Garden lights not only make your garden look more dramatic as dusk falls, they also extend the hours during which you can enjoy it. If you like entertaining in the garden on summer evenings or just want to sit and relax, lights will add another dimension to the space. When illuminating your garden you are not attempting to fill the entire garden with floodlights, but rather to use spotlights to pick out a particular tree, highlight a semi hidden ornament, or bring to light the droplets of a cascade or fountain.
You don’t need elaborate main lighting. Low voltage lighting supplied from a transformer indoors is perfectly adequate for most lighting jobs in a small garden. Low voltage lighting is designed for DIY installation, but main voltage requires a professional.
Summer bedding looks good with pools of light thrown downwards onto the beds. If you find the lights obtrusive during the day, choose a low voltage type that is easy to move around. Simply push the spiked supports into the bed when you want to use the garden in the evening.
Picking out plants
Use a spotlight to pick out one or two striking plants that will form focal points in the evening. The white bark of a birch tree, perhaps under planted with white impatiens, the tall ramrod spikes of red hot pokers (kniphofias), or a spiky yucca, make excellent focal points picked out in a spotlight. Tall feathery plants, such as fennel, also illuminate well.
Ornaments and containers full of plants also make striking features to pick out in a spotlight and are easy ways of creating a dramatic impact. Before highlighting an ornament, try moving the beam around. Quite different effects can he achieved by directing it upwards or downwards, and side lighting creates a very different effect to straight on illumination.
Underwater lighting is popular and you can buy special sealed lamps designed to be submerged or to float, but the effect can be disappointing if the water is murky or if algae grows thickly on the lenses. A simple white spotlight is often the most effective. Ordinary terracotta pots, gilded and filled with candle wax, offer the most enchanting outdoor lighting.
Thinking of the neighbors
When using garden lights in a small garden, you have to consider neighbors. It is unsociable to fix a spot where the beam not only illuminates your favorite tree but also falls on the windows of your neighbor’s house, if you direct beams downwards rather than upwards, the pools should not obtrude. If using candles, flares or underwater lighting, never leave it unattended and keep them out of the reach of children and animal.