The Light Of Your (Outdoor) Life

17th July 2009

Whether you've lovingly nurtured your garden with your own hands, or hired a skilled landscaper to create your slice of paradise, it’s likely that light is a significant element of the resulting mix… the pattern of dappled sunlight through the trees, the soft evening sun on the lawn, the morning rays falling on a riot of colourful perennials. Beautiful as natural light is, though, it’s worth adding an artificial element too.

Lighting for security purposes is practical, of course, but you can also make sure that your garden benefits aesthetically from some strategically placed spots and lamps. Increasingly, homeowners are investing time and money in outdoor lighting, to enhance both the appearance of the home and garden, as well as the enjoyment that both host and guests can experience when entertaining – or being entertained – outdoors on those balmy summer evenings. And as the longest day has already passed (yes, the nights are drawing in…) this is an ideal time of year to consider how to maximise the evening use of your outdoor space.

Lighting typically focuses on specific features such as a pond or a fountain, but you can highlight any point of your choosing with a strategically placed spotlight or lantern (very Narnia!). In fact, lighting is one of the areas of garden design where you can let your creative talents run riot.

For instance, if you have a tree with open growth, then let the light spill down through the leaves and branches, creating interesting shapes and contrasts in highlight and shadow. If a tree has full foliage, like some pines, try cross-lighting or using a grazing light. If your focal point tree has an interesting bark texture, good lighting can accentuate this feature and add a greater element of visual interest.

Consider hanging plants as well as ground plantings as focal points for lighting. Try to throw shadows of smaller plants on walls and other surfaces for added effect. Bonsai plants, in particular, are very effective when silhouetted to accent their distinctive shapes. Decorative construction techniques in masonry or wood façades can also prove suitable for highlighting. For example, place light fixtures at the bottom of the gables and project the light up from each side so that it meets at the tip of the peak, or place two fixtures under the peak and aim them down to the lower edges.

A front door can be a focal point, especially if there is hand-carved wood, raised wood panels, or artistic metal designs. Draw attention to the door from overhead (while also being careful not to cast glare into the eyes of those entering and exiting!). As well as offering suitable drama, this should also deter burglars who should be reluctant to attempt an entry in full view.

Fountains, fishponds and moving streams also lend themselves to the introduction of cleverly positioned lights. Filtered, crystal clean water can be lighted either from within or from above.

Outdoor path lighting is also important, both for aesthetic and safety reasons. You, your family and your guests should be able to move around your property safely after dark. Garden walkways should always be lighted, both as a directional guide and to prevent people from tripping on obstacles.

So whether it’s simple path lighting, designer fountain lights or full-on security spots, outdoor lighting will bring your home to life after dusk and give it a new dimension.

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