More tips on making frozen spheres for your winter garden: add candles

ce spheres and candles in snow in Amherst NY
You can create candle holders out of ice using water balloons. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

You know what they say about Western New York: If you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes.

You may think we’ve had nothing but snow and cold this winter, but I can assure you we’ve had thaws. I know because the arrangement of frozen spheres that I told you about in mid-December melted before Christmas.

colored ice balls in three containers in Amherst NY
The first time I tried making an arrangement, I broke a lot of spheres. The second time, I made more than I thought I would need. I didn’t break many, so I ended up with a lot more than I expected. I decided to use three containers instead of just the large container I had intended to use. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Luckily, just before New Year’s Day we got more cold weather (hey, I’m looking for the silver lining), so I was able to make a new three-container arrangement. It was beautiful for my guests on New Year’s day.

The arrangement got covered by snow in the blizzard, which gave it a different look. Then it melted in the 40-degree temperatures that followed. The photo at left shows it after it started melting.

Luckily (silver lining again), the weather turned bitter cold once more so I made yet another arrangement– It’s the one at the top of the page. I did this one in reds for Valentine’s Day. We’ll see if it lasts until then.

As I made and remade these simple arrangements, I discovered many tips along the way, including how to make holders for candles.

For the candle holders, start out the same way you would if you were making a frozen sphere. See basic tips for making the ice spheres in our previous article. I didn’t add the food coloring for my candle holders because I thought they would look better if they were clear.

Set the water balloons on a flat surface to freeze. The top of the balloon will freeze hard first, while the bottom part that touches the ground stays liquid awhile longer.

When it’s at that stage, cut open the balloon and pour out the excess water. Voila! You have cup-shaped ice.

ice sphere covered in snow in Amherst NY
Snow gives the arrangement a different look. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Using candles can be tricky. The candles won’t stay lit if there’s precipitation or if it’s windy. I found that setting your candle or tea light inside a glass holder can help a little during breezy conditions.

Here are more tips I discovered as I had fun working with ice spheres.

  • Consider adding other elements to your arrangement such as branches, a bow, silk flowers or a Mylar balloon. The colors in my second arrangement seemed too springlike, so adding a few evergreen branches gave it a more appropriate seasonal feeling.
  • When the sphere is frozen, cut the balloon away carefully. I tried to take a shortcut by running my scissors along the balloon to make it easier to rip the balloon. I didn’t realize it would score the ice sphere at the same time. Ice is a lot like glass– You don’t have to chop it or saw it, you just scratch it and it will break along that score line. After I ran my scissors along the balloon and removed the balloon, I set the spheres on the ground. I turned around a minute later and they had split in two. Take the time to snip off the end of the balloon, then snip the balloon as much as you need to get it to peel off.
  • To get a rounder shape, set the balloon in snow. When you set the balloon on the ground, it will freeze with a flat bottom.
  • When you make your arrangement, fill your pot with snow and set your ice spheres on top. If there’s no snow, crumpled newspapers will work, too.

    water balloons in snow in Amherst NY
    Set the water balloons in the snow to get spheres without a flat bottom. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko
  • Set your balloons on top of several sheets of newspaper in case a balloon bursts before it is completely frozen. If your ice sphere is out of the balloon but you want to set it aside for awhile, set it on newspaper rather than on your porch. If the ice sphere sticks to your porch, you’ll have a difficult time getting it unstuck. If it sticks to the newspaper, just rip the paper. If any paper remains on the ice sphere, dip the sphere in water to get the paper off.
  • If heavy snow or drifting snow is forecast, you may want to do this project inside an unheated garage or inside a screened-in porch. If you must have your balloons out in the open, choose a spot where you’ll remember where they are and be able to find them if they get covered with snow.
  • If you have warm temperatures and no snow, you could set the balloons in your freezer. That, of course, is what professionals do when they want to make an ice sculpture for a fancy dinner– they use freezers. If you have a deadline and want the sculpture as a decoration for a special event, this is a good back-up plan.
  • If you have snow on the ground but the air temperature is hovering above freezing, set the balloons in the snow and mold the snow around the balloons. Leave the balloons poking out of the snow so you can find them.
  • It can take a long time to get the spheres to freeze, but once they’re frozen, they will take a while to thaw, even if the temperatures bump into the 40s.

3 Comments on “More tips on making frozen spheres for your winter garden: add candles

  1. Still more beautiful, Connie. Looks like you were well occupied while away from the blog. And you covered all contingencies. Thank you!

  2. This is such a great project. I like all the instruction and tips for us to do it ourselves. Your candle votives turned out nice!

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