Night Lighting In The Garden

Maximizing the amount of time I can enjoy my garden has proven to be an easy task. How you might ask? A beautiful garden can become the focal point of your neighborhood when the correct amount of night illumination is installed. A garden is transformed and the visual beauty of any property enhanced when highlighted through the evening hours. A simple landscape becomes spectacular when proper lighting is perfectly placed. For me, it’s a constantly evolving process of devotion to maintenance and perfection, and really about making it all my own.

The mission for this article is to show you just how easy night lighting can be. This is a practical and affordable project that can be done over a weekend. The steps are easy to follow and I’ve included all of the necessary how-to and product recommendations that you will need. Not to worry – Mar is here to guide you through, step-by-step.

Let’s start with holiday lights. I often see them hanging long after the season is over. Nothing represents the holidays more to me than the simple twinkle of classic min-lights, although they are no longer just used for the holidays. Today’s mini-lights are economical and a lot safer than those used when we were kids. They also now come in many different styles.

Here Mar’s Rule No. 1:

Never, ever use icicle lights in the garden! Please, just DON’T DO IT! It’s just my rule but I feel really strongly about this. These lights give an unpolished, much too casual look that is just not appropriate in a garden. Classic white lights offer beautiful effects and are available in many styles. They produce the perfect amount of light whether indoors or out. The decorative possibilities are endless. Take for example, the well-known restaurant Tavern on the Green in New York City. The place is awash in small white lights. This New York City landmark provides a perfect example in how these inexpensive lights can be incorporated into garden design. You might not want to go to that extreme, but you get the point. My boxwood containers have these simple elegant lights on them. Add a timer, and your good to go. Mine turn on at dusk and off at midnight. I love the way they provide the perfect amount of light on the patio. And, for that very special party, my pergola is wired and ready for an elegant dinner. Mini-lights are no longer only a holiday event, but are great for any festive occasion. The effects can be absolutely MARvelous when combined in massive quantities whatever the size of your property. Classic white mini-lights can be used throughout the year to create seasonal sensations from a spring wedding to a well-lit holiday wreath. Simple, yet often grand, mini-lights make any lighting design brilliant when done creatively and correctly.

Here’s Mar’s Rule No. 2:

When considering “dramatic” lighting effects, always walk your property at night with a powerful hand-held flashlight to identify the areas that would benefit from lighting from both an architectural and functional perspective. Consider up-lighting for trees and highlighting walkways and any other special focal points your home may have. For example, years ago when I added a pergola to my side garden, I wanted to highlight the beautiful details that were carved into each post. I put lights pointing up along side each post. I consider this type of lighting to be more “accent” as opposed to “functional”. However, I believe it’s equally as important. Remember the adage, less is often more.

I’m often asked who did my outdoor lighting and I proudly say, “that would be me”. Whether you’re seeking to feature a landscape or tree in light or mark an outdoor walkway, my easy and fast recommendations can help you achieve the professional look you want without breaking the budget. The important points are: choosing lighting, hardware including a timer/power source, wiring, planning and safety.

Malibu Low Voltage Lighting is a manufacturer I trust. Their products are easily found at your local Home Depot and they offer an expanded selection of low voltage, do-it yourself, landscape lighting systems. I found it incredibly easy to do and well priced, considering the prices I received from the professionals in my area.

The hardware requirements are a timer and a power source that can accommodate the amount of lights you intend to use and the wiring required for individual lights. Once you have lights you need, a power source and the square footage of wire (always go with more wire than you think you might need), you’re ready to begin. The low-voltage lights I prefer are Malibu Model CL507 for use with a low voltage landscape lighting system only. Please read instructions carefully and follow all manufacturers’ recommendations to ensure proper installation. Consult with a professional electrician when in doubt.

Here are my easy and quick tips for this project:

As I stated earlier, it’s imperative to walk your property several times with a flashlight to get an idea of what the finished project will look like. If you can find a friend for support and who can offer suggestions, it can be a fun project that can be enjoyed together. I recall when I lighted my garden, I invited my next-door neighbor Barbara to make suggestions and share her opinion of my ideas. Together we came up with the perfect design. So perfect in fact, that I not only installed lighting in my garden, but in hers as well. Good for me, good for the neighborhood. She never has to come home to a dark walkway again.

Now that you are secure with your design, begin the process by generously laying out the wire and connecting each light. Give yourself plenty of extra wiring between locations. This is a temporary set up. Wait for the sun to go down, turn on the lights you have placed and review your placement decisions. This provides you with the opportunity to correct any areas that look over-lighted or to change your mind, or the mind of your significant other whose prerogative may change at a moment’s notice (after all, it is a woman’s prerogative to change her mind!). Now is your chance. Move any of the lights and wiring to alternate locations. This is where that flashlight will come in handy again so that you can see how to reconnect the wire to the newly relocated light. After a couple of tries you will be a pro. Trust me, it takes a few tries.

Review your final design and enjoy it for the evening. Tomorrow is another day and you’ll be busy burying all the wire. Ok, so this will not be the fun part. You might consider inviting that neighbor/friend back over to help you.

Any garden light in my book is worth the investment. Lighting can set the mood for romance while providing function and interest to the landscaping design. Nothing is more powerful than the fabulous curb appeal that a well-lit home provides. Night-lighting is welcoming, stunning and functional whether you take this project on yourself, or hire a professional. In the end, let there be light!

And there you have it.