Transform your plot to an illuminated wonderland
Who says enjoyment of your garden has to stop when the sun goes down? We love using lighting inside the home to bring warmth and atmosphere, so why not bring that effect outside?
There’s much more to lighting your outdoor space than the dreaded glaring motion-detect spot as you slip and slide your way to the shed. Garden lighting is a great addition to any plot all year round – to be sat out in and enjoyed in summer, and to brighten up gloomy views during the winter. In your front garden, a well-lit path and entryway will welcome visitors and residents alike. In addition, lighting can provide security as well as a subtle and inviting glow.
If you’re thinking of installing lighting in your garden, then read on – in this blog I’ll run through some tips and tricks for getting the best effects. It’s a good idea to consult a professional lighting designer, but costs can be prohibitive, so don’t worry – many electricians will be able to offer you advice on making the most of your garden as well as fitting the cables and parts safely. Low-voltage cables can be installed with a minimum of fuss as they don’t need to be buried deeply, so don’t worry about having to uproot your whole garden!
Well-designed lighting can turn even the most modest outdoor space into an illuminated wonderland, but there are a couple of points to consider first:
What lighting style will you use?
There are three different styles of lighting:
– Overall, for lighting a whole area
– Accent, for drawing the eye to certain areas or features
– Task, for lighting an area such as a path or shed
Overall lighting and task lighting schemes usually consist of simple spotlights or lamps, so for now we’ll focus on the slightly trickier style to get right. Accent lighting can be used to great effect lighting plants, trees, steps, water features and even whole walls.
Where can I use accent lighting?
When lighting steps or pathways, LED mini-spots along the vertical surface are a great choice, particularly ones with an ‘eyelid’ feature to direct the beam of light downwards. LED lights are cost- and energy-effective, and work well as spike lights for placing in the adjacent turf or beds.
Potted plants, trees and leafy shrubs look stunning at night when lit up from beneath, using recessed spots or spike lights. A wide beam will diffuse gradually through the lower foliage, and create a softly lit feature from your leafy plants like yucca, dicksonia and trachycarpus. A lower-angled fitting will create a narrower beam of light that will illuminate the trunk and lower leaves of a narrow garden tree. Just remember to consider bats, birds and night animals as well as any neighbours when positioning your spots – unwanted glare can be very offputting for local wildlife and human residents alike.
A wash of light on a wall or garden water feature can create a really nice play of light and dark using shadows and silhouettes. Use a wide angle of light to catch different textures on a wall’s surface, and pick out the shadows of any plants along it.
Avoiding light pollution
A good garden designer will be able to help you come up with a lighting plan that will avoid light pollution (shining into the home, disrupting views of a starry sky, etc) – but if you’re going it alone, following some simple tips will help enormously. Use minimal wattage – a glaring bulb isn’t needed for a dark garden. Use fittings that have light shields to deflect the beam effectively, and make sure they’re aimed carefully. Motion-detection and timers are also great for using energy efficiently.
For a quick and effective garden lighting fix that won’t break the bank, solar spike lights are a great and eco-friendly option that have the added benefit of being portable. These can be picked up cheaply at most home and garden stores, as well as online – just place them in strategic locations where they’ll get plenty of daylight, and wait for nightfall! Solar powered lanterns and fairy lights are also charming options that lend a real sense of occasion to any garden event, be it a simple glass of wine or a family barbecue.
What to watch out for
When you’re purchasing your outdoor lighting, make sure that any electrical fixtures, wires and bulbs are all suitable for outdoor use. Most stockists will label ‘outdoor safe’ or similar. If you’re placing fixtures out in the open, consider a waterproofing cover, and make sure your lights aren’t located near any flammable materials that could catch fire.