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Garden Lighting Guide: What You Need to Know

Garden Lighting Guide: What You Need to Know

Garden Lighting Guide

When lighting your garden, it’s important to have proper lighting that will serve your lighting purpose. How you plan on using your lights will determine what kind of lights you need and where they should be placed. People usually aren’t familiar with the ins and outs of garden lighting design or what methods to use. So, if you don’t educate yourself on the process, you end up creating a lighting scheme that just doesn’t work or do the garden justice. Once you plan your layout, think about what needs illumination. Then research the best bulbs to do the job. When you’re ready to start the installation process, think about safety. Assistance from a professional would be a smart move to avoid any hazards that accompany installation.

Take Application into Consideration

Your lighting design should complement your garden. Consider your lifestyle and how you use the outdoor space. This is the opportunity to add function and style to your garden area.

Maybe you want to do certain tasks around the space, such as reading, or are looking to create ambiance for social gatherings. Perhaps your focus is to highlight features in your garden for a dramatic atmosphere and visual appeal. There are so many options available for you. Have fun with your lighting by trying different colors. Place lanterns and candles around the garden for a warm and cozy vibe. Install lights to increase home security or help guide you through the dark. However you choose to use your garden lighting, it should fit your needs.

How to Light Your Features

Creating Atmosphere

How you light your garden determines the look and feel of the area. Give it atmosphere, create a comfortable space, or show off features using lighting layers. Before you begin your garden lighting design, you draw up a plan. Think about your goal. Focus on the garden and other areas with greenery. Uplight trees, potted plants, garden ornaments, or ponds for character and drama. This lighting technique produces shadows, shapes, and highlights textures for stunning effects. Or you can downlight by placing a spotlight in a tree, letting it cast light through the branches for a moonlight effect.

Garden Pond Lighting

Put lights in the flower bed for a warm glow and enhance visuals. Install fixtures throughout the garden area for optimal lighting. Stylish fixtures in areas with the most visibility will allow you to socialize comfortably, surrounded by charming scenery. Be unique and add fairy lights to your design for drama or to beautifully illuminate a path. String them up between trees, along fences, and over a pergola or gazebo. The warm lighting will also provide a welcoming space that you can enjoy on your own or in the company of others.


Pathway Lighting

It’s best to walk around your garden with a flashlight, angling it at different positions to see how to produce various effects. Contrast is one type of eye-catching lighting effect. How you space your lights will determine the amount of contrast between dark and illuminated areas. Make sure to balance the look of the space with various degrees of light intensity. Do this throughout the entire garden area for a nice contrast and to eliminate dark corners. If you have any steps in the vicinity, light every other step for visual appeal and safety. Space bollard lamps along the edge of the path at regular intervals for uniformity. Another option is to place lights at regular intervals inside the borders of the path to illuminate nearby foliage for a dramatic effect.

Tip: Glare is an issue when lighting your garden because your eyes automatically focus on the brightest area. Lights should be away from the line of sight. Also add glare cowls or louvres on spotlights. If you have stray lights, place half shields onto recessed uplights.

Quality of Bulbs

Incandescent Bulb

Color, Intensity, and LEDs

The color of your lighting depends on your lighting plan. Try mixing spotlights, up-down light beams or accent lighting with LED lights that have lenses. The lenses produce a sharp-edged light pattern on any surface. You have two bulb color options. Cold white is about 5400-6500 Kelvins and warm white is less than 3300 Kelvins. Halogens and incandescent produce warm white light but the downside is they have higher energy consumption. However, LEDs can provide warm or cold white light. They are also energy efficient. So, think about how much light intensity you want. Do you want cold white or warm white? Bulb quality has a huge effect on your lighting design so make sure you know what type you need. The right lighting will allow you to make the most of your time spent outdoors.

Be mindful of bulb intensity though. For example, paths that provide too much illumination, darken the rest of the garden. Bring down the brightness with LEDs. They are not only energy-efficient, but they quickly illuminate the moment they are turned on. These lights are easy to install, have low wattage, and don’t emit harsh light. Install them by simply connecting a cable into a transformer. It’s best to keep the wattage between 20W to 50W for subtle, comfortable illumination.

Tip: Don’t directly illuminate an individual feature that is away from other lit objects. It will look like it is floating in the darkness and distracts from the overall design. Instead, place lights around the feature and create a focal point with accent lighting.


During the installation process, put cables under hard landscaping and plants. Hide those cables to prevent any damage caused by animals digging or chewing through any cables. It also keeps you from tripping over them. However, it is best to have a certified electrician install the cabling. If you use mains-powered lighting, it must be installed at least 750mm underground.So, have it safely fitted by the electrician.

Give yourself lighting options so you can increase light intensity to perform tasks or turn it down for a romantic evening. Depending on the type of controls you have, you may be able to tinker with the lights from the comfort of your living room. Or use those controls for certain effects, such as changing bulb colors or programming different light patterns. Conceal the lights during installation. This creates the illusion that the light is being emitted by the features, not the fixture. In the end, it all depends on your personal preference and your garden layout.

So, figure out how you want to use your lights. Then get the fixtures that will effectively do the job. The atmosphere you creative will depend on how you light your garden. Be sure to space the fixtures properly for your desired lighting effect. Don’t forget to know the bulb type needed or it won’t do your lighting scheme justice. When installing, be mindful of any visible cables that are tripping hazards or may be damaged by animals. Assistance from a professional would be a smart move to avoid any safety hazards that accompany the installation process. Your garden can be a multi-functional space for relaxing and a way to display it differently at night than daytime.


You can do tasks, use for ambiance, or accent lighting by creating romantic, atmospheric and comfortable environment. Create a strategy by thinking how you want to light certain elements/features, such as landmarks. Light landmarks/objects/features from underneath such as potted plant, pond, garden ornament, or small trees. Lit trees creates drama dynamism because light breaks through trees. Lighting pond/fountain from underneath refracts light to create shadows and visually appealing with trickling water. What shadows certain objects will cast how to use them for overall effect.

Spacing lights will create atmosphere because of light/dark contrast. Avoids flatter lighting that is dull. Good spacing balances look and prevents dark corners. Think about the use such as lighting a path for navigating through the dark. If you eat outside then have enough light at table and path to get there. If reading then get light bright enough. Use subtlety. Keep wattage of around 20W-50W because lights shouldn’t be too bright. Conceal the lights so it looks like the features are emitting the light. Make sure you have lighting options, from stargazing to garden party. Some lights give advanced settings. May be able to control lights from couch, program specific behaviors, or alter color of lights. All comes down to personal preference however and layout of space. Speak with electrician and experiment with options to see what works for you.

Lead the way at night by illuminating path. Use uniform look with bollard lamps dotted along edge at regular intervals. Or try a less formal design. Position along the path or dotted inside borders to illuminate foliage for dramatic and inviting effect. Solar-powered designs are simple and choose bulbs that emit warm white, not cool light, to create softer, more welcoming-glow. People forget about garden because seating areas get attention. Place lights around every part of outdoor space. Lamps in flower bed for warm glow and visual appeal. Use solar-powered lamps and don’t use strong/bright lighting. If you use mains-powered lighting, have it fitted by qualified electrician to ensure steel-wired cable is safely installed at least 750mm under ground. Consider LEDs because of energy-efficiency, instantly bright when turned on. They are low-voltage, which means they don’t have to be buried deep in ground. And easy to install with a cable connected to a transformer.

Try LED spike lights dotted among foliage and LED strip below bench seating. Install LEDs in boards of deck in any design. Remove boards and mark where you want lights. Consider length and position of power cord. Use drill bit that will create hole a couple of millimeters bigger than light and fitting. Insert lights and connect cord. Position waterproof seal around each light. Hang chandelier to make statement. Consider waterproof LED or solar powered designs. This will make space feel like a living room. It can add a luxurious touch. Try hanging halogen pendants that emit heat. This combines warmth and light. If you have a space that opens out to garden then connect area with similar lights. Echo inside lights with outside lights so it feels like continuation of indoors. Turn plants/trees into features by uplighting plants/trees. Simple, effective, and adds drama. Direct light beam only at tree to emphasis the shape and texture to look like artwork. Uplight trees in front of walls for dramatic shadows. Use a flashlight first to see what angle will create that effect. Use fairy lights, simple and inexpensive. String up and move anywhere. Hang between trees, drape over pergola, or hang along fence. Try bright colored lights. Dot lanterns and candles around garden.

Top tips for garden lighting. How to illuminate for atmosphere. Gardens are becoming multi-functional. Consider elements such as sculptures, water features, and dining areas . It enhance outside space and extends perception of interior. Lighting is great way to present space in new way than daylight. Eye goes to brightest point, so watch for glare. Point lights away from general line of sight. Use glare cowls and louvres on spotlights. Add half shields to recessed uplights to reduce stray light.

Lighting should complement garden design. Consider your outdoor lifestyle. How do you use it, where and when do you need light. Tailor lighting plan for your needs and expectations. Decide on desired light intensity. Cold white or warm white lights? Add style and safety.

Certified qualified electrician should install cabled garden lighting. Cable should be well protect from rodents, squirrels, and foxes. Use combo of different fixtures to highlight texture, depth, drama in walls , fences, steps patio edges, foliage, trees and water. Don’t overlight - don’t do too much wall designs. Try candles, lanterns, tealights. Turn off security light when using garden lighting because it will ruin the display.

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Elina Brooks - July 27, 2023

I appreciate your advice when you told us to consider proper spacing for our outdoor lighting to give the garden area a nice contrast with various degrees of light intensity to avoid creating dark corners. I recently worked on my backyard garden at home and added a gazebo there so I need lighting installed to help me enjoy it even at night. I’ll be sure to keep this in mind when I visit a lighting supply store later for my garden lighting.

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