Article by Pattie Baron
This winter, it’s never been simpler to set up your own light show to brighten the gloom beyond the windows. A weatherproof mains plug on a balcony or patio wall is always handy, but the good news is that if you don’t have an outside electric source, many of the most magical lights this season can be run by sunlight and a set of batteries or even a USB point.
Stake lights, that just need a little sunshine during the day to turn them into glowing beacons at dusk, masquerade as long-stemmed flowers or tree branches, and can just as easily be prodded into a container of compost as into soil. Imagine a twinkling trio of starburst alliums on three-foot straight stems set along a balcony or windowbox trough (£12.99 each, https://www.hillier.co.uk). Delicate, airy wildflower Ammi majus – Queen Anne’s Lace – is replicated with four lit stems on one 1.1m main branch, each with 10 LEDs, and just needs 4 AA batteries to make the prettiest display in a pot (£59.95 per branch, https://www.sarahraven.com). For a grand and glittering entrance, pop a silvered Lit Hazel Branch (set of two £39.95, https://www.sarahraven.com), into Versailles tubs on either side of the front door, or range several in a large trough along a balcony or patio.
Flickering candles on a balcony or patio table always looks enchanting, but keeping them alight isn’t a problem if you use battery operated pillar candles that just need to be switched on for the gentle LED light to realistically glow through the candles, just like a real flame (£19.95, set of 3, https://www.sarahraven.com/). To welcome guests, you could line several on either side of the garden path or group them together by the front door.
Festoon or string lights are nothing new, but this year’s crop heavily features retro light bulbs, including dramatic bulb shapes with a golden glow in The Worm That Turned’s set of seven Edison Parasol Cluster Lights (£32.95, https://www.worm.co.uk), that have the effect of a fabulous contemporary chandelier.
Simple icicle lights can be strung along the balcony, rope lights spiralled up a tree and fairy lights wound around the door wreath; many of these can be usefully USB powered. A series of small fir trees along a balcony or patio, each strung with fairy lights, will have a magical sparkle, or consider lighting the container shrubs or topiary that are just beyond your windows. Weaving a string of fairy lights through the foliage could drive you to drink, but easier than dealing with a ten-metre tangle is to simply throw a mesh studded with lights over a statement shrub (£12.99, Battery Net Light, https://www.lights4fun.co.uk), that can be either battery or mains operated.