Be a Night Owl: Dress Up Your Garden With Lights

Creative lighting allows you to make a totally different look for your garden. Whether soft, subtle lighting to bring a few elements into focus, or specialist lighting equipment used to glamorous effect, consider lighting up your night.

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Lighting in the Garden

Flooding the garden with overhead light creates too harsh an effect, creates light pollution and can annoy your neighbors. Avoid strong lights that may shine directly into the eyes of an onlooker opting, instead, for an offset source. Accentuate the theatrical effect of any garden illumination, and make the nighttime experience all the more enchanting by playing up shadows. Draw up a plan, taking into account the type of lighting required in each area, such as recessed lighting for a deck, directional spotlighting for a barbecue grill or underwater lighting for a fountain. Work out cabling circuits and plug points, and talk through your ideas with a qualified electrician or lighting engineer, before completing any new landscaping work. You can experiment with different lighting effects by simply using a powerful torch, or torches, held at different angles.

Outdoor rooms used for relaxation and entertaining can be lit in a similar way to indoor spaces, with low-level lamps and mini spots to highlight decorative elements (image 1).

In contemporary settings, restrained use of colored lights can create stylish effects. Programed, color-changing fiber optics are an option for dynamic shows (image 2).

Practical Considerations

Unless you plan to use solar-powered lights, you need a convenient power supply. Special waterproof outdoor sockets must be installed by a qualified electrician, and any power cables will need armored ducting to prevent accidents. When using low-voltage lights that run from a transformer, house the transformer in a waterproof casing or locate it inside a building. A transformer reduces the voltage from the mains to the lower level at which many garden lighting products work. The size of transformer will depends on the power and number of lights you plan to use. Ask your electrician to install an indoor switch so that you can turn the lights on and off easily. Consider using long-life, low-energy bulbs for areas that will be lit for extended periods: wall lights on the front of buildings, for example. Elsewhere, use energy-efficient LED lights and, if an area is sufficiently sunny, solar-powered lighting.

If you plan to use the garden at night, illuminate pathways, steps, and changes in level using low-level lighting and angled recessed lights to avoid glare (image 1).

Post lights come in a wide variety of designs, including many solar-powered models, and sets that run from a transformer. Position them in the border to light pathways (image 2).

Candles, lanterns, and oil lamps create a magical atmosphere. Never leave them unattended, and take care to keep open flames away from flammable materials (image 3).

Lighting Effects

Tiny LED twinkle lights running from a transformer are simple to install, and create a romantic ambience when woven through climbers on a pergola. Mini spots are great for uplighting an architectural plant or a piece of statuary, or for highlighting textured surfaces. Recessed,low-level lighting in steps, walls and decks casts gentle light without glare, and colored lighting can be used to create contemporary effects, floodlight trees or light pools. Tiny neon-blue LED spots across a decked area look thoroughly modern, as do dodichromatic bulbs, which gradually shift from one color to the next.

Bright, even lighting is mainly used for security and can be triggered by infrared sensors. Mini halogen floods can also be used for dramatic up- or downlighting (image 1).

Low-level backlighting throws the foreground elements into relief and creates dramatic shadow patterns on the wall behind. You can also backlight decorative screens (image 2).

Using a directional spotlight mounted high on a wall and angled in and down towards the subject, you can highlight an area without creating irritating glare (image 3).

Excerpted from Garden Design

©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009

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