Garden lighting offers extended use and enjoyment of the outdoors well into the evening hours. Thoughtful design and proper placement of outdoor lighting fixtures enhance the natural look of the garden.
Moonlighting, a popular lighting technique reproduces the magical play of light and shadow on the ground associated with the glow of a full moon. Outdoor lighting effects are unlimited.
Well-conceived outdoor lighting should accomplish the three basic design tenets of safety, security, and the aesthetic in a pleasing, unified manner. Ground lights mark paths, steps and potential hazards. Trees serve as lighting standards with fixtures attached to limbs and directed down through the branches to simulate moonlight. Uplighting and backlighting highlight or silhouette your favorite plants or add drama to sculpture and water features.
Durable and quality landscape lighting also matters since the lighting fixtures will be frequently exposed to changing weather conditions and other damaging elements. Therefore, homeowners should look beyond the visual appeal of landscape lighting and consider the longevity of the fixtures. This way, not only will they get the yard they desire, but they will also save themselves time and money without the frequent need for replacement or repair of dead or broken lighting fixtures.
Outdoor lighting is powered by 120-volt house current or low voltage transformers. Many fixtures are available to reproduce every conceivable garden lighting effect you desire. You can also consider outdoor solar lights.
Unfortunately, indiscriminate corner mounted floodlights, bare bulb “brass and glass” front door fixtures, and low voltage kits of mushroom-style fixtures lined up in runway style along the front drive and sidewalk dominate our nightscape.
The many alternatives to these prevalent styles of lighting make you wonder why you haven’t already created your own outdoor lighting. These suggestions might help get you started with your own personal garden lighting plan.
• Spend time in the garden at night observing the existing lighting.
• Decide what you would like to illuminate or highlight
• Where do you need lighting to make your way safely along the paths, steps, and grade changes? You can use pools of light to guide you through the garden.
• Is security a concern? How much light is necessary to make you feel at ease outdoors at night?
• Purchase fixtures you feel will achieve the desired effects and mock these up in the evening to see how they look at night.
• Low voltage lighting can be installed without an electrician’s help, whereas it is best to have a licensed electrician for installation of 120 volt.
• Hide uplight fixtures with foliage and make sure lights are not aimed at neighbor’s windows.
• Lights mounted in trees should be accessible by extension ladder for seasonal adjustment and lamp changes.
Add candles, luminaries, and tiki torches to create a festive or romantic mood to complement your permanent lighting effects. Have fun with your lighting design.
Hoyt Bangs, a Raleigh native and landscape designer, is the owner of WaterWise Garden Design.