At our decorclub morning last week not only were we treated to the opportunity to discover how Barbara Hunt has evolved her garden to create colour and interest all year round (more on that soon) but we also enjoyed a great talk by outdoor lighting expert, John Doyle, about how to light your garden.
John has lit over 1000 gardens and so he really knows what he is talking about! Here are some of the tips he shared:
1. Rather counter-intuitively, the darker your garden the less light you need. Lighting your garden is totally different from lighting the interior of your home. Indoor lighting it is all about reflected light. Outdoor lighting is all about beams of light.
2. The easiest way to get started is to think about your lighting in conjunction with your garden design. Find the features of most interest and focus on those.
3. Lighting doesn’t have to be done on a major scale to be effective and, contrary to what you might think, it doesn’t have to cost very much but you do need to have something interesting to light.
4. First and foremost you must think about the safety of what you are doing. Water and lighting are not a great combination so fittings need to be properly sealed. Cables have to be laid below the level that you might dig or on the surface so that they can be seen. Make sure trip switches are built in. Only work with a fully qualified electrician.
5. Positioning your lighting is critical. A few well positioned lights that add interest will work much more effectively than a scattered approach.
6. You can have a lot of fun by choosing great locations for your lights and save money with good reliable “workhorse” fittings tucked out of sight, behind your shrubs and features.
7. Winter is the best time to lay cables, boxes and switching when you can really see the bare bones of the garden and what you are doing. Add the fixtures and lighting in the Spring and Summer when you can see what you want to highlight.
8. Think about the colour of the bulbs. Amber light looks fairly hideous viewed out of context but is gorgeous when it is reflected on plants at night. Olive trees and Silver Birches look beautiful lit up with pure white lights.
9. Ask an expert about their experience with different brands as they vary widely. John has had great results with Collingwood LED’s for example – and they come with a 7 year guarantee.
10. Hanging lights from trees can look stunning if you have a tree that overhangs a table – the starlight looks pretty sparkling like crystal and turning slowly in the wind.
11. A mistake that lots of people make is to put a pillar light at the front door. The bottom light looks great pointing at steps, planters and front door features, but the uplighter highlights the gutter or drainpipe near the front door!
12. And finally a word about the process. It is much better to have too little than too much as you can always add more as you go but an expensive mistake to put in too much. So start slowly and build up to achieve the perfect balance for your garden and lighting you love.