Deciding what kind of lighting to use in your garden can be difficult. To make it easier, narrow it down by asking yourself a few basic questions.
- Does your garden lighting need to be functional, decorative or both? Some gardens are equipped with lights for purely practical reasons - to get from point A to point B without tripping over something, for example. It can also be a safety issue, such as a motion detector light that comes on when you pull in the driveway. Decorative lighting, on the other hand, is strictly for aesthetic purposes - to create more of a party atmosphere or to highlight a garden feature.
- What type of lighting is necessary? There are four main types of garden lighting - gas, electric, solar and non-powered. Garden lights such as torches are usually gas-powered. They have a small canister which you can fill with liquid fuel. These are great for occasional, decorative lighting, but not very practical for everyday use, unless you have time to refill the torches frequently. They can also be a fire hazard, so be very careful to keep them away from plants or other objects which could catch fire. Electric lighting is more versatile. Use electric lighting for lighting paths, illuminating specific garden features or, as mentioned above, a motion sensor that activates when it senses movement. Low-voltage electric garden lighting is simple to install, but the transformer must be housed where it will not be at the weather's mercy. A garage or porch is ideal. For higher-voltage garden lighting systems, hire an electrician. A disadvantage to using electric lights for a garden path is that you must be careful to avoid the cords when you mow or use garden tools around them. Solar lighting is a simple, versatile option. Solar lighting stores energy from the sun in photovoltaic cells. When the sun sets, a photocell in the light triggers it to come on. It will stay on until the battery is out of stored solar energy, or until the sun rises, whichever comes first. Most solar lighting uses LEDs, which require less energy than bulbs. Non-powered lighting includes candles and lanterns. These are intended as temporary light sources, such as during a party. Like gas-powered lighting, these can be a fire risk, so carefully consider where they are to be placed.
- How much lighting do you need? If your lighting is just atmospheric, a few lights may suffice. You may want to consider a few strings of decorative lights hung around your house or around a garden fence. On the other hand, if you plan to work in your garden after dark, you'll want a much stronger light source. You may even want to think about installing a spotlight or two that will illuminate the entire garden area.
- What material is appropriate for your garden? Garden lighting comes in a vast array of materials and finishes. You can choose from wrought iron, painted or unpainted metal, copper, plastic and glass. Wrought iron and copper tend to be very durable, and will weather to a patina which will blend in nicely in most gardens.
Once you've decided on the basic requirements for your garden lighting, such as function and type of lighting, let your instincts guide you. Wander through the aisles of a home improvement store and see what jumps out at you. You'll probably find that the styles you like will blend in with your garden perfectly.