Lighting Your Landscape

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  • November 5, 2018

Lighting Can Add Life and Intrigue to Your Landscape

Lighting can transform a common landscape into something exceptional. Spotlights, well lights and post lights can all bring an outdoor area to life after sunset, increase its usefulness and add a touch of intrigue.

Best of all, landscape lighting is simple. We are going to prove that to you by:

  • Explaining the logic behind outdoor lighting
  • Introducing you to different types of light fixtures
  • Giving you 5 simple, yet attractive lighting effects
  • Helping you choose what to light
  • Sharing 3 tips for successfully maintaining landscape lights

The logic behind landscape lighting

Many forms of lighting, such as  indoor lights, street lights and floodlights, are designed to illuminate as much area as possible.  Landscape lighting is different.  Its purpose is to create a fascinating play between light and darkness that highlights the beauty of the landscape, as well as illuminates paths, steps and entertainment areas.

Shadows dancing among splashes, puddles and shafts of light can make any landscape, whether it is simple or complex, intriguing, attractive and relaxing.

Different types of landscape lights

Landscape light fixtures can be divided into 6 basic categories:

  • Path Lights – Path lights can be tall, short, basic round or custom designed. They use a bulb and a diffuser to cast a soft glow on a pathway or a special feature in the landscape.
  • Post Lights – Also called pier mount lights, post lights are especially made to go on top of a variety of posts. They are useful at the beginning of driveways, beside gates and around decks.
  • Step Lights –  Step or deck lights are small, but efficient. They are usually installed above steps or around decks to facilitate walking and increase safety.
  • Spotlights – Perhaps the most versatile of all landscape light fixtures, spotlights cast a clear shaft of light and are used to highlight specific details in a landscape.
  • Well Lights – A variation of the spotlight, well lights are designed to be embedded in the ground. This makes them more discreet and allows them to throw their light up onto their focal point.
  • Hardscape Lights – A more recent addition to landscape lighting, hardscape lights are low profile fixtures that can be installed directly onto walls or under benches, overhangs and railings. Hardscape lights can be used to wash or graze a hardscape with light.

All landscape lights are made to be energy efficient and safe. Many of them only need 12V of electrical current. This low voltage guarantees that they won’t run up your electric bill and makes them safe to use outdoors, even in the rain. Some fixtures also use LED lights and solar-powered lights to decrease energy usage even further.

5 simple, yet attractive lighting effects

Much of the beauty of landscape lighting comes from using lights to create specific effects. Here are 5 simple lighting effects that can do wonders for any landscape:

  1. Uplighting – The most common lighting effect in landscapes, uplighting is done by throwing light up on to something that you want to highlight, this might be a large tree, a decorative arch or a feature wall.
  2. Moonlighting – As its name suggests, moonlighting recreates the light of the moon. It involves attaching several small lights high in a tree and pointing them downward so that the light filters down through the leaves.
  3. Grazing – Grazing is most often used on hardscapes, for instance a rock wall. It involves attaching a small light right against the hardscape and pointing it up or down so that it accentuates the texture of the hardscape.
  4. Washing – Washing is also primarily used in hardscapes, but differs from grazing in that the light fixture is attached several inches away from the surface of the hardscape. This additional space allows the light to spread across more of the surface area and give more ambient light.
  5. Silhouetting – Silhouetting brings out interesting shapes, for instance a fountain, sculpture or an attractive tree, in a landscape. Creating a silhouette involves installing a light behind and to one side of the object of interest, so that the light outlines the object attractively.

Deciding what to light

Deciding what to light in a landscape is a vital part of landscape lighting. You may understand the logic behind landscape lighting, know light fixtures and be able to create lighting effects, but if you don’t choose carefully what to light, you will end up with a brightly lit, washed-out landscape. Here are three questions that will help you decide what to light:

  1. What do you like in the landscape? Whether it is a boulder, water feature or favorite plant, highlighting the points that you especially like in your landscape will help guarantee that your landscape lighting is a success.
  2. Are there any unnoticed features that you could light? When we observe a landscape during daylight, certain features stand out and others go unnoticed. Lighting one or two of these unnoticed features will give a landscape a completely different look at night.
  3. Where is lighting necessary? Last but not least, landscape lighting should illuminate essential areas, such as pathways, stairs and entertainment areas.

3 Tips for successfully maintaining landscape lighting

Landscape lighting is easy to maintain. Here are three tips that will help your landscape lighting look its best for a good long time:

  1. Regular inspection –  You should routinely check your landscape lighting for exposed or damaged electrical wires and also remove leaves, grass clippings and other debris that has collected around the light fixtures.
  2. Make adjustments – Landscapes change over time. The trees grow, some plants spread and the ground settles. Watch for changes in your landscape and adjust your lighting when necessary. This may include simply adjusting the angle of a spotlight or moving a post light to a new location.
  3. Consider carefully – Over time you might be tempted to add more lights to your landscape, but consider carefully before you do it. Remember the goal of landscape lighting is to create a captivating play between light and darkness, so make sure that you only light a few things in the landscape and leave the rest dark.

Now are you ready to add life and intrigue to your landscape? View our portfolio for inspiration and examples.