Decorating a gingerbread house shouldn’t be limited to the house, you should also plan to decorate around it to give it a nice yard or winter garden.
Landscaping and creating scenery around the house can add some whimsy to the design, and it’s not hard to do. I’ve put together a list of ideas that I’ve used for my gingerbread houses in the past, and I hope that it gives you some ideas to work with.
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1. Trees and bushes.
Trees and bushes made from icing piped onto ice cream cones, or fondant snipped with scissors to give them a leaf texture are easy to make. They’ll add some height to the landscaping in the yard and can be made in either Christmas-themed or regular plant style by adding tiny candy bulbs to a tree or candy lights to bushes.
Hedges can be made by piping green royal icing onto marshmallows to make a row around the house, or you can put some snow on top to give them a wintry look.
2. Walkways made from candy.
There are a lot of different types of candy that you can use for bricks or stones, including sticks of red chewing gum cut into brick shapes, or any kind of round candy glued into place and “mortared” with royal icing.
You can also make marbled fondant, roll it out, and cut the sheet into stone shapes or make them into irregular shapes to piece together for a slate walkway look.
3. Flowerpots and planters.
Placing little planters and pots around the house or on the porch will give you a place to put flowers or little shaped shrubbery.
You can use mini peanut butter cups or Rolo candy for these since they’re already the right shape. If you put them upside down and don’t unwrap them you can use the gold foil as part of the color in the house design.
4. Benches and garden seating.
Making some seating elements can be cute, and they can either be made with gingerbread or oval or rectangular cookies. Using a cookie for the bench seat and adding legs made from more cookies or square candy like Starbursts will give your garden a little visual interest.
You can also construct benches with backs by gluing the pieces together with royal icing.
You can make birdbaths using any kind of candy that’s formed into a base for the pedestal. Take candies that are flat on both sides and glue them together to form the base, then add a larger disc on the top for the bath part.
I would also use a candy cane with the hook cut off, or a peppermint stick for the pedestal. You can anchor them into a Lifesaver or another candy like a gummy lifesaver-type candy to make them stand up (glue it to the base of the ground to secure it.)
The birdbath itself can be made from a lifesaver to match the post, or an Oreo that’s been dug out to make the bath shape.
6. Fences and garden gates
Fences and gates can be made with candy canes or pretzel sticks depending on how tall they need to be. You can also pipe them from chocolate or royal icing if you want to make ornate wrought iron style designs, but those can be very fragile.
To pipe a fence or a gate, use royal icing or chocolate on waxed paper, then re-pipe the same design on the back to make them thicker when they set up. Making them thicker will strengthen them, but you should be careful not to overpipe them too much of they can look really thick.
Ponds can be made simply by pouring blue corn syrup onto the board, or you can use blue-tinted melted sugar. Isomalt is another option, but careful if you use any kind of hot sugar because of the burn risk!
You can also use gelatin to make water by setting up a sheet of blue gelatin and cutting it into pieces to use as water. You can make it as deep as you want to and line the outside edges with little stone-looking candy or pieces of fondant.
8. Snowy ground
The easiest landscaping detail of all, just ice the board or the plate that the house sits on with more royal icing. You can also use chopped-up coconut to sprinkle on the ground to make snowdrifts.
9. Grassy areas and mulch
Just like you can use coconut for snow, you can also use coconut that’s dyed green for grass. Put some shredded coconut in a baggie and add a few drops of green food coloring, then massage the food color into the coconut until it’s mixed through.
Scatter the grass in the areas that you want to have a yard for a summer-themed house, or put some royal icing on the ground in spots if you want to have patches of snow on the grass.
Mulch can be made by pressing chopped nuts into the icing. The photo above shows grass, mulch and a paved walkway made from butter mints.
You can make snowmen with marshmallows that are stacked on top of each other, or with large white gumballs or jawbreakers. Draw on faces with a sharpie or glue on teeny pieces of black fondant to make eyes and a mouth.
The carrot nose can be made from orange fondant or Starbursts and stuck into the face or attached with icing. Finish with a scarf and hat made from taffy.
Add some flowers cut out from taffy or gum to the flowerpots made from Rolos to make a little garden display.
Fruit leather is also good to use for making flowers because you can cut shapes out of them using tiny metal cookie cutters. You can also use strips of it to make roll-up roses for flowerpots.
12. Vegetable gardens
Be on the lookout throughout the year for any small candy that looks like fruit and vegetables. Sometimes there are candies that have a flavor that look like that fruit too, like banana runts. Watch for that kind of thing and buy them when you see them, because they’re useful to have on hand when you want to make fruit and vegetables.
There are also little pumpkins that are made from candy corn sugar that are sold around Halloween, and those are good for a pumpkin patch.
If you don’t have any ready-made candy, you can use fondant or taffy-type candies to mold into fruit and vegetables.
You can make the dirt for the garden or for flowerpots by grinding up chocolate cookies in a coffee grinder. For sand, graham crackers or brown sugar can be sprinkled on the sections that you want to cover.
To make a curved footbridge, bake a piece of gingerbread on the curve of a cake pan so that it bakes in an arch shape. Use that as the base for your bridge over a stream. You can also put a stone pattern on it by gluing pieces of fondant stone shapes made from gum or taffy onto the bridge.
Add some raised edges on the sides of the bridge made from small candies to give it a stone look.
14. Retaining walls
Add small walls to the garden by stacking different shapes of hard candies on top of each other and attaching them with royal icing.
You can do this in a multicolor way with random candies, or use one color for uniformity. Add some food coloring to the royal icing “mortar” if you want to make it more colorful!
15. Birds and animals
Use fondant to mold small animals or birds and place them around the garden. There are silicone molds that you can use to make tiny animals, or just make them freehand.
16. Piles of firewood
You can make a pile of firewood stacked outside if your gingerbread house has a chimney. Use tootsie rolls and make piles of “wood, then cover it with a little piece of fruit leather tarp.
17. Raised garden beds
Use candy that looks like rocks to create a low wall that you fill up with ground-up chocolate cookies for the dirt. Add some flowers or other plants to make the garden. Green gumdrops can be flattened out to cut out leaves.
18. Fire pit
Make a fire pit the same way that you made the raised beds, but don’t fill it with dirt, You can put tootsie roll logs in it and flatten out some red gumdrops to make into flames to put into the pit.
If you don’t want the flames, you can get the candy that looks like coal that they sell around Christmas and put that into the pit.
19. Stepping stones
For stepping stones, you can use Necco wafers and place them in a path around the garden. put them in a path through the garden with flowers and plants around them to make a walkway through the garden.
You can also create pathways from sliced fondant pieces that are marbled and made to look like marbled stones.
Use sour apple gummy rings that are wreath-shaped already and decorate them using red hots or nerds. Corn syrup can be used as glue to hold them on, or use some royal icing or isomalt if you’re comfortable working with hot sugar.
Make sure to use proper precautions if you work with any kind of hot sugar to avoid serious burns!
21. Garden lattice
Cut strips of gum sticks and weave them to make a lattice that can go up against the side of a gingerbread house.
You can also make a lattice using strips cut from Twizzlers if you need longer pieces to work with. Cut them with a utility knife and a ruler to cut straight strips.
22. Tree swings
Hang a swing from a tree using some peel and pull licorice strings that are tied to a graham cracker that’s been cut to the size of the seat.
You can also make a seat from gingerbread and make little holes in the corners to insert the licorice into the holes.
23. Water features
Waferfalls, streams, and other features that include stones with water flowing over them can be made using rock candy or realistic candy stones, or with hard candies that are rounded shapes.
Place the candy stones where you want them, then pour thin layers of blue gelatin over the rocks and let it set up to make a gelatin water effect.
24. Swimming pool
For this, you’ll have to make a surround area that looks like cement out of greyish royal icing, and pour an area of either blue isomalt or gelatin inside for the water. You might want to add a diving board and little accessories like a lounge chair and a float in the water to make it look deeper than it is.
If you want to get really elaborate, you can make a raised surface for the gingerbread house to sit on so that you can make a deeper area for the pool so that it will actually look deeper. This would mean building a specific base for the house to sit on, so it will require a little more engineering!
25. Mailbox or lightpost
The mailbox or a lightpost are simple additions that you can make as fancy as you want to. Depending on the scale of the house, you can use a candy cane for the post, or a pirouline cookie if it’s larger. Put a marshmallow on top for a larger mailbox, or a caramel for a smaller one.
Decorate the post with a piece of spaghetti that’s been wet in green dyed water so that it’s green, and when it dries it will stay wrapped around the post in the vining shape.
There are a lot of ways to add some visual elements to the yard of your gingerbread house, and adding landscaping gives you a lot more design opportunities. Keep an eye out for special candy throughout the year so that you can build up a candy stash to use for different things you might want to add.
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