Outside Lighting: How to Design a Garden Lighting Scheme

A successful landscape plan is incomplete without outside lights. This article will cover the various outside lighting options as well as their durability and quality. There are many options for lamps, and we will discuss which ones to use, how they should be placed, and what they should look like.

First, realize that you don’t have to floodlight your garden if you aren’t going to be playing night-time soccer. You won’t want to do the same tasks at night as you do in the daytime. This is not only about weeding. It is extremely unlikely that you will be able to walk around your garden in the dark, so it is not necessary to light every flower bed or path.

You should instead light areas near the house. Next, you can choose key features such as a sculpture or tree to give your garden depth. The outside lights can be seen from the inside 99 percent of the time. This will eliminate the need to use curtains. Instead of looking out on blackness, a garden beautifully lit can transform into a magical kingdom full of shadows and silhouettes.

The lighting designer can also be the supplier of lighting fittings, so the more they sell, the greater their profit. It is important to understand the process and have strong ideas in order to achieve the desired outcome.

There are four main functions of outside lights

  • Access: To allow safe movement of persons around the property
  • Security: To deter people from entering the property without permission
  • Usability: To permit the garden to be used nightly as an extension of the inside
  • Aesthetics: To let the landscape be admired from inside and outside the house 24/7

There are five main types of lighting effects

We will begin by taking a brief look at all three. When illuminated from below, architectural and landscape elements like buildings, fences, fences, and pergolas can become striking features. Flare shields and foundation planting are great ways to hide light sources.

From a young age, I was taught that garden lighting is all about the effect and not the fitting. It’s not always possible but I try my best.

Be aware that you could be in violation of local planning laws and possibly cause damage to your neighbors by lighting the fronts of buildings.

Outside Lights: Up-lighting

Uplighting is a method of focusing light and attention from a fixed low location on an object.

For lighting up trees or columns, well-lights can be very effective. Small ornamental trees, they should be placed 2 to 4 feet away from the trunk base to illuminate the canopy. For mature trees such as Oak and Beech, they should be placed close to the trunk base so that the light touches the trunk’s side and illuminates the upper branches.

Outside Lights: Downlighting

Moonlighting, or downlighting, is another technique. This technique uses bullet-type fixtures that are placed at eye level on structures or in trees. It illuminates general areas to improve safety, security, and aesthetics. The required brightness and illumination width are considered when choosing lamps and fixtures.

There are special hanging fixtures called “tree” fixtures that can be used. Downlighting can be used to highlight specific features or areas, or to give the illusion of perspective. The lighting from the above can be both aesthetic and secure.

Outside Lights: Spotlighting

This technique makes use of a narrowly focused beam that is strong and bright.

Spotlighting works well for statues, sculptures, address numbers signs, flagpoles, and landscape features. This application is best suited for bullet fixtures.

Outside Lights: Path Lighting

Low-profile fixtures are used for path lighting. They direct light downwards and outwards.

To prevent flare, these fixtures have a shield on the top. These fixtures can be used on stairs, paths and any other areas where safe night access is needed. Be aware of light spillage and resist the urge to “over-light”. This image shows me the closest to perfect lighting for path lighting. The hedging hides the fittings. The designer doesn’t need to lighten the fittings and has made the most of the distinct circles of light that are created without overlap. Path lights can be used to lighten small walkways, flowerbeds, and other ground cover areas. They should be spaced at least 2 m apart.

Outside Lights: Backlighting

Backlighting refers to a technique that projects light onto an object’s back, creating an aura or corona. The object blocks most of the direct light, but some light leaks around to create a glowing effect.

Outdoor Lights: Silhouette Lighting or Shadowing

Shadowing or silhouette lighting is different from backlighting in that the light isn’t directed directly at an object. Instead, it illuminates objects in front of a large surface (like a wall) with a flood or wash light fixture. The lighting causes objects to appear silhouetted when they are in front of it. This could be used to create a shadow or silhouette on a small sculpture mounted on a wall.

Outside Lights: Underwater Lighting

Swimming pools can be lit up to create a dramatic effect. Lighting ponds, waterfalls and fountains should be avoided. Primarily, because you’re illuminating algae most of the time. Underwater lighting requires that the water be chlorinated. Otherwise, you can expect to feel overwhelmed. The expected effects of a submerged light source may be different from the actual result.

Three main conditions can alter or increase your beam spread and light intensity. These are:

  • Depth: The deeper the water is, the wider or more diffused the light. Applications deeper than 4 feet are not recommended. This will greatly reduce the impact and/or effects.
  • Clarity: Clear or clean water will produce the maximum amount of light. Alga can dramatically reduce the amount of light. To see the effect of the light source, you will need more power or a narrower beam spread.
  • Water movement can distort or increase beam spread. The lens is the top of the water. Clear lens or no movement, beams will be more precise and truer. Spread will increase with more movement.

You can light a pond from the top, which will create a mirror effect that will reflect the surrounding plants and features.

Outside lights with low-voltage light fittings

Low voltage landscape fixtures can be classified as: flood, flood, path, well or brick, underwater, accent and post lights.

LED products can also include light bars or roping that is useful for special applications. But I will only be focusing on the “normal” types.

Outside lights Materials & Finishes

Before we get into the specifics of each fixture, let us discuss the available finishes and materials. There are many styles available for fixtures, but they can be painted or anodized or plastic. Black, white, Stainless steel, brass and copper are some of the most common metal finishes.

Plastic fixtures are typically cheaper and less durable, so they tend to be limited to white or black. Spots and well-light fixtures are weatherproof and waterproof if they have gaskets.

The majority of accent and path lighting is the same, with the possible exception that some tulip-shaped path lighting points downward.

Lamps and bulbs for outside lighting

Low-voltage landscape lighting uses three main types of lamps: 2-pin (G4) MR-11 (GZ4), MR-16 (GU5.3), and MR-11 (GZ4). These can further be divided into halogen, ambient, and LED. The type numbers in brackets refer to equivalent halogen series numbers. From bottom to top, the following images show the 2-pin, MR-11, and MR-16 GU5.3LED bulbs.

The MR-11 bulb and MR-16 bulb look almost identical, with the exception of their reflector size. The MR-16 bulb is 51mm larger than the MR11, while the MR11 is 35mm.

They are all 2-pin and interchangeable, provided the fixture can accommodate them. MR-16 compatible fixtures can accommodate both MR-11 and 2-pin bulbs, but it might be more difficult to fit them in the opposite direction.

Outside Lights: Beam Angle

Next, you need to decide which beam angle you want. You can choose from a narrow spotlight at 7deg or 60deg for Incandescent lamps. For some LED’s, a flood light can be as high as 120deg.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has created a three-letter code to identify MR16 lamps. This code is specific to a particular type of lamp and can be identified by the bulb shape, wattage and beam angle. EXN stands for 50 Watts, MR16 lamp at 40 Degrees or 50MR16/40deg.

Lighting professionals can either specify MR16 lamps using their ANSI code, or their wattage and bulb shape interchangeably. The table to the right lists a partial list ANSI three-letter designations as well as their abbreviated descriptive counterparts.

Two ways to specify beam angles are by the number (for example 40 degrees) or by nomenclature which describes the lighting effect created by the reflector lamps.

According to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), MR16 lamps can be classified as flood or spot lamps. To better represent the beam angles, some lamp manufacturers have created subcategories. Avoid cheap import lamps. Stick to major manufacturers such as GE, OSRAM, and Philips.

Beam Angle is one the most crucial decisions you’ll make. It can have a huge impact on the light you want to create and can be a major factor in how successful your installation is.

Light Pollution

To avoid light pollution and disturbing your neighbors, you want to avoid a too-wide spill or a too-bright lamp.

The UK’s councils are required to investigate complaints regarding artificial light coming from premises in the event that the light could be considered a statutory nuisance’, which is covered by the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Artificial light must comply with the following conditions in order to be considered a nuisance statutory:

  • Unreasonably and significantly interfere with the enjoyment or use of a home or any other premises
  • Injure or be likely to injure your health

Security lighting is the most common cause of complaints. However, decorative lighting in buildings and landscapes can also fall under the umbrella of Statutory nuisance. This means that careful placement of fixtures and the selection of lamps are important. As I mentioned at the beginning, over-lighting a flower bed is a common mistake. Fitting honeycomb glare louvers to the front of your fitting is a good idea. Make sure your outside lights are on Dimmer switches. Also, consider the beam spread and lamp strength.

Color Temperature

I don’t mean colored lights when I refer to the color of light. It would be brave to install such an outside lighting system.

This is about Colour temperature.

Different lamps emit different colors of light. LED lighting could only emit a cold blue light at 6000K for many years, while traditional light bulbs were able to emit a warmer yellow light at 2600-3000 K. You can clearly see the difference in the light from the left and the warmer on the right. This warmer option can be offered by LEDs today

I recommend that you use warmer lamps and to avoid the cool blue light. Although it may seem trendy and modern, most people will get bored of it quickly. It’s best to keep it indoors if it’s not necessary. This is only true for lighting evergreens and conifers. Colder lighting can make dark green and even blue leaves look more attractive.

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