Let’s Grow!
How to do landscape lighting the right way

Skillful low-voltage lighting can enhance any landscape while providing night lighting for safety. (GoodSeed Farm photo)
By Steve Boehme

Landscape lighting done well adds a totally new dimension to any landscaping. The ability to enjoy your landscape after dark is the “icing on the cake” for outdoor living rooms, and gives your home unbelievable curb appeal at night. Simply lighting the pathways you walk at night makes your yard much more functional, safe and attractive.

Steve Boehme

I’m not talking about eye-level post lights, floodlights or porch lights. We call these types of lights “glare bombs” because they actually blind you at night. Neither do we mean those dinky “solar lights” they sell in big-box stores, or any kind of “security light” or street light. These lights give an unattractive pallor to people and plants.

Your home and landscaping are very personal “works of art” and deserve the same lighting used in galleries and museums: full-spectrum halogen light. Halogen bulbs flatter plants, people, buildings, food; anything you want to see at night looks better with halogen lighting than with any other kind (except natural sunlight of course). Quality lighting systems offer well-made halogen light fixtures powered by a 12 volt transformer plugged into a wall socket. A complete system can consume as little as 200 watts.

Here’s the most important secret of effective, artistic outdoor lighting: select fixtures that hide the bulb itself, and place and adjust them so that you can’t see the actual bulb. You should see reflected light only; lighted plants, trees, walls, pavement, signs, flags or whatever but never the bulb from the direction you are viewing from. Even underwater in your pond or waterfall, lights should be carefully aimed away from the viewer and toward beautiful objects and scenes.

A creative lighting installer can create “light paintings” by directing pools of light onto walls, down-lighting pavers, up-lighting trees and flags, and accenting anything you’d like to call attention to. It actually doesn’t take many fixtures or much electricity to create beautiful effects, if you first get rid of other glaring lights in the scene. Creative light placement allows you to focus attention on the prettiest scenes and vignettes, while masking less attractive areas.

People often ask us how they can safely light walks, patios and drives without big floodlights, motion detector lights, and “security lights” mounted on poles and buildings. The answer is that your eyes naturally adjust to the available light. Big, bright “glare bombs” actually blind you by making your eyes close down so you can’t see anything outside the lit scene.

If you use small, low-voltage halogen bulbs, and carefully point them away from the viewer, your eyes will become more sensitive and you’ll actually see better at night.

We absolutely love our low-voltage night lighting. We can walk between “pools” of light that show off our hardscape patios and walks. Up-lit trees act like reflectors, spreading light gently all around our gardens.

We even have special accent lights on our grilling station so Marjorie can cook outdoors at night while enjoying the flowers. The overall effect is to make our landscape look like a picture postcard all season long, using less electricity than a single “security light” would burn.

Steve Boehme is the owner of GoodSeed Nursery & Landscape, located on Old State Route 32 three miles west of Peebles. To e-mail your landscaping questions click “Contact Us” from their website at www.goodseedfarm.com or call (937) 587-7021.