One of the great things about landscape lighting is that much of it can be added into an existing landscape. Most of the time, LED fixtures and low voltage wiring are easily installed at any time for a quick upgrade to your landscape.
However there are few cases where a little advance planning can take your lighting to the next level. Your landscape designer will plan for proper installation (specifying wiring needs, transformer size and location, the proper number of fixtures) as well as overall aesthetic value.
When we design landscape plans, we always make sure to include conduits for lighting wiring, regardless of whether lighting is being installed. To install your own conduit in advance, simply buy some conduit (plastic pipe) at your local home store, cover the ends with duct tape to keep out the dirt, bury it and take a photo and measurements of where exactly it is located. There is nothing worse than having to dig through compacted road crush to retrofit a conduit underneath a path to hide some lighting wire. Trust me on this one!
We also think about various lighting effects that we might want to create in our lighting plan. The photo above is a great example of what planning can achieve. I love how the deck lights are artfully placed in an organic, harmonious way. Imagine if the lights were all dutifully lined up - it would be so predictable. Instead the designer has created a mini constellation in the stairs. Beautiful.
The other lighting that needs to be installed at the time of construction is any lighting incorporated into hardscape. This means your deck stair lights, retaining walls, some path light, pergola lights, etc. need to be accounted for in the planning stages. Technically these can be retrofitted, but usually at three times the price. Notice the gorgeous lights on the steps in the above photo: they go beyond the practical necessity and become a stunning design element, echoing the horizontal lines in the roof and balancing the vertical lies of the stone posts and birch grove. What a great investment! If the landscape designer or homeowner had decided to do little path way fixtures like the ones in the adjacent photo, it wouldn't have nearly the impact. In fact, it would detract from both the house and the landscape, even though they could easily be at a later stage in the landscaping.
We’ve come a long way from the little blue and orange solar-powered light fixtures people used to use to line their front walkways, effectively turning them into miniature runways. Thank goodness. Professional landscape lighting products have at least a 5 year warranty and some offer a lifetime warranty. Make sure to use LED bulbs as they have a lifetime of approximately 60,000 hours — that’s 10 years! I would recommend avoiding the fixtures that you can buy at a big home building store, we have found that the plastic can crack in cold temperatures, and they are easily damaged by lawn mowers or errant children. We prefer using heavier duty lighting fixtures that stand up to time and weather and poorly steered lawn mowers.
Path light: A free standing fixture, usually “12-24” in height that is placed on alternating sides of a path or to highlight a grade change. The light faces downwards, ensuring that the path is clearly lit.
Wall light: These are built into walls (decorative or retaining) and cast a soft glow down the side of the wall.
Bullet light: A small light that is placed at the base of a tree or shrub, shining upwards to highlight the form of the branches.
Wash light: This is similar to a wall light, but it shines upwards. These are placed close to the walls to ensure that the upward light doesn’t shine in your eyes.
Tree light: A fixture that is attached twenty to thirty feet up in a tree and casts a soft glow downwards, replicating moonlight.
Puck light: These are small and round with a low profile - usually just 1” high, with light emanating from one side. They are usually placed in a garden bed to highlight boulders or stone steps or any other feature that is too low for a bullet light to be used effectively.
Good lighting is one of the best investments you can make in your landscape. Imagine coming home to your beautifully lit home and garden, sharing one more conversation and hoping the night never ends.
For more lighting inspiration, check out our Pinterest board on lighting.