Garden lit up at night
Julie Parker
My interest in gardening & wildlife stemmed from childhood days spent working in the garden with my parents & reading books on anything from robins to giraffes. As time has moved on these influences have stayed with me inspiring the creation my own garden & leading to interests in fish keeping & the natural world around me. I still love to read & hope that the knowledge I gain will make topical reading through these articles.

How To Light Your Garden

Light up your garden

It seems a pity to miss out on the beauty you have created in your garden, at the only time you have to relax and enjoy it – the evenings! Even in summer as the light starts to dwindle, there are features in your garden which would be enhanced with extra lighting, turning an ordinary garden into something special. Of course the sky is the limit when it comes to an investment in garden lighting so plan according to your pocket & to the amount of effort you are willing to put in.

The lighting you choose can be as simple or elaborate as you wish but can alter the character of your garden adding drama & atmosphere to the view from your window. You will probably already have some strong lighting around your property for specific areas such as a doorway or drive but this type of lighting is harsh & obtrusive, designed for safety & security not for creating the charm & ambience required for entertaining on the patio. Use diffused lighting, locate away from main seating areas as it will attract insects & possibly connect it to a dimmer switch if you want to watch the wildlife in your garden. For a natural look choose white light or blue which will enhance the colours found in your garden, other colours such as red & green create unnatural effects.

In designing your lighting scheme you can choose from permanent lighting such as spotlights & fibre-optic lights to light focal points such as trees, garden structures & ponds or movable/temporary lighting which might include solar lights, strings of outdoor lights & candles. Permanent lighting will involve laying underground cables to a waterproof mains connection in a building whereas temporary lighting may involve no external power source or just temporary access to an indoor mains supply. There is nothing to stop you having a combination of both types, especially if you are lighting the garden for a special occasion, it is just a matter of choosing the correct type of light for the required effect. Mains fed spotlights concealed at the base of focal points in the garden can be used to create impact from light & shadow, whilst strings of fairy lights & intimate candles can introduce fun & sparkle to a celebration.

Spotlights can create a number of different effects according to the angle they shine on the object you are lighting & the distance they are away from the object. Downlighting or moonlighting produces a soft, natural effect & can be used to filter light down through branches or onto features such as pots or water features. Uplighting can be dramatic; throwing outlines into sharp relief so should not be overdone. Backlighting can be stunningly effective as the light is hidden behind the object making it more discreet. To create a magnificent display you will need to experiment a bit, or employ an expert in garden lighting, to achieve the best balance of effects.

Safety is highly important when installing mains outdoor lighting, use strong weatherproof cable & sturdy supports for lights. Always get a qualified electrician to install a mains supply to waterproof power points fitted with an RCD (circuit breaker) at the main socket to cut the current in the event of an accident. Most conventional mains garden lighting requires wiring to run beneath the soil in the garden, these wires present potential safety hazards & need to be buried approximately 20cm (8”) deep & run through plastic ducting pipe or armoured cable to reduce the chance of damage whilst gardening. You can minimise the risk by choosing low voltage lighting which is connected to the mains via a transformer.

solar light

If you are creating a lighting scheme on a budget then why not consider solar lighting. There is a huge range of designs to choose from these days and as they have come down in price they are a cost effective, easily installed method of adding lighting throughout the garden. The energy they gain from the sun each day is stored in rechargeable batteries then emitted as light at dusk adding a touch of elegance to any garden. LED solar garden lights are more effective than halogen bulbs, burning bright and lasting longer even in poor daylight charging conditions. LED’s are also are extremely durable and will last a very long time without the need for replacements. They are easy to operate as their in-built sensor will detect changes in daylight, turning them on & off automatically & as they use a non-polluting, renewable power source which does not contribute to global warming, they are environmentally friendly too!

Solar lights have the advantage over permanently wired mains lights because they can easily be moved around when you fancy a change or if the structure of your garden or planting changes. You can also get solar lights that can be positioned to create similar effects to mains lights. They are available in a wide range of designs to suit any location & we have a great selection in our garden lighting department including solar lights which you stick in the ground & solar coach lights which hang from a shepherds crook.

If you are lighting your garden for a celebration or are just having friends around for a barbecue then nothing adds more style & ambience at such a low cost than simple strings of fairy lights, oil lamps & candles. As dusk approaches, impress your friends with a display of subtle lighting to make the evening a magical experience.

Fairy lights can be threaded through trees & shrubs or garden structures & if you are short on cable length you may find it easier to plug them into a waterproof power spike (similar to an extension cable but waterproof) in a convenient & safe location then run the cable from that to your indoor mains source. Ensure that the lights are designed for outdoor use & that cables are tucked away safely. Most outdoor lights have LED’s or halogen bulbs so they don’t cost the earth to run, have bulbs that will last for thousands of hours & if one goes out it does not effect the rest of the string.

garden candles

Candles are another low cost option for ambient garden lighting & come in a huge range of colours & sizes. Giant wax candles on stakes can simply be stuck in the ground & lit or smaller candles in brightly coloured jars or flame retardant lanterns can be placed on tables or dotted around the garden & patio. You can even combine this romantic lighting with the added benefit of a pest repellent if you buy citronella candles. Another option is to use oil lamps, whether expensive & ornate glass sided lanterns or bamboo containers that can be stuck in the ground they will create a marvellous display. As with any naked flame precautions need to be taken to ensure they are kept away from flammable materials, children & pets, also the flame will need to be shielded from the wind. If you are worried about naked flames you could buy LED, battery operated candles; these are very realistic nowadays with a flickering flame effect & authentic wax exterior.

Whichever effects you choose remember that this is not a static environment & as the seasons change & plants grow, your display will change subtly giving you a new display each year!