While the colder, shorter days of autumn and winter are certain to drive even the hardiest gardeners among us indoors in search of a comfortable nook and a hot drink, it’s still possible to get pleasure from your outdoors – with the help of a little carefully planned lighting. Good landscape lighting not only extends access to your outdoor living space but also makes it safer and more secure.
A well-thought-out landscape lighting scheme can add a whole new dimension to your outside space, transforming the skeletal forms and pared-back displays of the winter garden into an eye-catching diorama to be enjoyed after dark. A smart lighting plan will include a variety of lighting types to achieve different effects.
Uplighting is a useful – and often dramatic technique used for highlighting the focal points in your garden. Usually situated at ground level, these upward-facing lights can be orientated at the architectural or planting features or used to add contrast to flat surfaces like walls and fences.
Lighting mature trees in this can be a good way to create depth and scale. Trees with an open-limbed structure – hardwood trees like ash, oak and willow – work well with light sources installed close to the base of the trunk, where the light can illuminate the branches (and leaves, in summer). For trees with tighter, more compact silhouettes – evergreens like cypress and box – will benefit from the light source placing away from the base, so that the outside of the canopy is illuminated instead.
Bullet or spotlights cast a narrow directional beam to draw attention to a specific feature, while ‘wash’ uplights are more diffuse and are ideal for illuminating walls and pathways, as well as subtly showcasing small plants and shrubs. It’s worth considering low-wattage bulbs to create subtle lighting arrays and positioning the uplights carefully so they don’t accidentally shine in people’s eyes or through windows.
Ambient lighting provides a cosy glow around seating areas – ideal for when you’re entertaining in the evening. If you want to add invisible lighting – to illuminate the underside of benches, for example – a series of well lights can be installed slightly below ground level. If you have a structure such as a pavilion or a water feature, it’s always worth installing lighting to illuminate these areas – opt for diffuse downlighting in seating areas for a ‘moonlit’ effect. Light pathways using a combination of directional and ambient lights which can be sited in a landscaped bed for a more natural look.
Once you’ve specified the fixed lighting array, you can consider supplementary sources such as solar lights. Both in-ground and stake-mounted lights work well, although they can get in the way of lawn mowing. Solar lights offer an inexpensive, low-intensity option with no wiring – consider lantern-style options for tables. Outdoor fairy lights also help to create a romantic atmosphere when hung around arbours and over trees.
Sculptures & Art
Lighting sculptures can bring gardens to life when the sun sets, so consider how you could incorporate a selection into your landscape lighting scheme.
Don’t forget to include candles, lanterns and an open fire in your plans – these will add a cosy focal point that’s hard to achieve using any other light source.
Dark Night Policies
Planning considerations are important, especially as more councils opt to implement a ‘Dark Night’ policy to reduce light pollution across the UK with the goal of reducing energy consumption and preserving wildlife habitats. Different local authorities will have varying policies – some providing allowances for outdoor lighting and others encouraging complete darkness. At HollandGreen, we make sure we integrate these policies into our designs so your outdoor space will delight, without disrupting wildlife such as bats, nocturnal birds and small mammals.