Economically Design Your Own Landscape Lighting
by David Squire
Providing exterior home lighting for safety, security and aesthetics can be a huge undertaking, consisting of meetings with lighting and landscape designers. You'll also need to check local codes to see if your county or town requires a permit, and you'll need an inspector to check for underground plumbing or wires. All this before a single trench is dug across your yard or through your flower garden, and the final price may be more than some are willing to spend. Solar lights allow you to do the job yourself and the flexibility to move the lights if your not happy with the initial placement, and at a fraction of the cost.
Creating a Lighting Plan
You'll need to start with a plan. Walk your property in daylight and sketch out your yard and home on graph paper. Be sure to include landscaping and walkways, and make a note of high sun or shade areas. Solar lights require 6 to 8 hours of sunlight to fully recharge the batteries. Next, walk your property again after sunset noting areas that require lighting for safety such as steps and curbs. Also look for dark spots in corners or behind large bushes that require light for security. Now that you have your basic plan in place you can start being creative.
Lighting should be soft and subtle, and the source should be hidden whenever possible. Bright points of light blind the viewer, and the glare makes the rest of the yard look darker. Use fewer lights than you think you need to start, you can always add more later. Tier lights direct light downward on the ground or shrubs and minimize glare, making them ideal for lighting walks and steps. Alternate lights from side to side to avoid the "runway" look. Don't overdue it. You should be able to affectively light a 25' walk with 3 to 5 lights. An effective way of lighting a dark corner or behind a large bush is called grazing. A spot light is placed low to the ground about 6 to 8 inches from a wall or object and the beam is either aimed up, or at an oblique angle to the wall. This is especially effective on a textured wall such as stone, brick, or stucco. You can also create a great affect called Silhouetting by aiming the light away from the building, aimed at a tree or bush. By outlining the object with illumination it shows shape but not color or texture. Placing a light in front of a tree or bush aimed at a vertical surface, castes a striking shadow. Moving the light closer or further away from the object effects the size of the shadow it casts. Up-cast shadows do not occur in nature and are not only dramatic but unusual. Using solar lights made to look like rocks are a great way to create Up-cast shadows.
Solar lights give you the freedom to quickly and easily place your lights where you want them, and the ability to experiment and move them to achieve the look and feel you want. They will automatically come on at night, and the NI-CD Batteries and long lasting LED bulbs provide years of maintenance free enjoyment. Another advantage to solar lights used for gardens, is the fact that they can be easily taken down and stored in winter months, and put back in place the following spring.
Each landscape has it's own needs and possibilities when dealing with lighting. Use the above techniques to experiment and create your own interesting textures and shadows. Remember the best lighting simulates moonlight not daylight. When your lights create a moonlit glow they'll look better than floodlights.
About the Author
ImportsandGifts offers a wide range of solar garden products.
David Squire is an independent author with over thirty years experience in the landscaping and masonry fields.