The garden at NIGHT
Woman's Weekly Living Series|October 2021
If you’re in the dark about the lighting in your garden, now’s the chance to let it truly sparkle
NICOLA STOCKEN

Garden lighting falls into two main categories —functional and decorative. Functional lighting defines different areas of the garden, creating outdoor rooms that can be used safely after dark. Wall lights generally illuminate the areas closest to the house, extending to places for dining, barbecues, fire pits or hot tubs, while recessed fixtures indicate pathways and steps. Finally, when it comes to decorative effects, there are different styles of light to highlight trees, borders, statues, ornaments, garden buildings, pergolas or water features.

STARTING POINTS

The first step in planning an outdoor lighting scheme is to thoroughly research – the process is not so different from interior lighting which becomes an integral part of the overall look. Analyse how you use the space, distinguishing between places for relaxing where ambience is paramount; thoroughfares that link different areas, meaning that safety comes first; and individual features to pluck from the obscurity of the night.

Seek out a style of light that fits best with the existing surroundings — period, contemporary, traditional or cottagey, for example — and decide on the optimum positions for each light.

Many can be fixed to walls or permanent structures, but others may be recessed into flooring. Setting recessed stainless steel lights into a deck or patio is a great way to outline the shape after dusk — soften the effect by choosing those with frosted lenses.

Light travels fast, and there is an art to finding the right combination of direct or diffused light, and creating a balance between casting gentle pools and the kind of blanket coverage generally reserved for security purposes. Avoid time-consuming mistakes by first experimenting in your garden, in order to gauge the position and strength of lights needed to create a sensational night-time ambience. Try mimicking night lighting by using extension cables to position interior lamps or powerful torches to simulate the effect of uplighters.

Study the different outcomes from using spotlights, uplighters, lanterns and lamps, placing at different heights, and trying out bulbs of different wattages. Not only does the intensity of different light sources vary, so too does the angle of the beam, ranging from a mere 7° to 100° or more. And, whereas a slender beam is perfect for highlighting small features, a wide diffused pool of light reduces the impact.

STEPPING DOWN

Steps descend to a sunken garden, with strip lights fitted below each tread, demarcating the changes in height without dazzling. Fitting lights into the treads also outlines the staircase in a pleasing series of horizontal lines that sit well within a linear contemporary design.

WALL OF WATER

The combination of falling water and coloured light creates a mesmerising, shimmering vision that subtly comes into its own as twilight deepens. The surrounding maples and palms are bathed in the warm, white light that is most flattering to foliage. Coloured light among plants can look unnatural — even rather creepy —although an occasional splash of soft blue adds interest, especially among pines where it emphasises their bluish tinge.

SHEDDING LIGHT

Placing an uplighter at the base of a tree and directing the beam up into the leafy canopy is a lovely addition to a night garden. For the greatest impact, illuminate a small spinney of trees such as silver birches or ornamental ‘Chanticleer’ pears. A simple solution to avoid wiring is to use solar-powered versions – however, solar lamps are low intensity and, if caught in the tree’s shadow, will need recharging in the sun regularly.

LIGHTING THE WAY

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