The role of outdoor lighting is to deepen the shadows and amplify the focal points of your garden. Our backyards all have different layouts and characteristics, which should be taken into account when choosing lighting style, intensity, and colour. In addition, your outdoor lighting should complement your outdoor lifestyle – if your garden is purely decorative, it will have different lighting setup than a garden that is actively used for entertainment, cooking, dining, etc.
Define the purpose
Before you commit to designing and choosing different landscape lighting options, you should decide on why you need illumination in your backyard in the first place. Some homeowners are looking to set a soft, romantic mood in the evening hours, while others have a dark corner or a shed they need to illuminate for security reasons. A path leading to a veggie garden in the back often needs some safety lights that marks its boundaries, especially if it includes a few steps. Finally, you may have a decorative feature like an interesting tree or a pond that needs to be seen in a better light.
Take a torch and make a tour of your garden after dark, identifying all the places where you’re likely to trip. Do you often need to go to a part of the garden that is in deep shadow? Perhaps check on your car in the driveway. Basically, you need to make sure you can get from A to B safely. You can even invite a guest to try to navigate your yard safely and attune your lighting plan accordingly. When it comes to pathway lights, you can choose a style that stands proud along the walkway and complements the surrounding architecture, or the one that disappears in the landscape and illuminates the pathway indirectly.
In Australia, for example, the popularity of decorative outdoor lighting can be traced back to the 19th century, when mansions and gardens were expertly illuminated for aesthetic purposes using what rudimentary lighting was available back in the day. Even today, Australians would rather hire an experienced Sydney electrician who specializes in lighting installation than an amateur handyman. If your primary goal was to illuminate your landscape accents, such a rich canopy, a rough-hewn stone wall, or a piece of garden art, you should consider options that highlight the rich texture of the object without flooding it with light. You can even project plant shadows on the backdrop wall.
In the vocabulary of landscape lighting that are words like accenting, highlighting, and spotlighting, which refer to the reason of lighting; words like grazing, silhouetting, moonlighting, and shadowing, related to the lighting effect achieved, while words like uplighting and downlighting refer to the lighting orientation. In uplifting, the target is illuminated from below, with the lighting fixture mounted below or at ground level. Downlighting is, on the other hand, best used for illuminating wide areas, where a low-intensity and wide-angle light in a tree or trellis casts a ‘moonlighting’ effect on the ground – perfect for backyard entertaining, as well as safety.
Cold white or warm white
Back in the day, homeowners and landscape designers had an easy choice: halogen or incandescent lamps. In the meantime, incandescents were banned in many countries due to their notorious consumption, and halogens were phased out by more convenient, economic, and longer-lasting LEDs. When it comes to lamp colours, cold white (5400-6500°K) and warm white (<3300°K) are best used in combination, with varying degrees of cold or warm depending on the feature that needs illuminating, texture, material, etc.
Achieving the right lighting effect in your backyard can make all the difference in spending more time outdoors, even after the sunset or having your landscaping effort visible all night long.