Lighting your outside space may not be something you’ve ever considered, but it can be just as important as indoor lighting. In just the same way, you can use it to highlight, increase the feeling of space and pick out or hide features. It really comes into its own at the beginning and end of the summer, when it’s not quite warm enough to sit outside but you can sit inside and look out at the garden. It also helps extend those long summer evenings when you’re eating al fresco. Here’s what to think about.
Practical and security lighting
The first thing to think about is where you actually need light for practical purposes. For example, do you have steps you need to use after dark? What about your front and back doors? Do you need to go into the garage, perhaps to put a bike away? Consider what areas need strong lighting, and whether you’d like it to be controlled via motion sensors, time switches or manual switches.
You also need to work out at this stage how you’re going to power the lights. It may be possible to use mains power, but you may have to factor in the cost of running cables and installing sockets. Other options are batteries and solar panels. It’s best to avoid leaving lights on all night if possible, not only to save energy but also to minimise the impact on wildlife who may have to change behaviour patterns otherwise.
Once you’ve got lights where you need them, you can think about decorative and feature lighting. Uplighting trees can look stunning, particularly if you’ve got a tree with blossom or berries such as a rowan. It will also help make a small garden look bigger, as the eye is drawn upwards. If you have an unusual feature such as an original stone wall, water feature or large planter, consider picking that out as well. If you do light a wall, though, make sure it’s only on one side of the garden – picking out the whole boundary in lights can make the garden look smaller.
If you’re worried that the whole thing will look too bright and garish, then you could think about using downlighters rather than uplighters. As the name suggests, these shed light downwards only and give a more subtle, atmospheric effect.
Cheap ‘n’ cheerful options
Having your garden fitted with mains lights may be a big job, as electricians may have to lay wires under pathways and lawns to hide them properly. There’s a vast variety of string, garland and solar powered lights on the market now which can look stunning and are cost effective. If you’re not sure whether it’s worth investing in mains lights, then putting up a few solar powered lights will help you work out if you use your garden more.
Candles are also a lovely option in the garden, particularly when you’re dining, and you can choose aromatic varieties to keep insects off. Putting them in storm lanterns makes them less susceptible to breezes. Hang lanterns from trees and shrubs for a pretty effect, but make sure they’re not touching any dry foliage.
Main image is (c) 2018 Lights4Fun1