Garden Glow Know-how

The best landscape lighting for your garden and yard.

By Erik J. Martin

Want a yard and garden that brightens up your disposition and spotlights safety? Consider landscape lighting on your grounds that can add instant aesthetic appeal and valuable illumination to deter trespassers.

Proper outdoor lighting is a good idea to protect your home against theft while also creating an ambiance that radiates warmth and joy for the people living inside. Studies suggest mental health benefits can be gained when you have a good yard design, and lighting can make a huge difference in your yard’s appearance.

Joe Raboine, director of Residential Hardscapes for Belgard, subscribes to that theory.

“Lighting has become a staple of outdoor living spaces nowadays. Homeowners often utilize outdoor spaces for guests and entertaining, which is why having a properly lit outdoor area is important – it increases the functionality of the space and adds value to the home,” he says. “Outdoor lighting can also help prevent accidents, especially around features like pools and fire pits.”

Ideal outdoor areas best suited for landscape lighting include gardens, home entrance areas, the sides of paths and driveways, yard sitting areas, and near swimming pools.

Landscape lighting includes path lights, spotlights, accent lights, floodlights, up/downlights, step lights, garden lights, and bollard lights.

Path lights are typically used to line walkways or driveways. They can provide a gentle light that helps guide people through your yard at night. Spotlights can highlight features in your yard, like sculptures, trees, or fountains. Accent lights are smaller and can be used to highlight specific areas or objects. Floodlights are powerful lights that can illuminate a large area or walkways and are often used for security purposes or for lighting up a backyard for outdoor parties.

Up/downlights, meanwhile, can be utilized to create a sense of depth and dimension in your outdoor space. When placing them, be sure to take things like the height of the fixture and the light beam angle into account.

Step lights are integrated into and around steps leading to a home entrance or deck/porch steps, helping users avoid slips, trips, and falls in these areas.

Garden lights are generally installed to add character to a garden during the evening. They can be employed to illuminate particular plants, shrubs, or flowers or provide general ambient lighting.

Bollard lights, often set upon a particular kind of post, are typically used to line driveways, walkways, and other areas where it’s essential to see more clearly.

Homeowners can choose from two types of powered lights: solar or low-voltage wired. The former are inexpensive, wireless, and more easily found in home improvement stores today, while the latter is more reliable.

Wired low-voltage landscape lighting is definitely worth the extra expense and time of installing them, especially in places where security and safety are the primary goals. Wired landscape lighting doesn’t depend on obtaining energy from the sun as solar lights do.

The downsides of wired lighting are that it takes longer to install, these lights require running hidden cables through your lawn or garden that are connected to a transformer, and you’ll need to plug the transformer into an electrical outlet. But they tend to last much longer than solar lights and are often brighter.

Raboine points out that low-voltage lighting doesn’t require a licensed electrician for installation.

“Any handy do-it-yourselfer should be able to safely install these wired lights,” he says.

When choosing outdoor lights, pay attention to the lumens listed on the box.

Lumens, or the amount of light you get from a bulb, will depend on the purpose of your landscape lights. If you are going for safety or security, higher lumens are better. If you use landscape lighting as a decorative feature, a lower lumen light will suffice.

Count on paying as little as a few dollars for an individual solar pathway light to several hundreds of dollars for a wired light kit.