A GROWING CONCERN: Start planning now for holiday beauty

LAST WEEK, WE discussed how this is the ideal time of year to prune your conifers.

I hinted that I would explain how all these trimmings, combined with our new found darkness, will create the perfect canvas for your home holiday decorations.

This week I began one of my favorite ornamental jobs of the year.

This task is a joint effort in color, texture, pizzazz, creativity, imagination and most importantly joy.

This chore, of course, is the seasonal display.

Here are tricks and techniques to combine clippings, lights, prunings, kales, holly, wreaths, swags, cones and bells to create a display your neighbors will bring their friends to see.

Those who are crazed, like me, are already busy preparing the cords and laying out the design.

Lots of lights

Lots of lights is the trick.

It is far easier to string lights when you have many, not few.

The lesser amount of strands, the greater care one must take in getting them placed just so perfectly.

With copious amounts of lights, one can just pile them on. The ease of thickness is less time-consuming than getting them laid just right.

A great trick is go to a tree and completely cover it — say 1,200 lights.

When that is done, unplug that set and use a new cord to wrap the tree completely again. Now this tree with 2,400 lights is set to be illuminated without fear of the dreaded dark gap. Double hang (with two separate cords and plugs) everything.

If one complete set or one individual strand goes out, no one sees it.

Thick cords

An absolute requirement here is thick cords.

The higher the gauge number on an extension cord, the less resistance it will offer, lowering the load and, importantly, the heat.

Sixteen-gauge or higher is the best.

Christmas lights burn very little electricity.

In fact 21,900 lights last year cost only $82 to run for a full 30 nights.

Good thick cords kept the bill low.

I always use the cord that breaks down to four plugs and then connect three (150 lights each) or four (100 lights each) plugs, right atop each other at the base of the cord.

When arranging lights, I tried to avoid plugging them into the end of the last strand.

This is because plugging end to end can cause the last strands to go out if a problem occurs in the first or second string.

Finally on hanging the lights, I like 150-count strands when possible.

The biggest problems happen at the connection point.

This is where water comes in and shorts out the system.

With 150-count lights, every three plugins on conventional 100-count light are replaced by two connections. That instantly reduces, by 33 percent, the chances of shorting right off the bat.

Use imagination

Now use imagination.

Cover the trunk of a tree with 600 white lights and the branches with 1,800 red lights.

Wrap around and around branches, it will not hurt the plant.

This is the time of year to prune, so cut evergreen trees off the house, down below the windows or off the driveway.

Gather numerous colors and textures and arrange in your window boxes or flower pots.

Stick in holly branches or red dogwood branches, wire on pine cones or mistletoe, and throw on the lights.

Try putting garland on your mailbox post, pillars of the porch or handrail.

Dress up with bows and 1,600 blue lights.

Think big — big wreaths (like 8- to 12-feet across) and a bow as big as a door.

Coordinate the look

Coordinate the look of your trees, house and yard to create layers of color and depth.

Layout ornamental kale and cabbages on an old flower bed amongst evergreen boughs.

Then lay white lights and at night you will have a beautiful, colorful display.

Remember, your cords must be heavy duty.

You must use outdoor-rated lights and cords only (indoor and outdoor is okay). Connect plug to plug.

Use a lot of lights, covering items completely with separate cords.

Use your yard plants in a pruned ornamental display of your own creation and imagination.

Be prepared however to have your “light sculpture” be admired by the neighborhood and by all those around you.

As these admirers appear — please stay well all.


Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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