Clever candles for outdoors (and inside, too!)
October 10th, 2010
October is well underway, and here is my little “Know-How” piece from the October 2010 issue of Better Homes & Gardens.
It was inspired, in part, by my past visits to my friend Kathy’s garden. She uses outdoor candles incredibly well.
I have always loved the look of luminarias, the traditional candle-lit lanterns that illuminate walkways and paths for Southwest-style holiday celebrations. Modern re-interpretations use paper bags or Mason jars weighted down with a layer of sand in the base holding votive candles inside.
For a fresh twist that takes the luminaria idea and improves upon it, look for 7-Day Candles, also called altar candles. I first saw the brilliant display of these Mexican chapel candles in Kathy’s Southern California garden. Of course, it’s easy to dine and entertain out-of-doors here all year long. But even if you reside in cooler parts of the country, you can still borrow her idea!
White, red, blue or green wax is poured into an 8-inch-tall cylindrical glass container. “You can burn them 15 hours a day for a week,” Kathy says. “Imagine, 110 hours of candlelight for about one dollar!”
You can often find them at Mexican grocery stores or 99-cent/Dollar Stores. I found several styles on the shelf of my local Safeway grocery store – in the Mexican food aisle. And yes, they cost 99-cents!
Kathy began decorating with these clean-and-simple altar candles after too many dinner parties where one-inch votives burned out before the evening was over. She lined her outdoor fireplace mantle with a row of the 7-Day candles, which glowed and sparkled during her al fresco dinners.
Kathy also groups three or four candles inside a large, glass vase for impact. A few inches of dry black beans or orange lentils in the base serve as a stabilizer. Try a variation of your own and you’ll enjoy hours of romantic flickering candlelight.
As for displaying 7-Day candles outdoors, such as on a porch, patio or front walkway, don’t worry that they’ll blow out.
Kathy calls the glass cylinders “little hurricane lamps.”
Here are some additional “illuminating” ideas for your after-dark garden enjoyment:
- Burn a flame: also adds warmth after dusk. At the Independent Garden Center Show in August, I was amazed at the number of vendors who are introducing these ceramic bowls, lanterns or pots that contain a small metal insert that burns a “gel fuel.” In one catalog, from Napa Home & Garden (see lantern here), the liquid fuel is described as being manufactured from recycled, post-consumer waste – a recycled and sustainable product. The decorative ceramic container burns a long-lasting flame. In the garden, you can illuminate the edges of a pathway or group several lanterns together on a tabletop for after-dark enjoyment.
- String up lights: Create a twinkling overhead canopy with strings of carnival lighting, holiday strands or small lantern lights. When suspended from an arbor or tree branches, the tiny lights lend a flickering, romantic accent – and just enough light for sitting outdoors with a hot drink.
ILLUMINATION UPDATE: My friend Kathy Purdy, at Cold Climate Gardening, just suggested that I check out solar fireflies: “Personally, I can’t see using these if you have the real McCoy, but I’ve learned that not all areas of the country do,” she writes. Kathy, you’re right. West coast gardeners are not as fortunate as you East coast gardeners. I haven’t seen a real firefly since July 2000, when my family visited friends in Washington, D.C. and we lay on our backs (on their front lawn) late at night – watching the magic!