Add sparkle and radiance to your garden with these bright ideas.

The outdoors is a wonderfully romantic place on a summer evening. As night temperatures cool, the air becomes fragrant with moonflowers, petunias, and a myriad of scented blooms. Heat-weary flowers turn their faces to greet the moonlight, and with the addition of some candles, magic is in the air. You can light one just for yourself, or go all out for company.

Here we offer two fun projects to brighten up your garden for a delightful end to a summer's day. If you're looking for something even easier, simply place floating candles in a birdbath or fishpond, or use tall canning jars with petite pillars along a pathway or the edge of a flowerbed. Regardless of how many you use, remember these safety rules: Never leave candles unattended, and always confine the flame within a glass container if it's close to flowers, foliage, or anything else that may be flammable.

Simple Summer Centerpiece
Dress up your outdoor table with an easy centerpiece planted in a terra-cotta saucer. The candle nestled in the middle adds an inviting touch to summer evenings and keeps the arrangement compact. Experiment with different candle and plant combinations to fit your landscape.

Step 1: Center the 4-inch saucer, upside down, in the 12-inch saucer. Fill around it with potting soil about an inch deep. Gently loosen root balls, and arrange impatiens and ferns toward the inside of the saucer. Place low-growing and trailing plants near the edge.

Step 2: Slide the hurricane globe on top of the small saucer. Add more potting soil around the outside edge to cover roots, and water gently to settle the plants and soil. Place a pillar candle inside the globe.

Care and feeding tips: We used shade-loving ferns and impatiens for our plant assortment. Soil in a shallow saucer dries out quickly, but these plants require less water attention than those that need full sun. A good drink every other day was sufficient for our arrangement.

The terra-cotta saucer does not have a drainage hole, so water carefully. After rain, gently tip the arrangement to pour off excess water. Feed with a flower-boosting, water-soluble fertilizer, such as 15-30-15, every other week.

As the impatiens mature, they will become too large for the centerpiece. When they become leggy, pinch them back to half their height. You will need to do this only two or three times over the summer. Always cut directly above a set of leaves. New blooms will appear within a week.


1 (4-inch) terra-cotta saucer
1 (12-inch) terra-cotta saucer
potting soil
3 impatiens plants
3 (4-inch) ferns, such as maidenhair or rabbit's foot
2 (4-inch) trailing plants, such as ivy or creeping fig vine
1 hurricane globe
1 pillar candle

Tree Lights

Securely suspend these easy-to-make candleholders from a tree branch or arbor to add sparkle to the evening. Collect jars in assorted sizes and shapes for an imaginative display.

Step 1: Cut a piece of tie wire (available at home-center stores) at least 3 feet long. Using needle-nose pliers, make a spiral at one end.

Step 2: Hold the spiral in place on the jar while winding the wire around the container's neck. Secure the hanger by twisting it around the spiral.

Step 3: Using a glue gun or epoxy, attach clear glass jewels or pebbles to the outside of each glass jar.

Step 4: Cut wire hanger to the desired length, and make a loop at the end. When hanging multiple jars, vary the wire lengths for interest.


tie wire
needle-nose pliers
assorted glass jars
glue gun or epoxy
glass jewels or pebbles
assorted candles

"Illuminations" is from the Southern Living Garden Guide 2004.