Garden Lighting Effects

Consider how you might use some or all of the effects listed below to help your garden look its nighttime best.

Uplighting - This is one of the most basic effects. All it requires is a light at ground level that's pointed more or less upward. Place a light at the base of a tree to emphasize the trunk. Take another light and place it a few feet out to show off the canopy of branches and leaves above. Uplighting can also be used to show off the architecture of your house or the latticework of a gazebo.

Downlighting - Use downlighting to show off a bed of flowers, or a beautiful plant. Hang or fix the light just high enough to spread a circle of light around the feature you wish to emphasize. If that's not an option, consider a light that can be focused to get the size circle you desire. Downlighting is also useful for illuminating doorways and other entrances and exits. Out in the yard, it can provide light for your entertaining needs without glaring into the guests' eyes.

Washing - Place the light to the side of what you want to illuminate and let the light "wash" over it, bathing an entire wall or row of bushes. This will create a soft glow over the whole area. Experiment with the height and angle of the light to see what provides the best result.

Shadowing - This involves washing a feature such as a tree or statue so that it casts a shadow on a wall or fence. The play of light and darkness can be quite intriguing, especially if the object is affected by the breeze. Again, you'll want to experiment with the height and angle. Lighting the object from low down and angling upward can provide a larger than life dramatic effect.

Path and Step Lighting - At its most basic, path and step lighting exists to keep the walker safe. You want to make sure all obstacles and turns are well illuminated. But beyond that, a carefully lighted path can give a sense of romance or adventure. It should make the viewer want to go and see where the pathway might lead. Low level lighting will add to the sense of mystery. Lighting higher up may offer a sense of charm or security.

Crosslighting - Crosslighting lights the feature from two sides. You don't want to overdo this effect since that can lead to overlighting and a washed out look. But used judiciously, crosslighting can highlight the main feature of your garden and soften the look at the same time.

Moonlighting - Moonlighting can be complicated to achieve, but the effect can be magical and romantic. The best candidate for moonlighting is a tree that doesn't have densely packed branches. This will allow you to hang several lamps within the canopy of branches so that the whole thing is lit from within. The leaves and branches intercept some of the light, leaving a dappled effect on the ground. And this effect changes as the breeze blows.

Water Lighting - Placing a light underwater adds more romance and charm. Moving water, especially, can change produce fascinating ripples and glints. A fish crossing over the light produces wonderful effects of color and shadow. And lighting the water from underneath adds depth to what would otherwise be a flat surface.

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