel decorations.

  • For safety, unplug indoor Christmas tree lights when you leave the room for a long period of time.

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