Creative garden lighting concentrates on subtle schemes that create atmosphere and enhance the planting, garden features, and architecture. Suitable lighting serves many purposes. A garden that has been “designed” – one with focal points, structured layout, good planting and a sense of perspective are more likely to bring out the best from lighting design but any outdoor space is benefited by suitable lighting.

The creative use of light and shadow is the key to achieving good results, as only this will provide depth. Excessive lighting and indiscriminate use of floodlights is the most common error that results in garish illumination and a flat perspective. Creative garden lighting taps into the richness of textures, forms and colours. To be able to design an effective lighting system for your outdoors, begin by understanding the role you want lights to play in the use and enjoyment of the exterior. This will have fundamental implications for planning power source, circuits, positions and types of control.

Lighting can be of various types. Ornamental lighting brings into focus garden features that heighten visual appeal. Keeping in mind the areas that one need not bring into focus with light, is as important as making note of areas one needs to highlight. Amenity lighting is done to ensure safety and serve practical purposes. Task lighting makes it possible to carry out specific jobs such as cooking and barbecues. Access lighting enables safe movement around paths and steps. Security lighting deters intruders, creates the impression that there are people at home, and reassures homeowners.

To determine your lighting needs, begin with what you want to achieve. In the case of ornamental lighting, a good start is to focus on what effects you want to achieve and in which areas you want to apply it. Ask yourself whether you want to see lighting only when you are in the garden or from inside too, or both, and if so, then, from which room? Do you want a welcoming view of the house?

These may seem obvious, but most homeowners see lighting in a limited perspective and miss significant potential areas that can be focused on. Ornamental lighting is more than creating drama. Its main aim is to create a balanced view that is easy on the eye.

The next step is to establish viewpoints from which these areas of the garden and the features within them may be seen. If possible, maintain separate controls to allow lighting as much as needed. Now determine the points for amenity lighting that will enable you to perform a range of functions ranging from parking your car to inserting the key into the door.

Area lighting may also serve this purpose. Recessed downlights from the canopy of a porch or a nearby tree enhances the effect. Area lighting diffuses light all around and downwards.

Choose a fixture to reflect the style of your house. Floodlights are not a good choice and should be left to the stadiums. If you plan to organise a barbecue night with friends, then you will need some task lighting at your work counter. Access lighting mainly guides movement but can also become ornamental if placed strategically around the vegetation or other features in the path. Nowhere is good lighting more important than lighting for access and safety for the sake of both the homeowner and the visitor. Lights used for other functions can also double up as safety options. Safety should be assessed from two view points, one of the homeowner who knows the area and other a visitor who is not familiar with the area and may not be used to grade changes and unexpected trees.

Good garden lighting design is about editing the view. Once garden lighting is installed, the window opening into the garden becomes a frame to view the illuminated garden. But it will work only if there is balance between indoor and outdoor lighting. Insufficient outdoor lighting creates a black mirror effect where you will see your own reflection and that of the room around.

Outdoor lighting should therefore be brighter than the interior. Choosing dimmers in interior lighting can ensure that the indoors are not too bright and you can enjoy your garden illumination. Always set lighting priorities and aim to create balance so that areas of light and darkness are easy on the eye. Plan to accommodate personal and seasonal variations by creating flexible lighting allowed by separate controls.

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