Christmas decorations have exploded all over our neighbourhood. Obviously not literally - that would have made the 6 o'clock News - but whereas a few isolated homes used to string up lights, now they're joined by gardens filled with festive adornment.
It makes a walk on a winter's evening a colourful show of discovery (and, let's face it, occasional jaw-dropping horror). I love it.
So does Plant Me Now*, who are running a Christmas Gardens Facebook Competition. Decorate your garden, post up as many pictures as you like on their Facebook page by 22nd December, and you're in with a chance to win £100 of plants. You won't have to wait too long to choose and receive them either, as some starter packs, like those of Bacopa, are available early in the New Year.
What, I wonder, makes us want increasingly to make a splash in winter? Partly, it must be that decorations are more affordable, but I think that, deep down, it's an act of defiance, a primal instinct to drive the dark away while we wait for the return of warmth and light. The fun thing is, now self-expression is positively encouraged, people seem ever more happy to be festively flamboyant.
So, having beaten the streets in pursuit of Christmas cheer, here are my 5 tips for decorating your Christmas garden:
1. Just because the lights are on, it doesn't make them look good. Hang them up securely (removable hooks from 3M might be your answer) and make sure they're well arranged. An artistically jumbled line can be more attractive than a straight one, as below where the occupants have fed lights into the climber that frames the window and added a wreath to the front door.
2. Repeating motifs can create an elegance that's missing from a mish-mash of different elements.
3. Are you decorating your garden, or using it as an open space (see top picture)? Think about where you put your decorations. Placing them carefully could make a garden feature, like the tree below, part of the tableau.
4. One large feature can have more impact that lots of smaller ones. This garden has only this gorgeous silver and gold tree. The occupants leave the lights in place all year and I look forward to their turning them on every Christmas.
5. In the end, it's your garden. Do whatever makes you happy. Just try not to cause accidents by startling passing traffic.
*If you fancy a few minutes respite, they've got rather a nifty plant filter that lets you select plants according to up to six criteria, including height, position and light level. It's kept me playing for far too long. :). You can also see much more professionally decorated gardens on their Pinterest page, Christmas Garden Inspiration.
This post is sponsored by Plant Me Now. (NB Dec 2015 Plant Me Now no longer seems to be operating.)