Merry & Bright: Turning The Garden Into A Holiday Treat

Evergreen boughs, candy canes, light-up reindeer, and strings of twinkling lights transform my sleepy winter garden into a holiday light fiesta. It’s a space that I hope Santa will want to stay in awhile; follow these tips and tricks to make your garden as merry and bright as mine!

Follow Nature

When stringing up lights, follow the garden’s flow. Outlining garden beds rather than randomly plopping lights in the middle creates a better definition of the space. Use the garden trellis as guideposts to string lights around. If stringing lights up a tree, follow the natural branch lines and trunk rather than wrapping them haphazardly. Attach the lights with garden clips or twist ties.

String lights in an evergreen tree

Tread Carefully

Remember where things are planted. Crocus and snowdrops may emerge for a late January bloom, depending on where you live. Don’t step on these early harbingers of spring! All those vines may look bare and leafless, but they’re busy setting buds, so be careful not to break the stalks at the base of the plant if you string lights through them.

Early spring bloomers, such as azaleas, magnolia, and camellias, have also been working hard all summer to set their buds, and they’re waiting for warm weather to return to bloom. Be gentle!

Dimension Matters

Add different shapes and elements to the display. For example, adding candy canes or light up reindeer begins to tell the story that you’re at the North Pole. Create hanging baskets full of evergreen boughs, then add some battery-operated lights on timers to create texture in the display.

Candy canes in the garden


I live on the south coast of British Columbia, and it often rains during the holidays. The last thing I want is to have all those lights short out if moisture gets into the connections. I use socket protectors on the joints and double-wrap them with duct or electrician tape to keep things watertight.

It’s tedious and time-consuming, but just like stakes and tomato cages are my secret weapon in summer, this is my secret weapon in keeping the lights functioning throughout the season (and not having to replace strands in the middle of a West Coast rainstorm). Knowing everything is watertight means I can relax and enjoy the show.

Safety First

Always have a buddy handy to spot you if you use a ladder to string up lights in a tree or under eaves.

Be Creative

There are no rules on how to make the garden shine during the holidays. One year, I used all white lights; the next, it was a candy cane ally. One Christmas, I turned tomato cages into holiday trees and added some reindeer to make it look like the North Pole.

Reindeer adds whimsy in the garden

Having a theme each year has helped me decorate and has made the garden cohesive instead of looking as if I randomly plopped things in the middle of a raised bed.

As gardeners, we carefully think of how and where to plant in the spring and summer to create a nice-looking space. I think of holiday lights like I do plants, vines and perennials. I find spots that will help the decor work with the nature around it.

Happy Holidays!!

Happy Holidays!

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Invited by the Canadian Garden Council to be an ambassador for the Year of the Garden 2022, Jennifer is a garden enthusiast, writer, and alumni of Simon Fraser University. Her bylines have appeared in the opinion section of the Toronto Star, and her portfolio includes articles for Chatelaine online, Reader’s Digest, Canada’s History Magazine, and Modern Farmer magazine, among other newspapers, magazines, and websites across Canada. When not writing, you can find her visiting local garden centers or puttering, planting, and nourishing her urban garden oasis in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia.