Lighting up the landscape

Living in the Edmonton, Sherwood Park, Fort Saskatchewan area means that our growing season is usually shorter than most. It seems a shame that we can only enjoy the fruits (or flowers) of our labour during the waking hours. The good news is that you can indeed enjoy your canvas at night too, with a little consideration in the placement of artificial lighting.

First of all, there are many reasons that one would add artificial lighting to their landscape project. Aesthetics is definitely the reason that stands out, but one could also argue that safety and security are equally as important. An example of such security reasons would be the addition of tall hedges and the potential blind spots or shadowy areas that they may create at night. Installing functional lighting in these areas can be as aesthetically pleasing as it is reassuring from a security stand point. And concerning safety, soft lighting installed along walkways prevents the user from acquiring nighttime injuries including: rolled ankles, and stubbed toes to name a few. And arguably the most enjoyable reason to have lighting installed in you landscaping project is to be able to enjoy your recreational area at night. It’s a lot more enjoyable to leisurely stroll down your walkways, than fumble around in the dark whether hosting an event or just having a night to yourself.

The most important step in the planning process includes establishing where exactly your lighting needs to be installed and for what purpose. The completion of a Landscape Lighting Plan greatly aids this step. A landscape lighting plan is essentially a sketch of your property that indicates specific items that you would like to be lit, any existing lighting, as well as items that will cause light to disperse or cast troublesome shadows, etc. As well, taking nighttime photos of your property from different angles will help you visualize the way the shadows fall (without using a flash, of course), and help you ensure your sketch’s accuracy.

Once you have established the areas that need to be lit, you need to decide what kind of lighting you are looking for. Where as you may use some soft lighting from small, inconspicuous lights to illuminate a path or walkway, you may think of using a formal lamp with post to illuminate seating areas or main focal points. The use of lanterns in traditional Japanese gardens was originally to aid in way-finding during nighttime ceremonies, and the same principles can be used today by lighting the main areas with subtly brighter lights than the rest of the property. If lighting the house numbers on a plaque in the front driveway, one might consider using a small spot light. Also, the use of lights hidden underneath shrubs can create a unique, soft glow created by the foliage that will come alive in the breeze. And finally, if concerned about a particularly dark area within the property from a security standpoint, one could always install motion activation flood lighting.

Finally, now that lighting types and fixtures have been chosen it is important to decide how the lights will be wired. Will the lights be wired into the houses existing 120-volt system (which needs to be done by a professional), will the power be stepped down by a transformer to a 12 volt system, or will the lighting be solar powered (which requires little to no cables between lights)? There are very few people who can feel completely content with enjoying only half of what they paid for. When you take the time and money to design and have your yard landscaped, why not have it seen at night as well?

Host a gathering of your closest friends, eat a late dinner under the stars, or just kick back and relax to the calm of the night, but whatever you do…

…keep bringing your outdoor living dreams to life!