Jan. 11, 2012
by Tammy Adamson-McMullen
It's January. Even as I write this, it's cold and gray outside, and there's snow in the forecast for the weekend. The first month of the year is a time when many of us in colder climes aren't doing a lot of outdoor fix-up nor even thinking about it. However, there are a few things you can do outdoors to brighten up your view from the inside—and it only takes a little bit of time, creativity and help from Mother Nature.
Tabletop Centerpiece. Do you have an outdoor patio with a table or bench in view from a window? Then consider putting together an all-weather centerpiece to cheer up the space. Here are a few suggestions:
1) Take a metal bucket and fill it with pine cones, greenery or maybe even chopped wood for use in your fireplace. Position a few evergreen branches around the base of the centerpiece for some additional color.
2) Or put out a metal table lantern—or maybe three of various sizes—with a battery-operated candle inside. Again, highlight the lantern(s) with greenery around the base. Note: If you have freezing temperatures, avoid lanterns with glass sides, or bring in the lantern when the temperature dips. Some lanterns have glass sides that can be removed.
One of my favorite lanterns, designed especially for outdoor tabletops, can be found at backyardcity.com and is called the Williamsburg Table Top Patio Lantern. But most any metal lantern will do, and there are plenty on the market.
3) Bundle together tree branches, evergreen boughs and anything else you find outdoors--or at your local nursery--and tie with an all-weather bough. Once winter is finished, use the materials to mulch a small area of your garden.
String of Lights. Sure, the holidays are over, but you can still put up a string of lights somewhere in your yard to create illumination or even a bit of whimsy. Many stores sell strings of lights that have themed light covers--made to look like Japanese lanterns, chili peppers, grape clusters, cocktail glasses, geckos, et cetera. These themed lights are perfect for summer parties but can cheer up a winter space, too. A variety of string-of-light creations can be found at lightsplus.com, but many stores, including independent lighting retailers, also sell them.
If you live in a neighborhood regulated by a homeowners' association, you might want to put the lights in your backyard or an enclosed garden, where only you and your guests can enjoy them. Good places for non-holiday lights include: over a trellis to highlight its architecture at night; through tree branches near a garden path to light the way; around a window or door in an enclosed patio or porch; or throughout greenery on a tabletop. If you don't have an outdoor electrical outlet, consider purchasing battery-operated lights.
Planters. If you have a window box, wall-mounted wrought iron holder or any other type of planter, don't leave it empty during winter. Fill it with branches, berries, pine cones and other goodies from Mother Nature. Colder climates are especially suited for this idea, since the greenery is apt to last for many months--or until time to fill the planters with spring flowers.
Hanging Baskets. And don't neglect hanging baskets, which also can be filled with cut evergreen boughs. By positioning the boughs vertically in the basket, you can create the illusion that an evergreen plant is actually growing there.
Planted Evergreens. Of course, you don't have to rely on illusion: You can plant a real evergreen in a pot and position it near an outside door or window. Just be sure the plant isn't subjected to extreme cold and that is has a modicum of shelter. (Check first with your local plan nursery before undertaking this idea, to see if it will work in your climate.) Water the plant sparingly in the morning, when the water is less likely to freeze. Note: Dwarf evergreens are especially good in a pot.
Remember, you don't have to wait until spring to bring some cheer and a little decoration to your home's exterior.