A well-designed garden is beautiful during the day, but with the right lighting, the same garden can be magical at night. With a thoughtful lighting scheme, the garden can become a wonderland of visual effects that lures people outdoors well after sunset.
Lighting, of course, is first about practicality, about lighting thoroughfares and potential hazards, such as paths, steps and changes of level. However, a common mistake is to virtually floodlight these areas, blasting equal amounts of light over every step. In fact, lights throw out a hot spot, where they have the most intensity of light, but then fade out quite a distance. It’s nice to sometimes hold back a bit and allow the light to fade to almost-darkness between bulbs.
Create a dramatic effect
Beyond the practicalities, lighting is an opportunity to get creative and introduce a sense of drama to the garden. The possible effects are limited only by the imagination. Features can be up-lit (flush-mounted lights in the lawn around trees, for example); down-lit from trees, pergolas and rooflines; and backlit to throw dramatic silhouettes. One effect we like to use is to wire lights from higher up a tree, so the light shines through the lower branches like a full moon. Pools and water features are also an opportunity to create a magical light effect; something as simple as a bubbling bowl of water with a light in it can throw hypnotic flickers of light onto an overhead eave or awning.
Just as you’d adjust the lights inside to create different mood, it’s nice give yourself the flexibility to change the garden lights to suit the occasion. Planning several different switch patterns (or opting for one of the high-tech systems controlled through an app) is a good way to get precisely the right lighting mood. For example, you might have downlights on during a dinner party, but then want to lower the lighting to sultry once everyone’s finished eating.
Wired-in lights are not the beginning and end of garden lighting; rechargeable lanterns are a great way to get further flexibility and create an intimate mood. Place them on the table, use them to highlight any hazards that might be hidden in crowd, or play around with placement, perhaps putting one inside a cluster of pots to throw mysterious glow.