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  • Randall Benton / Bee file, 2010

    Holiday lighting is a grand tradition – a little grander at some houses than at others.

  • Jim Chaffee / Bee file

Home & garden checklists

Published: Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 8CALIFORNIA LIFE


Americans again are lighting up the holidays with illuminated decorations, indoors and out.

But most homeowners are showing some restraint. According to a survey by Batteries Plus, 83 percent of homeowners will hang fewer than 500 lights inside and outside the home. Most of those outdoor lights will decorate shrubs and trees (27.3 percent) or trim the roofline (23 percent). Indoors, the tree (84.5 percent) is by far the favorite spot for lights.

Colored lights are still the most popular, with 35 percent of respondents picking them as their choice for decorating. Little white lights are a close second (with 32.1 percent).

While 39 percent of consumers will use an energy-efficient timer this season, about 60 percent still rely on the old-fashioned switch to turn the display on and off.

But the majority of respondents (55 percent) do keep an eye on their energy bill during the holidays. They leave the holiday lights on for only three to five hours each night.

But what if your holiday lights won't shine? Help is a phone call away. Ulta-Lit Technologies is once again manning its Holiday Lighting Hotline, now through Christmas Eve.

Taking calls daily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. PST, Ulta-Lit's lighting pros will assist frustrated holiday decorators with their pre-lit trees, indoor-outdoor lights and lighted yard ornaments.

Each caller is walked step-by-step through a series of questions and directions to diagnose and ultimately repair their light sets, saving them time, money and frustration.

According to Ulta-Lit president John DeCosmo, "95 percent of failed light sets can be repaired.

"We've been offering assistance for incandescent light sets for 15 years," he continued. "This year, we've added the ability to help people diagnose and repair their LED lights, as well as offer tips to keep their live trees from becoming a safety hazard with the first and only Christmas tree safety system on the market today."

Call the toll-free hotline at (888) 858-2548. Or visit the company's website for instructions and videos at

– Debbie Arrington


Between storms, squeeze in some garden time to tidy up and renew vegetable and flower beds. There's a lot to do, including:

• Cut chrysanthemums to 6 to 8 inches above ground after bloom.

• Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

• Prune nonflowering trees and shrubs while dormant.

• Plant bare-root cane berries such as raspberries or blackberries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb.

• Plant bare-root perennials in the flower garden, including astilbe, peonies, cyclamen, bleeding heart, dianthus and daisies.

• Give a drink to plants that rain doesn't reach, such as those under eaves or under evergreen trees. Well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

• Bring in branches of pyracantha, holly, toyon or other berry-bearing foliage to decorate your home. Also good are boughs of cedar, pine, redwood, fir, juniper, cypress or other evergreens. They smell great, too.

• Take advantage of end-of-year bulb sales. Plant spring bulbs such as daffodils, callas and Dutch iris. Get them in the ground or pots immediately.

• If chilly nights are forecast, remember to mulch, water and cover to protect tender plants from frost. Succulent plants are at particular risk if temperatures drop below freezing. Be sure to remove coverings during the day.

• After storms, dump standing water that may have collected in saucers under potted plants to avoid root rot.

– Debbie Arrington

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