Garden lighting brings landscape to life at night
By the time Judy Kameon finishes her workday and heads home for the evening, the sun has often set on her California garden. The reality is that Kameon, founder and principal of Los Angeles-based Elysian Landscapes, often enjoys her home's outdoor areas in the dark — or even through windows peering into darkness.
But a smart exterior lighting system, designed to click on at dusk each day, allows her to grill her favorite foods in an outdoor kitchen or enjoy a pleasing view of the garden from inside — even if the clock reads 10 p.m.
“The truth is that most of us look at our gardens more than spend time in them,” says Kameon, who is author of “Gardens Are for Living: Design Inspiration for Outdoor Spaces” (Rizzoli International Publications). “There are only so many hours of daylight.” That doesn't have to be a negative, says Kameon, who incorporates a lighting plan into almost every garden she designs. “As much as I love my garden during the day, it's magical at night,” she says.
Garden lighting serves many purposes — from accenting landscape features such as pergolas and fountains, to drawing attention to stately trees and specimen plants. Well-placed exterior lighting can prevent guests from tripping down stairs or keep would-be burglars at bay by lighting up a backyard.
And don't forget the ambience garden lighting creates inside a home, says Janet Lennox Moyer, lighting designer and author of “The Landscape Lighting Book” (Wiley). Lennox Moyer began her career as an interior lighting designer, but after completing her first outdoor project in the 1980s, became hooked on outdoor lighting.
“The view out the window completes an interior space,” Lennox Moyer says. “Without good exterior lighting, your windows become black mirrors.”
When viewed through the window, garden textures, forms and colors look different at night — and during each changing season. Even in winter, bare trees and shrubs take on a new beauty as exterior lighting illuminates their leafless forms.
Those who have a passing familiarity with indoor lighting projects will find many outdoor forms are familiar. Wall-mounted fixtures, accent lighting, uplights and downlights are all made for outdoor settings.
There's also path lighting, underwater lighting for pools and fountains and specialty fixtures for patios and seating areas. Rechargeable pillar candles and plug-in strings of light make a patio more intimate. Decorative orbs on pedestals add whimsy to flower beds.
While the options are many, a good plan incorporates different forms, Lennox Moyer says. Timers can even be set to cue the entire spectrum of fixtures at dusk and dawn, making the lighting of a garden an effortless enjoyment.
Here are some tips to help your garden shine: