The other night I watched the classic holiday comedy, Christmas Vacation. Clark Griswold provides endless laughs in the course of his struggle with ladders and Christmas lights. Occasionally, the lights actually work and at one point Clark has the following exchange with “Aunt Bethany”:
Aunt Bethany: Is your house on fire, Clark?
Clark: No, Aunt Bethany, those are the Christmas lights.
While anyone can load their house up with a gazillion flashing holiday lights and plastic reindeer, there is a lot of planning and work that goes into decorating a home tastefully for the holidays.
Ideally, the entire curb appeal should work together to create a scene that enhances the building and looks like it belongs there. The shrubs, trees, and other landscaping (along with the structure) are important elements to the scene you are creating.
So, how can landscaping enhance the holiday decor? Here are 5 ways to plan your landscape to work well with holiday decorations.
1. Select plants that have good winter interest
Try to use a variety of plants that not only look good in the summer, but also have good winter interest. There are many trees and shrubs available that have interesting bark and stem color (think red twig dogwood).
Utilize ornamental grasses, shrubs, and perennials that will catch the snow on their stems and branches. On a cold day or night the snow will glisten in the sunlight or from the glow of holiday lights.
Also, use a mixture of evergreen and semi-evergreen shrubs. Semi-evergreen shrubs are those such as Fernbush and Broom that have green stems and whose leaves may persist into the winter.
2. Add power receptacles to outdoor spaces and planting beds
Consider adding outlets to the outside of your home (remember to use the GFCI type outdoors), and even running them off of switches that give you the ability to turn them on and off from inside the home.
If you are building a new home, and you intend to run a lot of holiday lights remember to up-size your breaker box accordingly (or you might end up like Clark Griswold).
If you have a large lot and you want to have lighting a long distance from the home, you might add GFCI outlets in selected landscape beds, or below trees that you wish to light. These can be installed on low wooden posts so that they are not noticeable during the day.
3. Create “layering” in the landscape
Many of the same considerations that go into good landscape design are also applicable here. You want to think about how a visitor or viewer of your holiday decorations will experience and move through the space- do you live on a busy highway where viewers will be primarily be in cars and moving at high speeds? Or are you in a more intimate setting where you will have pedestrians and visitors that come to your front door- or both?
Layering in the landscape is created by having foreground, mid-ground, and background plantings. Holiday decorations can be arranged in the same way, with lights and clusters of decorations placed on and around the landscape elements.
4. Tree selection and placement
As you already know, there are numerous ways to hang lights and decorations on trees in the landscape. Deciduous trees can be draped with handing lights, or lights can be wrapped around trunks. And evergreens can be decorated like Christmas trees.
Remember that in the winter there will be no leaves on deciduous trees, so consider placing evergreen trees and shrubs to screen utility areas and to block an undesirable views.
Also, evergreen shrubs and trees that are not lighted can be used as a dark backdrop for lighted decorations.
5. Utilize traditional landscape lighting for holiday decoration
This is a good one for commercial properties as well as houses. Landscaping lighting such as path lights, up-lighting, and flood lighting can be a beautiful way to accent a building and landscaping all year round. If you have a nice lighting setup already in place, then you can simply swap out red and green bulbs or lenses for the holidays.
A few good examples of this might be doing a light “wash” of a building wall with colored light, using up-lights at the base of a tree to highlight the trunk and branches, or replacing house number lights with colored bulbs.
Of course, there are many other considerations, but this list is a good starting point. Do you have any other ideas? Let us know below in the comments.
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