Lighting is the key element to bring an extra dimension of quality & beauty to your garden.
It is what completes any outdoor space.
For all of Garden Design clients we prepare a full Lighting Plan & have fixtures specified with our electricians as part of the overall Project Management for your Garden Build. It is quit literally the finishing touch.
A successful Lighting Design increase the sense of outdoor living space in your home. It literally extends the 4-walls of your house outward to the full footprint of the garden, bringing the outside-in. It is the most effective method of getting the most of your garden, regardless of the season. Without a well thought out lighting scheme even the most beautiful of daytime gardens will be flat and lost in the evenings. Lighting is an integral part of the whole.
Garden Lighting enhances the overall look of a property & has many benefits:
- Makes a home feel more welcoming & well appointed
- Creates a dependable atmosphere & evening ambience
- Helps expand your living space from the indoors to the outdoors
- Enhance the planting scheme & main features of the garden
- Provides safety & security
- Increases the value of your home
It takes consideration and attention to detail to harmonise these diverse needs. We often think of how we landscape a space when we are designing, when it comes to lighting its best to think of it as how we nightscape the space. You are literally sculpting the space with light; it is a composition layered on-top of both the planting & layout detail within your Garden Design.
Light has aesthetic qualities aswel as very practical functions, getting it right is as much an artform as a science.
Day to Night with Garden Lighting
Here you can see the emphasis on repetition along the treeline, giving a punctuation to the garden and drawing the eye to the focal point at the far end of the lawn.
Here we have highlight the tactile quality of the garden, washing the granite wall & Corten Steel Water Feature in light, picking out the rippling water & materials to create ambiance at night.
And lastly here is an example of an extremely simple yet effect lighting scheme, uplighting the feature Acer trees and backdrop of textural bamboo to draw the eye around the full depth of the space.
So where to begin?
You want to create an atmosphere that is aesthetically pleasing. To achieve this the approach should be complimentary to the style of the garden, be it relaxed or architectural, formal or informal. Take your lead from the style of the space.
Above you an see a very simple lighting scheme that creates the desired effect in quite a laid back yet tasteful approach. Whereas in the images below you can see the difference when light is emphasised on the structure and architectural materials rather than planting. Both achieve their objective, in very different ways.
The basics are the same regardless: Lighting Schemes must be practical and functional, aswel as aesthetically achieving a sculpting of the space with light.
There are 3 types of lighting to consider:
Functional or Task Lighting
To ensure a seamless effect you want to layer each lighting type, creating zones that are distinctive & yet have a consistency across the scheme as a whole.
Here you can see the pools of light on the wood panels are consistent the length of the garden, on the patio however, see image below, the lighting type changes from a standard uplighter to a dual-way light to accommodate dining & seating areas with comfortable light levels.
While across the way, flush mounted uplighters define the repetition of pots as a feature in themselves. This is how you can begin to bring real detail and finesse to your Garden Design.
Zoning each area will help you consider their specific needs.
- Identify where the entertaining space is zoned : ensure this has adequate lighting levels by creating soft pools of warm diffuse light.
- Pick out your paths & walkways : frame these with downlighters, set a decent distance apart, approx. 4-5m depending on the size of the space, enough to ensure that pathways are well lit without being overpowering. I like to position the fixtures within the bed rather than the cobble edging so as that you pick out the foliage and planting aswel as spill light onto the paved surfaces. (See image B below)
- Highlight your favourite elements & feature trees, or elements of repetition throughout the space
Layering your light in this way is key, a balanced level of light with a good tempo will allows some elements recede while others are pronounced. Have the zones lead into one another & encourage the eye move across the space and take in the features you are highlighting.
Outdoor Lighting Fixtures & Techniques:
A) Uplighters. Adjustable spots on stems or spike. Used in an upward angle to give a warm glow. High Lumen uplighters accentuate the canopy of trees, while lower Lumen uplighters do just enough to show off plant’s unique shape and draw attention to flower beds. These can be direct or diffuse light.
B) Downlighters. Such as bollards, help reduce glare & light spillage. Used along walkways or driveways to illuminate a route by creating pools of light.
C) Wall Wash Lights. Similar to uplighters but more diffuse, these give a soft indirect light, scattered or ‘washing’ light across a wider surface area to gently illuminate a wall or texture.
D) Integrated Spot Lights, these are flush mounted into paving or pebble. These are fantastic for picking up specific details with a strong architectural style.
Downlighters along pathway & Wall Wash Lights on the perimeter
Integrated Spot Lights
Direct & Diffuse Light.
Direct Light gives a more pronounced shadow, it is like a theatre spotlight, a concentrated beam which gives a very well-structured space.
Diffuse Light gives a less pronounced shadow, it is more like a wash of light, often referred to as a ‘wash light’ or ‘wall wash’ lighting fixture, it is ideal softening large areas.
Both Direct & Diffuse Light have distinct purpose in a lighting scheme and allow for various Lighting Techniques on garden features. You can create Silhouette objects, for a bold artistic effect. Shadowing, for a more ephemeral effect or Spotlighting to give a dramatic effect & point of interest.
Some of the Technical side (without going too much into it)
Having a grasp of the technical side of lighting ensures the results you want aesthetically.
For all of Garden Design clients we prepare a full Lighting Plan & have fixtures specified with our electricians as part of the overall Project Management for your Garden Build.
Kelvins – Colour Temperature
All artificial Lighting has a range of different colour temperature, from cool to warm light. This is measured in Kelvin, on a range of 1,000-10,000. The higher the number the cooler the light, and the lower the number the warming the light.
A candles light would be in and around 1500 Kelvin, whereas daylight would be up toward 7000K. Domestic lighting ideally is a soft warm light, our old incandescent bulbs were usually 2700K. This gives rating gives a comfortable and inviting glow. This is usually between 2000-6000K, any lower and it starts to become too yellow, any higher and the light is too harsh and cold.
Lumen – Brightness
Kelvins describe only the colour temperature of the light. The brightness of any lamp is measured in Lumen. Here in Ireland we would have been mostly familiar with Watt, but this referred to the power usage of an old Incandescent bulb as opposed to light output. With LED’s being far more efficient and sustainable they use only a fraction of the Wattage to give the same Lumen output.
More lumens mean a brighter light, and fewer lumens mean a dimmer light.
To give you an idea of strength, a bedside lamp would be about 400-450 lumen, whereas a strong overhead light would be 1600+ lumen
IP Ratings – Durability of Fixture
The final consideration for outdoor lighting is the durability of the fixture itself.
This is shared as an IP Ratings, this stands for Ingress Protection.
The first number in the rating tells you how protected the fixture is from dirt or ‘solid foreign objects’. The Second number in the rating tells you how protected the fixture is from water, be that droplets falling vertical, at an angle, splashed or sprayed.
For Garden Design the minimum to consider for your outdoor spaces is IP55-IP66, this does depend on the area and shelter, but really anything below this just isn’t going to be able for our Irish conditions.
Top Tips for Success:
- Think of you lighting scheme as a lighting sculpture, you want it nuances and harmonious. As a whole it should read as a composition.
- Don’t overcrowd your lighting scheme, let there be a play of shadow aswel as light.
- Keep it proportional to the size of the space
- Put your lighting on ‘loose tails’ (1m+ flex) to allow for adjustment
- When laying any wiring under a patio feed it through a pipe for ease of access in the future
- Seasonally reposition spots on trees so as that the canopy is illuminated in S/S & the trunk texture is brought into the focus for A/W
- Make sure your timer comes on earlier in the shorter evenings to get the most out of them
- Always allow for a couple outdoor sockets, these are invaluable when needed