Decorating Ideas

Adding Layers of Light to Your Garden

An evening stroll through the garden in winter is enhanced by the low glow of yellow light.  Adding layers of light, gives your garden charm, mystique, and the ability to enjoy the garden at night.

Winter was never my season. For the most part, this is due to the lack of light the day provides. After work, when I have the time to be in the garden, the ambient light is not enough to allow me to navigate the paths, or to admire the trees and shrubs. In the past, memory helped to navigate the paths so I could empty the trash, but without night lighting, it was only a utilitarian task.

A Japanese maple with uplighting

Today even the must mundane time outdoors in the evening is enchanting and romantic.  As the sun goes down, the garden transforms into a magical place, completely changed by the light’s focus. Light casts silhouettes of trees and shrubs, and statuary, as well as serving as a beacon off in the distance for travel or to allow for an appreciation from afar.

Lighting outside should be approached in much the same way as interior lighting. Inside your home, stark, overhead light can be cold and harsh. More lighting options, such as table lamps, picture lights, and dimmers, softens a room’s glow; making for a welcoming place. The same is true with lighting outdoors. Adding layers of lights softens the garden and creates a welcoming glow.

With the installation of night lighting several years ago, I’m now able to enjoy my garden, Helen’s Haven, when the daylight dims, often before dinner.

Good lighting is three-dimensional, giving the garden depth and drama. The focus should not be on the fixtures, but on the effects complementing nature, not competing with her.

Uplighting accents beautifully formed plantings such as a specimen tree or shrub.  Often airy plants, such as a Japanese maple, are good candidates for uplighting so the glow highlights its interesting form. Uplighting also works well for the home itself.  Adding spotlights to flood the home’s front exterior, creates a welcoming appeal.

Adding downlighting creates a pool of light to highlight a play or dining area, a favorite bench, or garden accent.

Layers of light add even more value to path and focal lights. Just like in your home’s interior with layers of light from fire and candlelight, adding white twinkle lights gives the garden even more depth. Stringing twinkle lights to arbors, gazebos, sheds, and vines, gives your garden more dimension. Grapevine balls, wrapped in lights can be hung in the trees or wrap the tree trunk and a few branches with lights to give shape to a tree otherwise dark in the evening.

From the inside looking out, night lighting allows one to extend the view from the kitchen sink, your favorite chair in the den, or even the dining room. Dining in candlelight, with the ability to look out into the garden and see lighting beyond, is the epitome of romance.

Energy-wise solar powered lights are a snap to install and they have improved greatly over the years. These can work particularly well with path lighting. I started out with solar lights to see how well I would like night lighting. I liked them so much I decided to make the investment in a higher quality, permanent solution. In doing so, I turned to a professional to put my garden and home in the best light.

This winter, when the weather turns frightful, watching the snow flakes or rain drops drifting through a light beam will still allow me to be in the garden even though it’s only from the living room chair.

Helen Yoest, owner of Gardening With Confidence™, is working on her first book to be released later in 2012. Catch up with Helen at her blog at

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