Want to double the value you get from a key part of your home? Installing lighting in your garden will change it from a daytime only venue into a place to enjoy day and night throughout the year. Why invest in a garden makeover if you can only enjoy it for half the time?
Many people hardly see their gardens in the Winter. Its dark when you leave for work, and dark when you return, so apart from peering out of the window at the weekends the garden might as well not be there. But with some strategically positioned lights you can turn your garden into a magical place that draws your eye beyond the indoors and enhances your living space.
It's important to explain to your electrician that the aim of lighting your garden is to highlight interesting shapes, textures and perspectives. It is to create atmosphere and drama, maybe sparkle from a water feature and on a practical note it can illuminate steps and pathways, entrances and exits. It will create a view from indoors and turns outdoor entertaining into a special occasion every time.
Just like interior lighting, exterior lighting can range from soft washes of colour against a wall to up-lighting interesting plants with lights concealed in shrubs or behind plants. But there are other ideas to explore too - lights on dimmers to create different moods, lights beneath the water in ponds, or focused to catch the shimmer of a fountain. Flexible lights can be moved as plants grow or different flowers in a border blossom, so you're always showing off your garden's best features.
When planning the lighting of a garden bear in mind that there is no ceiling, so you are restricted to lights "planted" within the shrubbery and hanging off the walls, with maybe the odd light placed in a tall tree, if you have one. But then general lighting, which you would achieve inside from a ceiling light is not what you're after in a garden - you will create a much more attractive scheme by having subtle pools of light. Don't forget you will also benefit from some "overspill" lighting from inside the house.
In small gardens, soft focus lighting can very effectively provide visual signposts that highlight the furthest points in the garden. An architectural plant or a statue are good features to light up and draw the eye away from the immediate area, creating an illusion of space. The key is to get your electrician to conceal the light fitting so that only the effect is seen and not the hardware.
If your garden is relatively newly planted it's worth bearing in mind how the garden will develop. Plants will get bigger and trees taller and wider so it may be worth considering low voltage lights mounted on a spike, that can be easily moved around rather than more permanently placed high voltage mains lights that need to be hardwired. Often mains lights need to be installed before planting, but it will be difficult for an electrician to know where the plants will be placed and how they will grow. You could get your electrician and gardener to work out the design together but it's probably best to plant first and light up later.
Outdoor lighting schemes can cost more than interior lighting but this is because special work needs to be done. For instance some excavation work will be required and the wiring to the light fittings will need to be protected to ensure it is properly sealed. Also it will need to be buried deep enough so it isn't disturbed when beds are dug over or new plants and bulbs are planted. All the connections will need to be waterproof protected and breakers have to be fitted so that the power is cut off if water seeps into the system. For all these reasons it's important to get a qualified electrician to do the work.
If your garden is already established, then get the wiring work done in Autumn or Spring, to minimise any damage to plants.
Lighting up your garden will make it a really exciting feature of your home - with the help of an electrician and a little design inspiration, you can really add some sparkle to your outdoors.