ISSUE 51  |  Snow Days

DIY: Botanical Ice Lanterns

December 22, 2014 5:00 PM

BY Erin Boyle

On these darkest nights of the year, it’s important to add as many spots of light as possible. This week, while you’re busy trimming your tree, add a little light to warm the night outside. A trio of ice lanterns will welcome guests (oh come, all ye wassailers). 

Read on for materials and step-by-step instructions for making Botanical Ice Lanterns:

Photography by Erin Boyle.

Above: Gather supplies. I used cylindrical containers, but you can get other shapes (so long as the smaller container is wide enough to hold a tea light or votive candle).

Materials (per lantern):

  • 2 containers of different sizes, such as an 18 Oz. Weck Jar ($3.95 from Crate & Barrel) and a 6 Oz. Spice Jar (50 cents apiece from Gracious Home)
  • Electrical tape, such as 1/2 Inch Colored Electrical Tape ($4.27 per roll from Home Depot)
  • Water
  • Foraged finds ( orange or clementine slices, cedar branches, pine needles, juniper berries, cranberries, etc.)
  • Below freezing outdoor temperatures (or a freezer)
  • Flameless tealights or votives, such as Flameless Outdoor Tealights ($6 for four from Pottery Barn)

Above: Use electrical tape to center the smaller container inside the larger one. N.B. The water will keep the the container afloat, but you’ll need the tape to keep it centered.

Above: After you have your center container in place, add botanical elements. I used cedar and juniper branches for my first lantern.

Above: Cedar and cranberries made a festive combination for a second lantern.

Above: For my last lantern, I started with a base of juniper berries on the bottom of the jar before adding water and my second container.

Above: The best part about working on a craft project surrounded by family? Last-minute ideas. My sister-in-law was munching on a clementine while I was filling these lanterns, so I decided to slice one up and make a citrusy lantern, too.

Above: All three lanterns, ready for freezing.

Above: If you have snow, or freezing temperatures, freeze your lanterns outside. A warning: check on your lanterns often. The first time I made an ice lantern, I let it freeze for about six hours and loosened it from the jar when the water was frozen, but not cloudy. The second time, I got a little bit distracted and left the lanterns to freeze for about eight hours…and ended with a Weck jar casualty.

Stay on the safe side and check your lanterns every hour or so to make sure that they’re not over-freezing. If you’d prefer to put the lanterns in the freezer and not worry about them, by all means, use plastic vessels instead, the process is the same.

N.B. The more foraged materials you add to the glass, the more slowly the ice will freeze (the jar that broke was on the lantern with the least amount of greens).

Above: After they froze, I removed the tape and ran the jars under lukewarm water to loosen them. They slid right out. 

Above: Nestled in a bit of greens, they made a welcoming ensemble on the front stoop. 

Above: To preserve the life of the ice lanterns and to alleviate any worry of the greenery catching fire, I used Flameless Outdoor Tealights ($9.50 from Pottery Barn). The tealights technically aren’t supposed to get wet, so if you notice the temperatures starting to drop, consider removing the lights.

Above: When I made my first trial ice lantern, I was concerned about the bits of greenery that floated to the surface of the water, but I ended up really liking the bits that stuck out of the top of each lantern.

Above: I’ll be making these festive lanterns all winter (they’re just as pretty on a city windowsill as on a country stoop), and they take only a few minutes to put together.

Looking for an ice-only look? Try these Frozen Ice Candle Holders that we spotted last year.