Tasteful All-winter Decor for Home Gardens

winter-2014It’s all very well and good to be the Clark Griswold of your neighborhood this Christmas—up until January 2. After that day, the electric St. Nicks and reindeer need to go back into storage; Christmas is over, let it go. You’ve had plenty of time to recover from all that partying, time to put the 200 feet of red and green rope lighting away.

However, if you are the type who likes to keep your home and garden decorated (if only to distract from the dismal winter chill) take heart. There are plenty of tasteful, non-Christmas-y ways to decorate your home this winter.

Celebrate Something Else
There are plenty of other holidays in winter besides “the holidays” (Christmas, Hanukah, Festivus, Kwanza, etc.).

Say what you will about Valentine’s Day being a massive commercial scam perpetrated by the candy companies, the idea of a holiday that celebrates love (platonic as well as romantic) is a nice one. You don’t have to go full Gilderoy Lockhart and deck the yard in cupids, hearts, and roses—a simple Valentine’s wreath suited to your taste (even if that means it’s covered in snarky conversation hearts) hung over the door will more than suffice.

Is your team headed to the NBA playoffs, the Super Bowl, or the World Series? Get some light ropes in their colors and show your support (there’s a family on my block who does this by supporting their alma mater with blue light ropes and a giant white “Y” light on the house every Christmas, not just afterward).

No matter what in winter you choose to celebrate, finding something to celebrate and showing it will make your spirits brighter (even if it’s not socially acceptable for you to be singing “Jingle Bells” anymore).

Winter Wonderland: Not Just a Christmas Song
Remember what I said about putting those rope lights away? Hold on a minute. Do you have a few, tasteful ropes of white lights along the basic lines of your home? Some light-up snowflakes? Icicle light strands? Keep those up until the snow won’t be coming again; snow is not exclusive to Christmas. Though if your white lights cover the house in Griswold fashion, you need to consider toning them down. Maybe just put most of them away.

Get the kids to make paper snowflakes and tape those up in the windows for décor that works indoors and out. And what’s more wintery and kid-friendly than littering a yard with snowmen? (Now just hope your child doesn’t favor Calvin and Hobbes’ snowman designs)

Plants that work (it) in Winter
This one takes some advance planning on your part. When planning your garden for the entire year, take a good look at how your plants will look year-round (rather than just at their prime). Not every plant needs to last and stay the same in each season (boring!), but you should have at least two to three plants that will stick with you and look good year-round.

Of course, what looks good to you year-round is purely a matter of taste, but here are a few suggestions that should work for every style:

  • Any well-pruned, shapely fruit, nut, or forest tree can look delicate in frozen, wintery, leafless beauty
  • Evergreen trees (if your climate can support them) are a favorite standby
  • Not an arboreal gardener? Not a problem! Fragrant, constant evergreens also come in bush form (especially the prized scent of a cedar bush)
  • Hedges
  •  Any plant that requires a trellis (mostly so you can have an icicle-covered, snow-dusted trellis, but even so)

If you like the way it looks in hibernation and covered in snow, go ahead and plant it early on in the year for a garden that keeps on giving when it’s no longer alive or in hibernation.

It can be tempting to procrastinate putting away all your hard work after Christmas—it’s sad to see that “the holidays” are over. But, as anyone who sells real estate in Florida or apartments for rent in Mississauga will tell you, your house value goes down in the eyes of potential buyers (and your neighbors become resentful) when Christmas decorations overstay their welcome. Any or all of these options will make for a tastefully decorated home and yard even after the Candy Cane forest you so painstakingly set up has to be put away—and you can keep feeling (appropriately) festive until spring comes back!

Lucy Markham is an avid blogger and researches with companies like Metcap. Lucy, as a recent homeowner, considers herself a bit of an expert on all things home improvement, gardening, and home decoration.

Quick Winter Home & Garden Prep in a (Cold) Snap

Frost-on-PumpkinYou may be expecting it to get colder now October has come around, but sometimes cold weather comes on with a vengeance. You probably know these periods of sudden, insanely cold weather as cold snaps. No wind, no precipitation, and no warmth either.

If you’ve ever been through a cold snap, you probably know just how much you’re ready to snap if it takes you by surprise. Stop shaking and shivering in your fuzzy slippers—it’s easy to be ready for sudden cold if you have a plan ready to put into place.

How Will Your Garden Grow?

This is the part of your home that’s most in danger during a cold snap, especially if it’s technically a cold wave. Did it take less than 24 hours for the air temperature to shift dramatically from “meh” to “Brrrrr!”? If so, it’s now technically a cold wave, and according to the US National Weather Service, that means danger for agriculture.

You’ve probably harvested most of your produce by this point—if not, get on that! Enlist family members, neighbors, and friends you have over in getting all remaining produce inside, most will still ripen after being picked. The exception to this is produce that needs to be out in the first frost, such as certain apple varieties—if you have any such varieties, look at the frost they need before picking.

Once the produce is harvested, your main task to worry about is saving the plants. If you have time, transplant smaller frost-sensitive vegetable plants inside and prune any plants that need it, such as rosebushes. You may also want to keep certain plants warm by covering them with tarps and plastic garbage bags to insulate them.

Once you’ve done all you can for your garden, turn inward.

Protect the Pipes

Depending on where you live and the actual temperature when the cold snap hits, this can be a huge problem. If the water in the pipes freezes the pipes can crack, at which point you can expect water damage or flooding in addition to non-functioning water pipes—and a nasty spring surprise from your sprinkler system.

Wrap any exposed pipes—indoors and out—in extra foam rubber or fiberglass insulation and secure with insulation tape. If temperatures drop below freezing, open any cupboard doors with exposed pipes and keep water slightly running at all times so it won’t freeze as easily.

Some Like it Hot

Nobody likes to be freezing midwinter—some may prefer cooler ambient temperatures, but even the hot-blooded among us generally like to have hot water for showers and laundry.

Check your furnace and hot water heater. Make sure everything is connected properly, such as tubes and wires. Also, be sure the filter doesn’t need to be changed. If your furnace has a pilot light, be sure the area around the pilot light is clean—too much dust and buildup can snuff it out. If there’s a significant buildup of silt sloshing around the bottom of your hot water heater, it’s time to replace it.

If an unexpected problem does occur, call the appropriate repairman quickly—their schedules fill up fast in a cold snap!

Seal Your Windows, Seal Your Doors

And make sure it’s tight, because it’s freezing out there!

Check to be sure all rubber or vinyl door seals are intact (no tears or cracks), and inspect the caulk like it’s for a military drill sergeant. Heat (and money) escapes through those cracks like Steve McQueen in 1963. Not to mention the bugs that can try to get in from the cold.

Cold snaps are never enjoyable, but if you have a plan in place, they are certainly livable.

About the Author
Leslie Mason is a homemaker and garden expert. Leslie enjoys writing, gardening, do-it-yourself projects, and fixing up the house.

Image Credit: flickr.com