One of the best parts about the run-up to Christmas is decorating the house and garden. Nothing beats the festive feeling you get from a dressed-up space, and the rights lights can really add some atmosphere. We have put together a guide for choosing the right outdoor and indoor Christmas lights for you.
Before buying there are a few things to consider that will affect both where you put your lights, and if they are actually suitable for your space.
Suitability for the garden
Always remember to check the product carefully before buying, especially if you are decorating the outside of your house. Whilst most of our lights are suitable for indoor and outdoor use, indoor-only lights are not built to withstand wet and cold conditions, and some of the bulbs in outdoor only lights are not always safety tested for use on indoor furnishings.
Your lights power source is also an important consideration when creating a lighting display. :
Mains powered – The most reliable lights in winter, they allow you more control over when your lights are on. You may need to consider buying protection for your leads and cables to avoid exposing any electrics to the winter weather
Battery-powered – These lights are a great option for smaller gardens, balconies or areas that cannot easily be connected to mains power. Just remember to keep a good store of the correct batteriesto keep the display lit.
Using a combination of different lights in your display is the best way to keep things interesting. We sell a variety of different light types:
These lights are the most common and versatile. You can wrap them around a tree or use them to border windows or guttering. String lights come in multiple variations:
lights are the most popular choice because of their versatility. The basic forms of these lights are great for decorating trees or fences whilst the more decorative look great day or night.
Lights follow the same basic design of other string lights, but instead, the lights hang. These lights often look like hanging lightbulbs, but we also offer some more inventive options. These lights are great for hanging across fences or from porches and trees.
Silhouettes & statues
Add a statement piece to your display with a lighting arrangement that is hard to miss. These lights make a perfect centrepiece, or a great starting point to build a display around.
Create a vibrant backdrop to your display by using a projector to create moving or static images on any flat surface. Kids will love watching these projectors and they are perfect for blank spaces that are unsuitable for lights or other decorations.
The main feature of a stake light is the pointed end that lets you drive it into your lawn, borders or plant pots. The freestanding lights are great for lining pathways or adding colour accents to smaller spaces like balconies or courtyards.
It’s fun to plan a Christmas display and create something wonderful, but once Christmas is over, and the display comes down, what do you do with all your lights and decorations? We are familiar with the annual journey into the attic or back of the cupboard to fetch out a box of tangled wires and tinsel. Avoid hours of untangling and replacing light bulbs by putting your decorations in a handy storage bag.
Gary works in the Primrose product loading team, writing product descriptions and other copy. With seven years as a professional chef under his belt, he can usually be found experimenting in the kitchen or sat reading a book.
It’s Christmastime: you and your family are gathered in the front room, a log fire gently heating a pan of aromatic roasting chestnuts. Ancient Auntie Annabelle is playing some old tune on a grand piano decked with red, orange and yellow flowers and an indeterminate number of children bound around in their Sunday best, teasing a small dog wearing an oversized blue ribbon.
It’s the perfect picture of festive bliss.
Until, that is, the Christmas tree sets on fire.
One hour, a ruined tree, several disappointed children and some very burnt chestnuts later, the fire has been put out and the soggy remains of what was once a mighty spruce now lie steaming on the rug.
Having a Christmas tree in the 1850s was a dangerous business. Illuminated with candles, households with a tree ran the very real danger of it setting alight. The felled evergreen, drying out more and more every day, was perfect kindling. To prevent this, most families would only light their trees for half an hour or so at a time and would ensure that buckets of sand or water were close to hand at all times should the worst happen.
The Christmas tree has been a popular staple of household festivities for hundreds of years, and the illuminated tree was (and still is) an icon of the wintry season. Like trees, candles have played a key role in Christmas and solstice celebrations for just as long. For Christians, the candles represented Jesus Christ as the light of the world and they were particularly popular in early modern Germany. One of the earliest recorded use of candles to celebrate Christmas was in the middle ages where a lit candle represented the star of Bethlehem, shining the way to the baby Jesus. The candle was also an important aspect of advent, starting with German Lutherans who lit Advent wreaths on each Sunday leading to Christmas day. For Pagan communities, a burning candle represented the light of spring during the long winter solstice. Candles are also a key part of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa celebrations.
It made sense, then, to combine the tree and candles for a real Christmas treat. Despite the obvious dangers, people insisted on keeping the tradition alive, leading to a group of insurers in the US refusing to pay for damages caused by Christmas tree fires, stating that policyholders “knew the risks” of having them in their homes. The Christmas tree, complete with lights and garlands, was found all around the world – particularly in the homes of the rich or influential.
In the 1880s, electricity was beginning to make its way into homes and businesses around the UK and the US. With this, came the widespread distribution of electric lights; a safer way to illuminate buildings. In the UK in 1881, the Savoy Theatre was the first building in the world to be lit only using electric lights, and the next year its owner Richard D’Oyly Carte took it one step further by illuminating the principle fairies in that year’s production of the opera Iolanthe. Each fairy sported her own miniature electric light designed by Joseph Swan, the pioneer of the incandescent light bulb, which some claim led to the use of the phrase “fairy lights”.
It wasn’t until the Christmas of 1882 that electric lights made their way onto the Christmas tree. They were introduced by Edward Hibberd Johnson, a partner of Thomas Edison who had demonstrated his electrical light’s power two years previously in an impressive outdoor Christmas display. Johnson hand-wired 80 red, white and blue lights (which were described as being around the same size as an “English walnut”) which he strung around his own Christmas tree that he displayed in his Fifth Avenue home. His tree was even mounted on a rotating pinebox, spinning around to show off Johnson’s innovative idea. At first, the lights were seen as little more than a publicity stunt, until a reporter from Detroit picked up the story and Johnson was flung into the limelight.
While electric tree lights had suddenly burst onto the scene, they were still far too expensive for the average homeowner. The miniature lights needed to be wired individually by hand, and so would often need professional electricians to install. This could cost up to $300 per tree – that’s around $9000 today! The first electrically illuminated Christmas tree made its way into the White House in 1895 with President Grover Cleveland, whose tree had over 100 multi-coloured lights. The first commercially available string lights were manufactured by General Electric in 1903, but at $12 for three festoons (with a grand total of 24 bulbs) it was too much for most shoppers.
The cost of Christmas lights wasn’t the only thing preventing them from being embraced by typical consumers. By 1925 only half of homes in America were powered by electricity and while the first stages of the National Grid were opened in the UK in 1930 only 1 in 3 houses had electricity by 1933. The expense, relative scarcity and lingering mistrust of electricity meant that it wasn’t feasible for families to replace dangerous wax candles with strings of electric bulbs.
While General Electric introduced the first string lights to the market, it was a teenager named Albert Sadacca in 1917 who really popularised them. The story goes that after a devastating house fire caused by candles hung on a tree in New York, Albert (aged only 15) repurposed the novelty lighting that his parents sold to be used on Christmas trees, swapping out the white bulbs for brightly coloured ones. His family’s company was just one of fifteen selling Christmas lights, and in 1925 they formed the NOMA Electric Company, which quickly became the largest manufacturer of Christmas lights.
As Christmas lights became more popular, manufacturers began to experiment more with different colours and shapes, pathing the way for novelty Christmas lighting. Bulbs shaped like popular figures, flowers and fruit were also sold alongside “matchless stars”, which were common during the Great Depression. Now-iconic bubble lights were particularly popular in the 1940s after WW2, which contained (an often carcinogenic) liquid that boiled and bubbled at a low temperature to create a flickering effect.
Today, Christmas lights (and fairy lights of all kinds) come in hundreds of different shapes and sizes, and thanks to improvements in waterproofing can be hung all over your house as well as your tree. You can string miniature Rudolfs from your fireplace and deck your halls with giant LED snowmen. Traditional filament or wired bulbs have been replaced with LEDs, which are safer, longer lasting and more energy efficient. If string lights aren’t your thing, you can even get laser projectors! Check out our range of garden lighting to see if you can add some extra twinkle to your garden this year.
Lotti works with the Primrose Product Loading team, creating product descriptions and newsletter headers.
When not writing, Lotti enjoys watching (and over-analyzing) indie movies with a pint from the local craft brewery or cosplaying at London Comic Con.
Lotti is learning to roller skate, with limited success.
Using solar energy for a more sustainable and efficient living is no longer far-fetched. More and more people are opting for this alternative source of energy that saves money, energy and the environment. Obviously, the cost-effectiveness of solar energy is one of the biggest perks for the majority of homeowners, and especially those that pay a great deal of attention to gardening. Providing plants with the necessary energy during the colder months, and even watering, requires a lot of energy, which can truly turn into a financial issue. The bigger your garden needs, the bigger the bill. In that respect, investing in solar panels may be the perfect way to keep your garden flourishing and cut expenses.
One of the most popular ways to use solar energy to power your garden is to use it for the lighting. Essentially, solar panels can accumulate enough energy during the day so that you can light up and illuminate your garden at night. You can create different effects with low-energy LED lights and even light up your garden pond.
Power up the fountains
Speaking of ponds, you also have the possibility to power your fountains with solar energy. In general, solar energy doesn’t require complex wiring, which makes the installation of various water features quite simple and almost effortless. However, pumps may not work during the night (unless they have a battery back up) so keep that in mind if you want to keep fish in your pond.
Water your plants
This may as well be one of the best uses of solar energy when it comes to gardening. Plants need watering and depending on the size of your garden, this task can become quite tedious and time-consuming. If you opt for an irrigation system, you can save yourself a lot of time, but you can also save yourself from trouble and unnecessary expenses thanks to the solar irrigation system. Of course, you’ll need to keep track of the process for a couple of days until you adjust the settings perfectly, but after you’re all set with how the system works, you’ll be able to focus on other, more entertaining parts of gardening worry-free.
Do you want to take your gardening to a whole new level? If you want to turn your shed into a gardening heaven, you can still make the most out of solar panels. After all, the bigger your needs for electricity and the more you use solar power, the sooner you’ll notice the benefits and savings that come from using renewable energy. Of course, more serious steps require a more serious approach, so make sure to choose top quality. For instance, if you seek quality you can count on Skylight Energy, one of the leading providers of solar systems. It’s all about your needs, and these days, you can easily find someone to meet them.
This is something that truly requires a bit more of initial investment, but if you plan to go big on your gardening and need a way to power the whole greenhouse, solar glazing is the perfect way to go about it. Essentially, this technology allows you to harvest the solar power straight from the windows. It’s still quite a new concept on the solar energy market, but the efficiency and functionality of it all is bound to make it one of the most popular trends in the world of renewable energy and gardening.
When it comes to installing solar panels, it’s important to do your research. The starting investment may put you off, but the long-term savings can be absolutely incredible. Of course, there are different options depending on what you need the energy for as well as the amount of energy your garden requires. However, combining solar power and gardening seems like a perfect fit so don’t hesitate to check your options and see whether you can benefit from such a change and help the environment along the way as well.
Robert Clayton is a blogger with a degree in engineering based in Sydney. His interests and passions include DIY, green technologies and home improvement. He also loves good food, music, dogs and enjoys spending time by the ocean. He’s a regular contributor for Smooth Decorator, An Australian Home improvement website.
It’s that time of year when you see everyone lugging Christmas trees in the back of cars and climbing up ladders to put Christmas lights up. The inside of your house may be the main focus for Christmas, but adding some embellishments to the outside of your house and your garden will make your house feel extra Christmassy, for you and your guests alike.
There are lots of creative ways you can use lights to decorate your front and back garden at Christmas. Try wrapping fairy lights around the trunks of trees and decorating branches that have lost their leaves with hanging lights.
If you want to bring even more light to the christmas season, you can adorn your door, windows and pathway with lights to help welcome guests, and to make sure santa sees your house too of course!
Seeing a wreath on the front door is a great welcome to any guests you may have coming round during the Christmas season. You can make your own wreath with materials right out your own garden, making your wreath homemade and homegrown as well. Holly, ivy, crab apples and evergreens can be used to create your masterpiece. Look out for any stray branches when you’re buying your Christmas tree that you can take home to use too.
Wreaths aren’t just for the front door, why not add one to your garden gate to make your home extra welcoming this Christmas.
Instead of adding to your garden, you can always make the best of what you’ve got. Decorate your plant pots and window boxes with Christmas commodities, such as lights, fake snow, baubles and tinsel – the more creative the better!
Wrap hedges with string lights, dress up trees with tinsel and more lights (you can’t have enough fairy lights at Christmas, remember) and wrap porch columns with garlands.
With everyone having become more environmentally conscious in 2018, many of us will be looking for more eco-friendly ways to decorate for Christmas. In terms of outdoor decorations, there are lots of ways you can reuse and upcycle normal items, as well as old decorations you have no use for indoors anymore. Here are just a few ideas:
Fill old jam jars with fairy lights or candles and place around you porch and along paths as an alternative to path lights
Decorate old planters by filling them with decorative items such as candy canes, pine cones and glass ball ornaments
Create a festive display with skis and ice skates
Use old scrabble pieces or twigs to spell out Christmas messages to guests and passerbys
Megan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.