The weather outside is frightful but that’s ok because you got your holiday lights up weeks ago. Ok maybe not but there is still time to make your property warm up with the spirit of the holiday with these great lighting tips from one of our local landscape pros.

It was one of those balmy 20 degree days we had at the end of October when I caught up with Danielle LeClair, one half of Urban Roots, Plant Health Care to learn a few tricks of the trade.

I am a Christmas in December kind of person but the last few years it’s been creeping up on me and I’ve found myself thinking about it in *gasp* November. I guess marketing does work… Or maybe I’m trying to be more organized?

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Urban Roots is a local landscape company with two experienced, well educated, and down right great people at the helm. Jeremy and Danielle LeClair have been in the arboriculture and landscape industry for 10+ years. Working across the country, they have come back to Danielle’s roots in Nova Scotia and now call Pictou Landing home. Both are heavily involved within the local ISA (International Society of Arboriculture) chapter and hosted the recent climbing exhibition this fall in Charmichael Park. They were also awarded the 2017 Boston Tree contract for the second time and will be tackling that project in the coming weeks.

With the sun shinning and ground to cover Danielle and I chat for a few minutes about past projects, then get down to business installing some white lights on a client’s property.

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The following is a list of tips and tricks we have both applied when working seasonal lighting into the landscape.

1. Buy all of your lights in one go. The warmth of colours varies from batch to batch. Even though the lights say they are all the same intensity, experience has led us to discover that if you buy a box here and there, the light result will vary.

2. If you require outdoor extension cords, make sure they are dark in colour. That way they will blend into the grass or shrub bed. Halloween is over so ditch the orange!

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3. Cut all of the tags off the extension cords and strings of lights. Please.

4. Whether the lights are new or coming out of storage, stretch them out with a bit of a tug so they will lay relatively flat.
Pro-tip: Do #4 inside a warm garage or house before heading out into the cold. They won’t relax well, if cold.

5. Don’t wait until its cold! Put your lights up when it’s nice and warm. Your fingers will thank-you and your end result will be much nicer. Like the lights and cords in Tip #4, it’s hard to relax when you’re cold. I don’t like thinking about Christmas before December but this is one chore to check off early.

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6. For shrubs, start at the top. Place the light strands on loosely as you loop around. Once you have as many on as you would like, go back over and tuck the lights into the shrub. Point the lights inward and out of sight. You don’t want to see the lights themselves, just their effect.

7. For evergreen trees start at the top as well but be sure you don’t loop the strand around the leader (central stem) of the tree. If lights are left on until next season, this will deter growth. Arrange lights loosely all over then go back and tuck them in.
Pro-tip: For a different look, try mixing strands of little lights and large lights together on one tree, shrub or grouping.

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8. Use black electrical tape to secure the connection between the lights and extension cord. It will also help keep any water out.

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9. Bury your lines. No need to hire an excavator, just loosen the soil with a trowel or your fingers and create a little trough. Lay the cord in it and cover back over with the soil and mulch.

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10. Consider using a power stake. Available in most hardware stores, the stake has a series of outlets for outdoor use. Run extension cords to one spot vs multiple lines to an outlet on a building.

11. If you are going for a more symmetrical look, get out the measuring stick. Precision pays off when going this route. Gaps really stand out when everything is lit so use something as a spacer between your strings to ensure equal distance between each.

12. Be Safe. If you are using a ladder, have a buddy hold it and don’t go too high. If you are going to tackle a big tree consider calling a professional. They have the gear (and insurance) to get up and out of a tree safely.

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Rachael McLean
Rachael MacLean is a landscape architect from the back woods of Lovat and has a love/hate relationship with Fall. School starts – LOVE. Change of air – LOVE, harvest – LOVE, colour – LOVE... wait! maybe Fall isn’t that bad after all. This issue she was reminded that beauty is in every detail and it all starts with a seed. Join me for a “Seedy Conversation” and pick up some tips to get a jump on your next growing season.