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Light up the Night

Text and photography: Loren Shirley-Carr. Article from the January 2012 issue of Garden and Home Magazine.

Extend the hours of enjoyment you get from your garden by transforming it into a nocturnal showpiece.

Craig de Necker of The Friendly Plant used strands of LED strip lighting from Envirodeck under the seating on this patio for an ambient glow; it's weatherproof and fits into very tight spaces. Lanterns and candles enhance the inviting mood. Calligraphy black cushion, R680, abstract floral navy cushion, R995, map cushion, R680 and green throw, R250, all from Cabbages & Roses; striped cushions and fitted cushion on chair, owner's own. Grape suede throw, R199, and red wine glasses, R39 each, all from @home. Large glass lantern, R533, from Santos.With the addition of a couple of lights, you can give your garden a whole new identity after dark. “The great thing about lighting is that you can decide what not to light, so even an average garden can look spectacular at night,” says landscaper Arthur Mennigke, The Naked Gardener.

To help you to bring out the best in your garden as the sun sets, we asked the experts to share the secrets of creating the perfect outdoor lighting scheme.

Light up living areas

“The lighting of entertaining areas needs to be practical as well as aesthetic; the use of dimmers will cater for both. Use dimmable lights to light up the surrounding lawn as well,” advises Arthur. To create the right mood, he recommends that you use the ambient lighting from the house in the entertaining area and augment it with lanterns, which is also better from an energy-saving point of view.

Highlight focal points

Lanterns are a great energy-saving idea. Medium glass lantern, R339, and mosaic glass lanterns, R281 each, all from SantosWhen choosing what to light, the same principles of daytime gardening apply. Look at your focal points, which could be trees, statues or water features, and whatever aspects you enjoy during the day, choose to highlight those at night.

Landscaper Craig de Necker from The Friendly Plant suggests using spotlights to light up tree canopies or artworks in a garden. “For statues, display pots and specimen trees, use a spotlight from both the left and right side to create depth. A water feature that would otherwise be invisible at night can be brought to life with a single underwater spotlight,” he says.

Be practical

Lighting can also be used to make certain areas safer at night, for example, bollard or floor-mounted lights along the edge of a deck or framing a pathway. According to Arthur, this also intensifies the lines of the design. “In fact, when only the hard elements of the design are lit, the garden takes on a different personality at night, and often what is not lit is more dramatic than what is. I love the idea of ‘black velvet spaces’ in a garden,” he adds.

Types of lighting

To create the desired look, outdoor lighting should be chosen according to its function:

Ambient lighting creates sufficient lighting for your requirements, whether you want a low-level glow to create a relaxing atmosphere or full illumination for practical purposes. Melissa Davidson of The Lighting Warehouse recommends recessed ground lights, free-standing posts and poles, floodlights, wall brackets, lanterns, bulkheads and sphere light fittings for this purpose.

Accent lighting highlights specific features such as garden statuary, plants, a feature wall, pools and water features. “The type of light depends on the design and age of the garden. I find that downlighters only work well when there are tall, established trees, as the light cast from above creates a wonderful glow and shadow at the foot of old trees, which look particularly good when they are surrounded by lawn,” advises Arthur.

Placing uplighters at the base of trees and shrubs will turn plants into striking focal features at night; light fittings from The Lighting Warehouse.To create drama, uplighters and backlighters are ideal, especially for lighting up tree canopies and highlighting plants and objects with good form and structure. “When using uplighting, make sure to light the stem of the plant,” recommends Arthur. Backlighting creates a silhouette which is formed by the object that is placed in front of the light. This is most effective for objects that have bold or distinct shapes.

“Uplighting or downlighting walls with textured plaster or those clad with stone has a beautiful effect at night as the patterns become more pronounced,” says Craig.

Task lighting is used to light up areas in frequent use, such as steps, pathways or driveways. For these areas, Melissa suggests surface recessed and walkover lights, bollards, outdoor table lamps, spotlights and short post lamps.

The latest in lighting

This square outdoor seat light fitting, R1 409, and round fitting, R1 272, from Eurolux are perfect for the entertainer's garden.Here are four trendy ideas that you could include in your garden lighting scheme:

Bold use of colour adds a real sense of drama at night. Red and aubergine work well, but avoid colour-changing lights as they can look gaudy.

Try to link the lighting colour to the colour scheme of your home. Use fibre-optic lighting, especially suited for water features or in paving, or LED rope lights, which can be fitted into tight spots, such as under the edges of decking or built-in seating. LED lighting has a low energy consumption, high light output and lasts longer than many traditional lighting products.

Solar-powered lights are becoming more popular, saving money while reducing energy consumption. As technology improves over time, batteries are made to charge quicker with less sunlight and provide energy for a longer time.

The gabions in this garden designed by Craig de Necker of The Friendly Plant are filled with stones and lit from within.Light bulbs have also become more efficient, using less power to emit more light. Solar-powered lights are easy to install as they don’t need to be connected to the mains electricity.

Light-up seats or containers, which glow from the inside out, can add design flair to your entertaining areas.

Gabions filled with stones provide a beautiful textural contrast in the garden. By creating cavities within the gabions, you can install a globe or spotlight that will emit light through the gaps in the rocks or pebbles.

This works well for subtle lighting to define an end point or boundary of the garden.

6 Of the best night lights
  1. 6 Of the best night lightsMayfair lantern, from The Lighting Warehouse.
  2. Victoria lantern, from The Lighting Warehouse.
  3. Laudani and Romanelli Moon Leaves absorb sunlight during the day and offer a soft glow at night, useful as stairway markers, from Sean Williams Contracts.
  4. Lorena decorative patio light, from Eurolux.
  5. Use one of these Amalfi energy-saving decorative ratio lights, in green or white, along walkways or to mark the edge of a patio, from Eurolux.
  6. Alberto Brogliato gumball light outdoor seat, from Sean Williams Contracts.

@home 021 938 1911 or www.home.co.za Cabbages & Roses 011 447 5002 Envirodeck www.envirodeck.co.za Eurolux 011 608 2970,021 528 8400 or www.eurolux.co.za Santos 011 880 8259 Sean Williams Contracts 086 179 2727,021 448 2252 or www.seanwilliamscontracts.co.za The Friendly Plant 082 805 0910 or www.thefriendlyplant.co.za The Lighting Warehouse 011 201 2621 or www.lightingwarehouse.co.za The Naked Gardener 083 308 2504

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