Saturday, 2 January 2010

Garden & Landscape Lighting Design

Let’s face it we have a lot of dark, miserable days in this country, and for a good percentage of its life your beautiful garden in which you’ve invested considerable time and money is invisible. Not only can you not use it, you can’t even see it. The solution is to make a feature of the garden by night using dramatic lighting effects that are actually quite simple to achieve.

Garden and landscape lighting is often overlooked or ends up being just the bland wash of a security floodlight and maybe some ugly, low-level spreadlights illuminating paths. That’s because garden lighting, like anything else in the garden needs to be planned if it is to succeed on anything other than a purely functional level.

You can change the entire feeling of the garden by night simply by uplighting some key architectural plants, a sculpture, or a water feature. You can even create different effects depending on your mood or the occasion – an intimate dinner, or a lively party. Instead of looking at the rain on the window, you can look out on a dramatic scene with depth and emphasis created by lighting.

Walk around your garden, look out of upstairs and downstairs windows and take account of the focal points and viewpoints. Viewpoints are places from which the garden is viewed. Focal points are those things that are important within the view. Then decide which of the focal points is most important (primary focal point) and those that are less so (secondary focal point). Light the primary focal point more brightly than the secondary focal points, which ensures attention is directed to the most important features in the view. Washing surrounding planting and hedges with a lower level of lighting than that the more brightly lit features create a backdrop for the focal points.

Security lighting does not have to be bland, doorways can be lit by downlights that graze brickwork and create a warm, inviting entrance. Instead of using spreadlights to illuminate paths, washing the adjacent planting or hedge with light will provide a more subtle effect which is quite sufficient for safe navigation. Where security lights are essential, for example, to access the garage, these can be put onto a timer with a movement sensor so that they are only on when absolutely necessary. Modern movement sensors can be adjusted so that they are not triggered by nocturnal animals.

Consider what you will want to do where in the garden and put in extra lights to accommodate these tasks, for example, getting to the shed, cooking or eating. Then have more than one circuit so that you can switch on the extra lights when needed.

You can use concealed, spike mounted spotlights to create some really interesting effects in your garden, transforming it into a dramatic night time space. Try downlighting, uplighting, shadowing, grazing for emphasising texture, washing to draw attention to colour, crosslighting to change how a sculpture is viewed, and moonlighting down through trees to create dappled effects. I like to downlight pergola posts as it throws light onto the flowers of climbing plants and creates pools of lights at the base of the posts which provides a lovely gentle light for a summer al fresco meal.

Lighting for Gardens has a wide range of different lighting products with variation in strength of light and beam angles. LED lighting is improving rapidly, it is much cheaper to run than mains voltage lighting and does not require transformers (which can be ugly and expensive) like low-voltage. Unfortunately, I have yet to find any low cost LED fittings that I like the look of, so I only use them when they can be concealed.

If you’d like any help planning your garden or landscape lighting scheme please get in touch.

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