Find tips and trends on the latest outdoor lighting gadgets and decorations.
By John RihaMore in Outdoors
String your tree in the evening, with your light strings plugged in so you can see the effect as your build your light scheme.
Evergreen trees look good with bigger bulb sizes, such as the C7 and C9. If you’re lucky enough to have a nice evergreen tree in your yard that you’d like to illuminate, the industry rule of thumb is 100 lights per every vertical foot of tree; large trees may need more.
Larger C7 and C9 bulbs are usually spaced 12 inches apart — a good scale when viewed from the street.
Evergreen bushes are candidates for lighting nets — crisscrossed networks of wires and mini lights that are shaped as a grid. Toss a couple of 100-light nets over your bushes, plug ‘em in and you’ve got giant glowing ornaments along your foundation.
Deciduous trees and posts are tempting targets for candy cane spirals of light. Get lights that are closely spaced, such as mini lights or rope lights. On trees, the bark is usually rough enough to hold light strings in place. You can give light strings a little support with strategically placed pushpins, but don’t drive in a bunch of screws or nails, as you could hurt the tree.
Posts require a little help. Depending on your tolerance for assorted fasteners peaking out of your exterior trim at all times of the year, you can add cup hooks or small screws. Adhesive-backed lighting clips are another option.
Want to see your whole outdoor lighting display get down and funky? Music synchronization kits turn your front yard into Santa’s disco.
A standard 30-amp plug-and-play system divides your display into 16 separate channels for $800 to $1,000, including weatherproof speakers. Pre-synched music is about $30 per song, featuring everything from “Jingle Bells” to “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”
Simpler six-channel sets can be had for $150, but you’ll get only one small speaker and 10 pre-loaded songs.
More sophisticated displays run up to 64 channels and include software so you can program your own show and run it off your laptop.
Animated wire frame elves and Santas add a bit of cartoon-like fun to your lawn. You can get penguins that throw snowballs at each other and reindeer that run. The animation can be jerky, like a crude Flash movie, but these are real smile-makers for young kids. Plus, they’re big. Some are 6 feet tall and 10 feet wide, so there’s a lot of bang for your $300 to $1,500.
Tired of downsizing? Throw political correctness to the wind with giant-size outdoor ornaments for your eaves, porch and trees. Up to 4 feet tall and featuring a high-gloss finish, unbreakable plastic and polyresin ornaments mimic glass in Paul Bunyonesque proportions. Some have built-in lights. Lots of styles and colors are available for $100 to $150.
Welcome to the snow tube — a 15-inch-long plastic cylinder with a light that travels the length of the tube. Hang it vertically and the effect is like a giant glowing snowflake falling, albeit it only "falls" 15 inches. You’ll need five to 10 tubes to get any visual traction. At $30 each, it's doubtful they'll take the place of those ubiquitous icicle lights, but we can hope