Garden lighting Q&A

Garden designer and TV presenter Chris Beardshaw explains how to create a beautifully lit garden

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A garden for all seasons (and all times of day) needs a well-planned lighting scheme to make it practical for use. Read on to find out how to illuminate your garden for summer entertaining, al fresco evening meals, winter bonfires and more.

Q. How do I design a lighting scheme?

A. Lighting is best considered as a way of ensuring that the garden retains its accessibility and aesthetic appeal during the evening. Consider the many different forms of light at your disposal and break the garden down into areas. For instance, access paths, major routes, secluded areas and decorative features and statement plants all require the most illumination, but will need different treatment for the best results.

One way to practically explore your own lighting design is to look on websites and in catalogues to familiarise yourself with the options and uses available, then walk around your garden placing labels on canes, each representing a different sort of light to illuminate or perform the most appropriate role. This affords the opportunity to stand back and consider the total effect.

eating outside with lamp lights

Q. I want a scheme that will suit all seasons. What should I be looking for?

A. Control is the key to making your light scheme effective though all seasons and times of the evening. Place similar light units on their own circuits, as this allows them to be separately wired and controlled, permitting each circuit to be adjusted at any time.

Q. Do you have any advice for anyone trying to integrate practicalities (such as security and task lighting) into their design?

A. Security lights were originally the most popular light units used externally and clearly they offer a high intensity flood light effect that is unflattering for a garden and those using or viewing it. However the carefully positioning and use of more ornamental lights throughout the garden creates not only a more aesthetically rewarding effect but also aids the security by illuminating the whole garden, in a variety of ways.

lighting a pathway with Philips lights

Q. I want to create a subtle scheme and don’t want any glare to irritate neighbours. How do I know what to specify?

A. The object of a light scheme in the garden is not to create as much light as possible but rather subtly wash and flood areas, features and surfaces. The use of down lights, directional lights and those with frosted lenses all ensure the lighting is sympathetic and submissive.

Q. What advice do you have for incorporating coloured lights into a scheme?

A. Permanently coloured lights should be used in moderation and specifically in areas where a distinct focus or style is required. Care should be taken when mixing coloured effects, remember the intention is theatre and style not fairground.

Perhaps the most effective use of colour is in remote controlled boxes that can be wired to LED light systems where individual colours can be created to suit the ambient light levels. So at twilight more blue light can be programmed in to counter the general light levels, however in real darkness more yellow may be included to ensure that the general tone is one of warmth.

wall uprights and down lights on concrete

Q. What can I do to make sure my scheme is energy efficient?

A. LED and solar powered lights are creating a revolution in garden lighting as both are increasingly becoming available in hugely diverse styles, economically and with low maintenance requirements. Of course both are also efficient in light production, with solar lights now offering up to 6 hours of illumination.

Q. I don’t want my garden to be covered in wires — how can I disguise or hide wiring?

A. Wiring should all be concealed in duct (narrow poly pipes) to ensure it is protected. 240 volt will require armoured cables while 12 volt is less intrusive and easily fed through the ducts.

solar stick lights around a garden lawn with child running

Q. How do I know how suitable a light is for outdoor use?

A. Manufacturers all clearly state the intended use of the light and fittings. Only use specifically designed outdoor lights in the garden and if in doubt check with the manufacturer, supplier or specialist lighting contractor.

Q. What do I need to be aware of in terms of safety?

A. As with any job installing lighting may require the assistant and specialist skills of a specialist. Seek advice to be safe.

Q. Do I need a professional to do the work?

A. Solar lighting is the easiest to the garden by anyone, and it offers great versatility and cost effective illumination. Other systems may require a specialist.

All images: c/o Philips

Chris Beardshaw

Chris Beardshaw and bamboo in a garden

Chris Beardshaw has shared his top tips with Philips Outdoor Lighting on making the most out of your outdoor space by using lighting to illuminate, create atmosphere and keep your garden secure. Find out more about outdoor lighting on Philips online.