Lighting in the garden can be for aesthetics as well as safety and security. With the installation of quality decorative fixtures, the garden can be enjoyed in the dark of night as well as during the day. Through path lights, accent spotlights and even deck or pond fixtures, the landscape can be painted with light.
Typical landscape lighting installations consist of an outdoor transformer, low voltage wire and robust metal low voltage fixtures. For a residential lighting project in Victoria, BC the transformer would typically be 300 watts depending on the number of lights and length of the run. These transformers are modular and can either be light sensitive or can have a digital timer added. The wire is usually 10 or 12 gauge low voltage copper and can be buried directly in the ground with no risk of electric shock. Professional quality low voltage fixtures can take incandescent or LED bulbs. These fixtures (www.landscapelighting.com), while expensive, are far more attractive and resilient than the cheap plastic versions found at most hardware stores.
Path lights are used to illuminate the ground and often form the “backbone” of a lighting design. They can be placed along a walkway to ensure a safe and welcoming passage. The real artistry comes with the use of accent or spotlights in the garden. These are small fixtures that can create dramatic effects through uplighting and silhouetting of trees, shrubs, buildings, rocks and other features. Bamboo looks particularly stunning when uplit.
There are other specialized lights available for almost any application in the landscape. Deck lights are usually designed to fit on a narrow post or on a stair riser. These fixtures are subtle enough that they are hardly noticeable during the day, but they illuminate the area by casting a warm glow for ambiance and safety. Pond lights are another specialized fixture. They are waterproof lights that can be placed in a pond, a waterfall, or even in a simple water feature made of a large ceramic pot. The effect of light in moving water can be stunning.
One of the best times to install landscape lighting is during a garden renovation or irrigation installation (when trenches are being dug anyways). However, because the lighting fixtures are low voltage, it is fairly easy to get them to anywhere in the garden anytime. The labour costs of installing landscape lighting are reasonable. The fixtures can be costly, but they are good quality and will last for years. A typical residential lighting installation in Victoria, BC might be in the $1000-$2000 range. In the context of a full landscape renovation, it is well worth trying to budget for. Lighting can provide years of enjoyment, even in the winter when you look out and see a mature tree glowing, reminding you that Spring will come again!