Christmas garden decorations – how to be festive and wildlife-friendly

December 4th, 2016
Posted In: Decorations/parties, Wildlife & eco

Christmas garden decorations. Do you love them, or do you worry about light pollution?

Decorating your garden at Christmas is a trend that has crept over from the US. When we went to Virginia twenty years ago, we were literally dazzled by the number of houses wreathed in festive lights.

But, at that time, outdoor Christmas decorations in the UK meant a wreath on your front door.

Garden Christmas decorations

Now fully illuminated houses rival each other in many British streets. And people argue about whether this is a Good Thing or whether it is causing light pollution. Artificial light in gardens can disrupt wildlife by interfering with sleeping/waking patterns or affecting the way they navigate around.

I recently went to the Abbey Physic Community Garden in Faversham, a wildlife-friendly therapeutic garden . They’d hung baubles on their leafless fruit trees, and from their pergola. It was so festive and easy – but it doesn’t disrupt wildlife at all.

With today’s glass windows, doors and extensions, you can see the garden all year round. Even in our Georgian house, I love to look out the window several times an hour. So here are some wildlife-friendly ideas for your Christmas garden decorations:

Add a wreath to your pergola or your back door

Don’t stop at one Christmas wreath. Hang a wreath on your back door, on a pergola or on a shed door. You only see your front door wreath when you come into the house. Like all Christmas garden decorations, a wreath in the garden can be enjoyed every time you look out the window.

Christmas garden decorations

This heart wreath was hanging on a trellis in the Abbey Physic Garden.

In my local street, residents make large wreaths out of garden clippings and hang them on the beautifully ancient street trees. Some use festive lights, but put them on timers so they’re not on all night to disturb wildlife. That also makes the battery last longer.

Large wreaths look good outside. They can be cheap to make. In this post, find out how to make an extra large wreath from a hula hoop, then re-use the frame every year.

Outdoor wreaths hung on trees in the street

A selection of the outdoor wreaths hung on the old trees in our street.

2) Hang your pergola with baubles

Christmas garden decorations

Red baubles hang from the roof of the pergola at the Abbey Physic Garden, Faversham

Another great idea from the Abbey Physic Garden. Buy a bulk pack of baubles all in one colour – you can get 100 red baubles from Amazon for £11.95. (There are some affiliate links in this post, which means you can click on them to buy. I may get a small fee, but it doesn’t affect the price you pay. See disclosure.)

3. Hang baubles on leafless trees

Christmas baubles on a fruit tree

Red Christmas baubles on a leafless fruit tree.

The Abbey Physic Garden also used the same red baubles on their leafless fruit trees. Choose just one colour for your Christmas garden decorations. I thought the red baubles everywhere looked particularly effective. I don’t think it would have looked as good if the baubles had been multi-coloured. I’m going to try white baubles on my silver birch trees.

4) Conifers in containers as Christmas garden decorations

Conifers work well in winter pots. There are often some interesting specimens on sale at garden centres, nurseries or in markets. Fergus Garrett of Great Dixter believes that conifers have much to offer our gardens.

He often tries out a grouping of plants in pots to see how they work together before going on to plant them. He’s tried this with a grouping of conifers in pots framing the Great Dixter front door at Christmas. You could experiment, too.

5) Create a festive ‘tablescape’ outside the window

Garden writer and author Francine Raymond creates wonderfully stylish scenes in every corner of her house and garden. Her garden table is just outside full-length glass doors, so she sees it every day. There is always a charmingly-arranged display on it.

Winter garden 'tablescape'

Shimmering dried honesty and a miniature Christmas tree combine with succulents, heuchera and sculpture on Francine’s ‘tablescape’.

Foraged tree clippings for an outdoor flower arrangement

An outdoor ‘tablescape’ by Charlotte Molesworth – this mix of pussy willow and other twigs from the garden is combined with pieces of foraged wood.

Conifer foliage arranged for Christmas

Or hang just a few baubles on an outside table decoration – I love this combination of conifer foliage and silver in a white garden bucket.

Even if you don’t have many evergreens in your garden, ask a friend if you can snip some greenery off the back of their trees. Rootle around in your borders – or other people’s. Small branches often drop off in winter storms. I’ve found most of my twigs for decorating under my trees, so I haven’t had to clip them. Although winter is a good time for pruning, anyway!

Wildlife-friendly Christmas tablescape

Our Christmas garden ‘tablescape’. It has a miniature Christmas tree, garden lanterns, tin and plastic Christmas stars and the dried stalks of a potted bergamot.

You can often get tin, wood or plastic Christmas decorations at supermarkets. I found these tin stars at Amazon, and also a set of white wood Christmas star baubles. Some Christmas decorations may shatter if there’s a frost, so either check that they’re shatterproof or suitable for outdoor use.

Outdoor Christmas decorating

These two stars are made of tin and plastic, so they’ll be fine in the weather.

As winter is such a good time to prune trees and shrubs, there are more Christmas decorating ideas from the garden in this post on how to make jam jar Christmas decorations from garden clippings.

Pin to remember natural Christmas garden decorations

And do join us – see here for a free weekly email with more gardening tips, ideas and inspiration.

Natural and foraged Christmas decorations

16 comments on "Christmas garden decorations – how to be festive and wildlife-friendly"

  1. Frances says:

    I’ve loved this article Alexandra, thank you! Good points made and some absolutely great ideas for the garden

  2. Very nice ideas! The red baubles are very similar to the ones we are having in our garden right now :)

    1. I’m hoping that all the red baubles will survive the current hard frosts, but I’ve seen that some are recommended for ‘indoor and outdoor’ use, so I presume they’ll be fine.

  3. Francesca says:

    This is a brilliant blog post raising awareness about light pollution at Christmas. I particularly like the idea of hanging baubles on leafless trees, really simple and effective. Another really important factor to consider when putting up external decorations is safety – particularly when putting decorations on your roof. Usually only trained roofing experts access roofs and for good reason. It’s important to ensure you use the correct safety equipment when decorating your houses and roofs, as well as considering wildlife this Christmas.

    1. Good point. It’s important to be super-careful about hanging any decorations or lights from the roof!

  4. I don’t think I can quite downgrade my red baubles to the garden, so I’m off to the charity shop to see what I can find there to hang from my gazebo.

    1. Cheap and cheerful – preferably plastic so they won’t break if it freezes! Some do have ‘suitable for outdoor use’ on the label.

  5. We decided on an outdoor potted tree the year we had kittens and have never looked back. Lit out on the patio, it always twinkles beautifully in the wind. Love the ideas here too!

  6. Sue D says:

    Love these ideas – have been hanging baubles on my Acer tree for the last few yrs which always looked lovely. We’ve moved this year so I need to rethink my garden decorations for Christmas – but this has definitely inspired me to think a bit more adventurously. Love the ideas of wreaths from all doors incl shed …. & would love to try some additional fairy lights but that might take a little more thinking about. Fab article. Ta

    1. It’s always rather fun to have an excuse to re-think decorations – I find I often do the same thing every year here.

  7. Lovely ideas. Makes working in the kitchen so much more enjoyable when you can look out on something like this. I have strung red solar lights in our apple tree. They get just enough daylight to function and look attractive. Probably better in a holly bush but would be difficult to remove!

    1. Yes, I think solar lights are probably much less of a problem for wildlife than lights switched on from the mains, because in winter, the solar lights don’t last for very long – just long enough to enjoy them before bed.

  8. Beanpole says:

    Brilliant post! I sensed this last year – the first Christmas in my new garden – but failed to do anything. Now I’m going to dig out the decorations this morning and get decorating!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

− 2 = 1