From patio lights and flood lights to candles, adding low voltage lights extends your relaxation time with family, garden parties, and barbecues. Plus it adds interest and drama to your garden all year round, and is a safety feature. Lightscaping can be as easy as buying a do-it-yourself kit at the local hardware store or shining a flood light up a tree, or you can hire a contractor to do the job.
To get started, walk around your garden at night to see which areas would benefit from lighting. Depending on the size of your garden you may only want to highlight one or two features. However, if your garden is large there are many ways to draw attention to the after dark vistas with subtle glows, bold spotlighting, or soft shadows.
With the exception of underwater lighting, you can temporarily produce most of these effects with flashlights, to give you an idea of what the finished product will create. Experiment and you’ll be surprised at the dramatic effects lighting can have.
Uplighting is accomplished by placing lights at ground level, shining upwards to create dramatic locations throughout your yard that may seem merely ordinary during the day. Place a light at the base of an imposing tree, dense shrub, or an arbour. Choose a white light for simple elegance, or try different colours to create different moods.
Downlighting or moonlighting adds the effect of a full moon every night. Place downward facing lights on trees, fences, or other structures, to create a romantic atmosphere. The delicate shadow patterns of leaves and flowers will project on the ground. A series of these lights placed along a tree or fence line improves a quiet stroll.
Cross lighting is especially attractive for lighting feature plants, waterfalls, and fountains. Cross lighting shines two lights on an object from different directions.
Silhouetting highlights a statue or large pot placed in front of a wall. Put a light directly in front of the feature to cast a dramatic shadow on the wall behind.
Path lighting is often used for safety, adding a lovely ambiance. Point the lights down to avoid glare. In winter months, lighting pillows of snow on shrubs and perennials will add a storybook look.
Fairy lights aren’t just for Christmas. They lend a mystical feeling to your garden year round. Add them to branches, trunks, and bushes, or wrap them around railings or arbours for a soft glow.
Candlelight is a quick and inexpensive way to build mood and romance in your garden. Whether you float candles on a pond, hang them in glass containers from trees or garden architecture, or secure them in sand in a paper bag along a walkway, candles are a natural for creating atmosphere and mystery after the sun goes down.
Underwater lighting such as soft lamps, a glittering water surface, and fountains bathed in colour create a spectacular ambience. To add a tropical atmosphere to your water features, place a submerged fogger in your pond. Position it so the fog will rise around a waterfall or fountain.
Underwater spotlights create the same shimmering reflection on surrounding walls and fences that aboveground spotlights do. Project the light through the surface of the water onto the wall.
Waterfalls are especially attractive lit from within. Highlighting the falls with outside lighting is attention grabbing, but placing the light under the water, behind the falls, creates a mystical, relaxing atmosphere.
Set up a light to reflect the water onto a wall or fence near your pond. Place a spotlight on the side of the pond opposite the wall, and shine the light into the water. Even a relatively still pond throws reflections on the wall for a shimmering effect that cannot be duplicated in daylight.
Ensure your lights and submerged fixtures are rated for underwater use. Never place anything underwater without confirming this. Also remember these lights and techniques are not for use in swimming pools or any water that humans or animals may use. Underwater lighting fixtures made of copper or brass may be toxic to your koi or goldfish.
If weather keeps you inside anytime during the year, creative lighting allows you to continue to enjoy your garden after dark, even if it is from a window.
Solar vs. electric: what’s right for your garden?
Most garden lighting falls into two types: solar and low-voltage electricity. Here are some points to ponder before choosing one:
Solar lighting is energy efficient and easy, as lights activate automatically as the sun sets. Instead of burning out at once, solar lights dim gradually so you’ll know when to replace them. Most solar kits can be installed DIY which means a lower price tag than the professional installation of electric lights.
On the downside, solar-powered lights are dimmer than low-voltage electricity. Keep charging pads clear of dirt and thick dust to ensure a full charge or one light can be brighter than the rest.
Low-voltage electric lights are brighter, and come in a wide array of styles and options, and can be turned off and on from inside.
Wiring can be simple enough for the DIY approach or require a professional. A professional upgrade can add value to your home, but will require upkeep as the system ages.