CAST June Landscape Lighting Blog
According to our research, the three tips for landscape lighting for gardens include selecting the correct type of light for each area keeping in mind that “less is more”, considering safety first (wayfinding), and opting for the correct quality of light for each area.
Initially, we started searching for a general overview of broad considerations in landscape lighting for gardens. We found several general considerations, tips, recommendations about different light products, and more. From these, we selected those ones that were more named the most in all the publications for their importance in the design field and grouped them into the following three tips:
- (i) the first tip involved the general considerations regarding types of light in different areas or for different activities
- (ii) the second tip involved the general considerations regarding lighting paths, steps and transit areas (security issues are important enough to be considered into a separate tip)
- (iii) the third tip involved the considerations about the temperature of the lights for different spaces.
With the three tips mentioned above, we included the topics about how to identify each area, how to decide the correct type and amount of light, how to take special care for those places of transit and specific activities, and how to give them the correct temperature of light to achieve a correct design result.
One should consider the following:
- How you intend to use each space.
- Do you need good lighting on pathways, patios, and decks?
- If there are kids in the house, do they want to play soccer on the lawn after dusk?
But, it’s not only about thinking about how you plan to use the space. There are also important design considerations as well. Design and function are both relevant when planning the lighting for a garden. Therefore, one should consider the following:
- Make a list of trafficked areas and living spaces so your lighting design becomes functional.
- Look out every window in the house to design the lighting according to the landscape.
- Look for focal points to draw attention to and combine places with gentle lights in contrast with spotlighting a particular feature.
- Create a sense of depth using lights along pathways or landscaped beds.
- Always make your choices taking care of the cardinal rule of lighting. You don’t want to see the lights themselves; however, you want to see what you light.
Best practices to have in mind about landscape lighting
1. Use the correct type of light for each area and always keep in mind that “less is more”
Placing a small amount of light where you need it means a lot when you light your outdoor garden. At night, eyes are adjusted to the dark, so it’s recommended to keep light levels low. Therefore, the contrast between light and shadow can recreate a more dramatic landscape.
LIT EACH SPECIFIC AREA WITH THE CORRECT KIND OF LIGHT:
- For large patio areas, combine wall lights and bollard lights or spread lights out and use switches for changing the light levels when needed for activities or for a more relaxed mood.
- For an outdoor reading area, put a spot in a tree or in a pergola redirecting the light down.
- For outdoor dining or entertaining area, create an entertainment center with low light.
- For lighting a flower bed, use flower shield lights.
- For narrow flower bed or low border plantings, use a number of the smaller lights attached in a string.
- Use individual flower lights to highlight single plants, shrubs or a tree.
- For those places that need special light, for example, grill, outdoor kitchen, barbecue or bar tops, task lighting should be considered.
- For pergolas, you can uplit from the ground or down lit with garden lights on the beams. If there are posts or columns, lights can be placed at the top of them.
- People should discover opportunities to highlight parts of their landscape that may not need it in the daytime.
- The use of low-voltage spotlights will draw attention to a piece of sculpture or a notable plant. They can be lighted from behind for a more dramatic effect.
- If there is water in outdoor areas, underwater lights can be used ranged from a soft glow to a powerful highlight on a waterfall.
2. Consider safety first: wayfinding
- Make sure paths, stairs, porches, driveways, and all the transit places are well lit.
- The best practice is called "wayfinding" which is the process by which people find their way through your landscape.
- Wayfinding with lights is critical for security purpose allowing guests and the owner to move from one part of the landscape to another.
- There are many examples of wayfinding brighteners like path lights, step lights, and post lights at gates or fences.
- When lighting the path directly, you can plan the lighting from side to side and never in a row or all on one side, creating a sense of balance. Also, between the path lights, you can add some ambient lighting within the beds to provide depth.
- Avoid placing lights too close together, using lights that are too bright or lights that shine up into visitors' eyes.
The types of lights for better wayfinding are as follows:
- There are path lights available that come in LED and solar models. They come in many styles such as lanterns, lamps, or posts.
- For paver lights, recessed lights are installed in the edges of the walkway paving. There are also solar-powered paver lights that don't require any wiring.
- Lantern topped piers, pillars, and bollards provide greater visibility and create a focal point.
3. Not only the amount of light is important, but also the quality of light
- The Kelvin range used in residential outdoor lighting is between 2500k-4000k.
- As a rule of thumb, warmer color temperatures are used on architectural elements (2500k-2700k) and cooler temperatures are used on plants (3000k-4000k).
- A good practice is “moonlighting”; when you lit from high up, down into trees, 4000k is best as it mimics the color of the moonlight.
General rules are as follows:
- Use extremely warm White (2000K) light for entertainment areas. This temperature offers a very soothing and natural tone that mimics the glow of a campfire.
- Use warm White (2700K) light for general landscape lighting. This is considered the most welcoming and soothing temperature.
- Use natural White (3000K) light to accentuate greens and blues in vegetation.
- Use Cool White (4000K) light to illuminate blue vegetation (such as blue spruce).
- Use extremely Cool White (5000K) light for blue spruce will enhance and the dark blues and silvers of the pine needles. Lighting cacti with a green/silver filter will also bring out the plant’s true colors.