Landscaping with light

Night paradise

As the sun sets on your garden, is the only glimmer of light generated by fireflies? Then you may be in the dark about a rising trend, according to experts.

As the sun sets on your garden, is the only glimmer of light generated by fireflies? Then you may be in the dark about a rising trend, according to experts.

Across North America, homeowners are adding nocturnal lighting effects to their gardens and backyards, says Glenn Curtis, owner of Plantenance in Montreal.

There’s even a buzzword for the after-dark lighting trend: “Nightscaping.” It’s actually the registered name of a California company that makes outdoor landscape lighting.

The aim is to illuminate your home and landscape with an eye to showing it to advantage at night. The easiest technique for amateur garden lighting designers to master, says Curtis, is the floodlight.

“Most people think of floodlights in terms of safety,” he says, “and may not be aware that you can light a pathway for security, but also create a mood.”

A floodlight can also be used much like a stage spotlight. Shine it on a striking feature in your garden, be it a fountain, waterfall, favourite statue or shrub. Just don’t overdo it, says Curtis, as lighting up every feature in the garden will give it the air of an amusement arcade. Also, most people become uncomfortable if the glare is too bright.

“There are more options than ever before in garden lighting,” says Salima Kassam, Home Depot product merchant for lighting at the Toronto head office.

Apparently a few basic black path lights, accessorized by a simple floodlight, will no longer do. Today, customers seek what Kassam calls full outdoor solutions. This means the lanterns and lights will be co-ordinated with your mailbox, even the door handles. Not only the design, be it Zen or French provincial, but the finishes and glass may match exactly as well. Home Depot offers kits with co-ordinated pole and floodlights, plus the necessary transformer and a timer.

New technologies are also opening up new possibilities for home garden lighting. Solar lights are powered by built-in ray-collecting panels, which means no drain on your electric system. With no wiring required, you can move them around the garden until you find the ideal spot.

“We also provide the option of landscape lights with a separate solar panel that can be placed in the sunniest spot, and will power up to six lights,” adds Kassam.

The easiest do-it-yourself project would be to experiment with a floodlight kit or taking the rope lights — those long PVC tubes with tiny LED bulbs inside — off the patio and stringing them alongside the garden path. For the swimming or garden pool, there are floating LED lights that flood the water with brilliant effects, no installation required.

“They change colours and provide mood lighting, perfect for a backyard party or barbecue,” says Kassam.

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Outdoor Lighting Tips

– Paths and steps may be lit from above. Try attaching lights to adjacent walls, or placing pole lights along the way. More atmospheric, yet still providing safety, are lights placed at ground level to illuminate a walkway. If the light fixture will be visible, make it as discreet as possible. Or match it to the mounting surface or other external fittings.

– Concealing light fixtures in unexpected areas, such as the eaves, can be effective to light paths, terraces and flower beds.

– Create a dramatic focal point of a tree or cluster of shrubs and bushes by uplighting — that is, placing a floodlight at ground level aimed upward. The more dense the foliage, though, the stronger the light needed.

– Gazebos and arches provide frames upon which to string lights. Spacing them less closely will create a brighter, yet still atmospheric, area. Attach downlights to highlight seating areas or striking plants.

– Consider something unexpected for the patio or terrace, such as one strategic floodlight rather than several small lanterns.

– Strategically placed lights can be added at any time to shine on your pond, stream, fountain or waterfall. But elaborate underwater lighting projects are best installed during the construction or later by experts.

– Experiment with coloured lights to add drama to an otherwise dull border or hedge. The palest coloured flowers, white and pastels, become the most vibrant under lights. During the winter months, coloured lighting will enliven banks of snow.

© (c) CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.

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