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How Does Your Garden Glow?

Creative use of candles helps you see your plants in a different light

I arrived at a friend’s house for an outdoor garden party to find a large, frosted glass globe balanced on three rocks at the entrance to the walkway. A tea candle placed inside the globe set it aglow. The effect was spectacular and added to the evening’s charm. Since that night, I’ve experimented with a number of ways to add candlelight to my garden.

Many materials from around the house can be turned into receptacles for candles. With the addition of the subtle effects that candlelight can add to your garden, you’ll discover that your garden’s beauty can be enjoyed long after the sun has set.

Paper-wrapped candles create pillars of light

Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais

To construct glowing towers that can guide visitors down a path, tape vellum paper around pillar candles. Plain paper works, too, but vellum paper (available at stationery or craft stores) is stiffer and more translucent. Although it looks as if the paper could catch fire, I’ve burned these candles for up to five hours in a light breeze without a flicker.

Hanging jars glisten from above

Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais

Instead of recycling your glass jars, hang them from arbors and branches. Knot some twine tightly under the edge of the rim of a jar, leaving long, trailing ends on either side to tie the jar to a beam, tree branch, or other support. Then pop in a tea candle. This is an inexpensive way to create a canopy of lights in a large area. After you blow out the candles, put the lids back on to keep the jars from filling with rainwater.


Ice candles are perfect for summer evenings

Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais

For a cool glow on a hot summer night, make an “ice bucket” by nesting a small, plastic con­tainer into a larger container filled with water, securing it with tape, and leaving it in the freezer overnight. Remove the smaller container, and place a votive candle inside. The slowly melting ice changes the intensity and pattern of the light throughout the evening.

Leaf-wrapped glasses are temporary but fun

Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais

Take a broad leaf, like one from a sycamore or hosta, and embellish it with a few smaller leaves, such as those from a Japanese maple or yew. Then tie the arrangement with raffia twine around a straight-sided glass. A lighted tea candle inside will show off the structure of the leaves. They’ll dry out in a few hours but will still look beautiful.

Lamp globes generate a sphere of soft light

Photo/Illustration: Steve Aitken

The large globes from old light fixtures can be balanced on pedestals or rocks to create a soft, glowing ball of light. Face the opening out of sight, and slide in a lighted tea candle. You can also hang small globes from low-lying branches for a more polished look than a canopy of jars.


Milk class grows with understated charm

Photo/Illustration: Jennifer Armentrout

Milk-glass vases, which once commonly came with flowers from the florist, are now inexpensive finds at tag sales and thrift stores. With votive candles inside, they provide beautiful, diffused light. Milk-glass teacups are great, too. Perfect for little spots of light in out-of-the-way nooks, these charmers add an understated glow to the evening.

Choose plants to amplify the effect

Photo/Illustration: Jennifer Benner
Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais

If you plan to spend time in your garden after dark, consider using plants with white flowers or silvery foliage, which seem to reflect the light. Here are a few of my favorites:

Boltonia (Boltonia asteroides and cvs., USDA Hardiness Zones 4–8)
‘Casa Blanca’ lilies (Lilium ‘Casa Blanca’, Z 6–9)
Dusty miller (Senecio cineraria and cvs., annual)
Flowering to­bacco (Nicotiana sylvestris, annual)

Photo/Illustration: Jennifer Benner
Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais

Garlic chives ( Allium tubero­sum , Z 4–8)
‘Honorine Jobert’ Japanese anemone ( Anemone  × hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’, Z 4–8)
Lambs’ ears ( Stachys byzantina and cvs., Z 4–8)
Licorice plant ( Helichrysum petiolare , annual)
Silver sage ( Salvia argentea , Z 5–8)
Sweet autumn clematis ( Clematis paniculata , Z 5–11)


View Comments


  1. maryannuschak 09/23/2014

    Keep those gardens growing.................

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