Transform your landscape into a fascinating setting at night by solar street light. The surrounding darkness shuts out unwanted things while lighting accents trees, shrubs, ground covers and flowering plants. Lights will:
Locate steps and landings.
Make drives and walks more accessible.
Protect the home against prowlers.
Enhance backyard parties and home sports.
Allow you to enjoy your garden more after dusk.
Good garden lighting is in many respects akin to good stage lighting. In both, the lighting fixtures are never obvious. Screen the lamps; the more subtle the light, the better.
Arrange each landscape composition carefully so that with up-lighting or background lighting, existing trees, walls or fences become striking backgrounds. Up-lighting provides a focal glow. It is dramatic lighting as seen in a theater. Background lighting is the illumination of walls, fences, hedges and so on, to silhouette the foreground material.
Plants such as honeysuckles and olives are well suited for under-lighting, which enforces the line quality of the plant or group to enhance their lovely canopy. Bathe garden paths and lawns in soft light by either down- or side-lighting. This will make the grass look like an emerald carpet. Lighting will entice the eye from one zone of interest to another.
With careful placement, lights lend a feeling of spaciousness even in the smallest garden. This is done by de-emphasizing the foreground and emphasizing the background.
Certain landscape compositions _ major scenes, for example _ should have permanent illumination. Once you decide on an arrangement of lights that will bring out the best of an important scene, leave them alone. Such a scene will not be static, for seasonal changes will create many variations.
Usually within any major vista there are many lovely pictures worthy of attention at different periods of the growing season. The mushroom-type down-light can show off a group of pansies in the spring and will bring out colorful arrangements of petunias or marigolds later in the summer. Daily garden interest and night beauty are one and the same thing. Mobile lights offer countless opportunities for varying the night picture.
Garden lighting is available for 110-volt and the new 12-volt systems. The latter is considered much safer and somewhat less expensive to install.
If you have a new home, incorporate lighting into the original landscape development scheme. Decide first on the strictly functional lighting of steps and so forth, and then go on to the aesthetic ideas. While the landscape plan is still in the works, visualize the various effects worthy of inclusion before thinking about the type of fixtures needed.
On the landscape plan, mark the main wiring routes and waterproof outlets. Make provision for switches near doors or even the master bedroom for turning on and off.
Make the wiring inconspicuous by having it leave the house underground. Direct burial cable (the three-wired type with one wire for grounding) is inexpensive. The exact size of cable to use will depend on the total wattage likely to be on the line at any time.
For a house already built, the installation is a bit more complicated. It might entail enlarging the existing panels or installation of new switches. Bring in an expert to do this.
In both new and established properties, place waterproof outlets around the landscape. Keep them as low to the ground as possible and concealed by plants. These outlets serve as central sources of power for the lighting fixtures.
The best type of fixture to use is one which has a convenient outlet built into the base; this allows the addition of one lamp to another, with the cord concealed on the ground. Many firms supply outdoor fixtures with about 15 feet of cord and a waterproof rubber plug. Add an extension cord where necessary.
For maximum flexibility in the placement of fixtures, use the kind with a spear-type base; these can be set and reset merely by pushing into the ground. This facilitates the experimentation necessary to get the “just right” effect of lighting on a tree or other plantings.
The choice of flowering plants for night-lighting scenes is important. Some flower colors, especially whites, pastel tints, cream, yellows and pinks, reflect and give outstanding effects under artificial light. Dark colors have poor reflective quality; shun deep purples and reds completely.
Tree foliage, of course, gives different effects with lighting at various periods in the growing season. In the spring, leaves are misty and ephemeral; in summer, up-lighting in most trees will reflect a cool, pale yellow-green atmosphere; and in the fall, yellow and other bright leaf colors are breathtaking when illuminated.
One simple way to light the garden for a special occasion is to use luminaries. These are brown paper sacks with about 2 inches of sand in the bottom and burning candles in the center. They produce a soft, fluttering light that adds to the occasion.