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Let There Be Light!

Lighting can extend your use of the garden into the evenings, and provides visual interest as well. Joe Swift takes a look at the various types that are now available.

Garden lighting is well worth installing in your garden. There are the all-important practical aspects such as lighting steps and paths to help you see where you’re going, lighting seating areas for eating, and the added security any form of lighting will bring to your garden (no you don’t have to have a glaring light on a sensor!).

On top of these functional issues there is also the fun, creative aspect of making new compositions with light. In fact, good lighting in a garden covers both practical and creative functions, and makes your garden a much more inviting space to go in the evening.

I recently made a film on lighting for Gardeners’ World in my own garden. A complete system was installed (and taken away the next day I’m sorry to say). It was amazing. It completely transformed the garden, and made me see plants and particular compositions in a whole new way. A rather ordinary trunk of an old ceanothus is not particularly special by day, but at night when uplit at an angle it became an intriguing focal point. The red leaves of a maple when lit from behind changed colour with the green underside and the veins of the leaf became more pronounced. Whether you want to put one or two lights in your garden or a complete system, try to visualize how it will look at night. There are various simple techniques that can be used to create various effects.

Spotlighting is used to specifically highlight a particular plant or feature. It will create dramatic effects and draw the eye towards whatever is lit and therefore works well when viewed from a reasonable distance.

Uplighting is used to light the crown of a specific tree or large shrub. The light is set at ground level and points up to light the branches against the night sky or dark background. This technique will help add height to a city garden. The lights should always face away from where the tree is to be viewed to avoid seeing the glare from the bulb.

Grazing is mainly used as a technique to light walls or hard landscaping structures in a garden. The lights can be placed at an angle to show off a structure or surface, such as the bricks in a wall or the slats of a fence. If the walls are painted it will help to bring colour into the night garden. Grazing walls with light will also help to keep the layout and structure of a city garden at night, which is important if you don’t want the garden to be overly ‘soft’ in its feel.

Downlighting can be either the lighting of the crown of a tree or lighting a specific area of garden from above. A series of lights set into the branches of a tree will imitate the effect of a strong moon and generally outline the shape of the tree. Downlighters set into a tree or fixed to a wall can be directed to create pools of light on specific areas of the garden to show the layout or certain features such as a path through an arch.

Underwater lighting can be achieved by placing waterproof lights in ponds or fountains. These lights will give a glow to the water feature as a whole and emphasize any movement to the surface of the water. The underwater lighting of a waterfall or fountain can create a really dramatic effect and turn the waterfall into a cascade of light.

Silhouetting is when a plant or sculpture is lit from the front to specifically cast a theatrical shadow on to a wall. The shadow will change according to the relative size of the object, placing and power of the light. The light fitting should be hidden to achieve maximum effect.

As well as being able to use the garden more in summer, lighting will also change the way you view the garden through the winter. Since it gets dark so early during the winter months there may be long periods of time when you may not see your garden at all. A simple flick of a switch can make the winter night garden a fantastic composition when viewed from inside through a window, and help to brighten up those dark gloomy nights.

Visit our Superstore to see our lighting range.

Click on the following Helping Hands workshop for useful advice:
How to add lights in your garden.

Photographs by Clive Nichols


Articles reprinted with premission from Greenfingers.com



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