Landscape Lighting – How Bright is Your Yard?


The great advantage of landscape lighting is that at nightime selected points of interest in the landscape can be made bright.

This is quite different from daytime when the sun lights every flower, twig and stone impartially.

Learn: Tips On Landscape Lighting Levels in The Night Garden

In planning landscape lighting there are a few general lighting principles and tips to follow. Don’t try to copy the effect of the sun by drowning your garden in a flood of light. Take advantage of the general darkness.

Pick out a few objects of the garden to light… a tree, a shrub or flower border and light them well.

Avoid banks of floodlights that succeed in giving only a flat glare. A few strategically placed spotlights in the landscape will provide a more beautiful effect and, incidentally, save on both installation costs and current consumption.

Conceal Landscape Lighting Source

Nothing detracts more from the beauty of a well-lighted garden than a glaring spot of light at the source of illumination.

This may be either the glowing lamp itself or some object close to it that catches more than its share of the light.

Most of the bullet-type landscaping lighting fixtures available shield the bulb so that the actual light source cannot be seen (great for uplighting) unless you stand directly in front of it.

But keep leaves, branches, rocks and plant supports away from the beam of light, as these create “hot spots” of illumination that draw attention away from the object at which the light is aimed.

Related Reading: 10 Garden Lighting Tips

The light fixture itself may be hidden with plants and stones or be sunk below ground level. Where concealment is impossible, as in the case of a pole lamp, make it inconspicuous by painting it a dark color.

Slate or dull black paint is best for this, and it is really surprising how inconspicuous such a fixture can be, even against a light background. Remember that the finish must be dull. A glossy surface is almost as bad as a light- colored one.

Another cool effect is to use rope lighting to outline steps to a deck or patio. Don’t forget to try edging a garden bed with rope lights to create a WOW in the garden!

Low Landscape Lighting for Paths

People need light to find their way at night. Whether it’s the:

A high-powered bulb in a lamp on a high post may blind them even though some small part of the light succeeds in reaching the path.

Keep your solar pathway landscape lighting low (knee level or below) and shielded on top so that the light shines down. More Tips on Path Lighting Here

Related Reading: Rejuvenate Solar Lights Don’t Charge Anymore

Instead of one big bright light use small, low-powered solar light spaced just far enough apart so that there are no black “death traps” between lighted areas and no “hot spots” to dazzle and confuse the walker.

The rule here, and it cannot be too strongly emphasized, is to light what you want to call attention to and let the rest remain in the shadows.

Lighting Flowers

Flowers, trees or shrubs, when lighted at night, are practically always viewed from a distance. There is little chance of the viewer getting in the way and interfering with the lighting of the scene they are looking at.

Related Reading: 4 Tips On Lighting Flower And Landscape Beds

Landscape lighting can be from above, much as it is in daytime. Since the plant would be in its own shadow, it should not be from directly above but at quite a sharp angle and from a point as high as it is practicable to place the light.

Spotlights for this purpose may be mounted under the eaves of a house, high in the peak of a gable or on the side of a chimney.

Probably the best location is in a tree, since it offers natural concealment… a black lamp housing with a black wire leading to it is practically invisible among the branches.

Galvanized screws and staples, incidentally, can be used to fasten wire and spotlights to trees with no danger to the health of the tree itself.

Do not attach anything to a tree by winding wire around a trunk or branch unless it is a purely temporary installation that will be removed before there is any chance of the wire cutting into the bark.

A well-shielded spotlight, placed so as to pick out a choice shrub or flowering plant, will add a new dimension of interest to any well-planned garden.

Lighting Trees

“What a beautiful thing God has made winter to be, by stripping the trees, and letting us see their shapes and forms.”

Dorothy Wordsworth, when she wrote these words early in the nineteenth century, probably never imagined that a time would come when the shapes and forms of trees would be seen to advantage not only in their winter bareness but in full leaf as well, and not only by daylight but against the black night sky.

Learn More at: Lighting Palms, Trees and Shrubs.

The important thing about any tree, with or without flowers, in leaf or out of leaf, summer or winter, is its framework of trunk and branches. These give it its form.

Without them a tree would be simply a shapeless mass of leaves and twigs. Arrange your lighting, then, to show off this framework, and it follows naturally that the leaves, flowers and fruit will show to advantage.

Uplighting An Unusual Landscape Lighting Method

The usual method is to place the light so that it shines up into the tree – uplighting.

In this way the light shines on the undersides of the leaves, forming a sort of umbrella of light against which the branches are silhouetted. When the leaves are gone in winter, the branches themselves pick up the light and stand out against the sky.

It is also possible to floodlight a large dense tree to serve as a bright background for a smaller tree or shrub which is left dark.

This way of showing an interestingly shaped plant in silhouette might also be used to display a piece of sculpture, particularly some modern piece with a strong outline.

Color Lighting

Since color, particularly in flowers, is one of the most prominent features in any garden, the idea of doing something special with colored landscape lighting at night is one that occurs to nearly everyone.

Probably the best way of obtaining color effects from outdoor lighting is by means of filters which clip on standard light fixtures. These may be changed at will for different effects.

Remember, though, that colored landscape lighting effects are practically always artificial looking and essentially stagey, so it is best to use them for special short-term displays rather than as a permanent outdoor lighting setup.