An Introduction to Garden Lighting

As the evenings draw in, magically transform your garden after dusk with lighting, and create beautiful effects to enjoy in the evenings.


Lighting adds a completely new dimension to gardens.  Particularly in the somewhat cloudy climes of England, a well thought out lighting system can be a great addition to a garden. Good lighting enables you to enjoy your garden when it’s normally hidden in darkness – whether entertaining outside on a warm summer’s evening, or looking out from the warmth of the house on a cold winter’s night.

Inspiration: Lighting Effects

Whilst lighting does have a practical purpose, lighting in gardens is frequently used simply for beautiful effects. This is when garden lighting comes into its own and can be magical. Consider creating beautiful three-dimensional effects by uplighting trees, backlighting plants, washing walls and silhouetting features. By highlighting particular aspects such as water features, trees or structures, it is possible to give the garden depth and atmosphere. These techniques create a warm and inviting space which will seamlessly connect indoor and outdoor living.

1. Less is More

  • One of the biggest failures of a poor lighting design is too many lights in a single space.
  • If there are too many lights, you will lose the distinction between one area and another and therefore the soft glowing effect that most people want.
  • When considering lighting, think less is more (unless of course you are looking to re-create Aladdin’s Cave!)

2. Creating Focal Features

  • Architectural plants produce pivotal structural forms such as trees and shrubs, letting light into their canopies and increasing spatial depth.
  • Lighting through planting borders can also be used to draw the eye through to a particular feature such as a water feature or a statue, however, to avoid it looking like a runway don’t place the lights in a straight line.
  • The best lighting for planting is up lights on moveable spikes so the direction of the light can be adjusted.
  • Mesmorising effects can be created by shining light through water or reflecting it off of water. Plants or walls can be used as backdrops for the light and shapes to bounce off.
  • When incorporating a water feature into a design, I make sure it is in a prominent position within the garden so that it can be clearly seen as well as heard.

3. Creating Atmosphere

  • The type and colour of the lighting you choose can dramatically alter the atmosphere in a space. For example, fairy lights or hanging bulbs on a pergola can bring a romantic atmosphere to a seating area.
  • Lighting through planting beds, trees and water features brings a calming, tranquil, moonlight effect to a space.
  • Warmer tones are more relaxing to look at and work well in a garden that is viewed a lot from inside or used for unwinding in the evenings.
  • Cooler tones give more life to a space and bring an inviting, energetic and contemporary atmosphere. This works well in a modern design or a space used for entertaining in the evenings.

3. Extending Your Time Spent Outdoors

  • The main purpose of outdoor lighting is to extend your time spent in you garden. One easy way to encourage more use of your seating areas in the evening is by having a fire pit.
  • Handily, firepits don’t need to be permanent fixed structures, but consider adding space for a fire pit within your design.
  • A firepit will bring warmth and a natural glow to your garden, where family and friends can gather around.
  • If the lighting design is done well, the area will be inviting and cosy, so that you can enjoy time with friends and family and make the most of those warm summer nights.

4. Looking Inside Out

  • We all know that winter weather doesn’t exactly provide the most ideal conditions for spending evenings in the garden. It can therefore be difficult to justify the expense of new lighting…
  • … However, don’t forget that a garden with lighting can be enjoyed just as much from inside the house as outside.
  • As the evenings draw in, the garden can be enjoyed from the comfort of your sitting room or dining room – imagine cosy evenings at Christmas, looking out to a magical view over the garden.
  • In fact when designing a garden with lighting in mind, you are creating a beautiful picture window to be enjoyed both during the day and the night, whatever the weather and throughout the year.

Some Practical Tips

  • Think About Lighting Early
    Lighting may not be the first thing you think of when planning your garden, but its well worth thinking about it early on. This is why, at my initial meeting with clients, I will ask them to think about lighting as part of their garden plan. At a presentation I will go on to make suggestions for where and how lighting can be used to enhance the design. If you are not sure whether or not you want lighting when having a new garden or patio built, it would still be worth installing some conduit / ducting under the patio (with a drawstring) while it is being laid.  This may save digging up the patio at a later date.
  • Safety
    For safety purposes, always use a qualified electrician to connect the garden lighting to the household circuit.
  • Colour
    Think about how bright the lamps need to be in the various areas of the garden, and what colour lamps are required. There are various shades of white – most ALDA clients prefer a soft or warm white. Beware of lighting schemes that make your garden look like the nearest Tesco car park!
  • Lighting Control
    Think about where you would like to control the lights from, and how many different lighting circuits are required – i.e. which lights you will want to control with the same or different switches. If security lighting is also being installed, we would recommend having it on a separate switch, so that it can be turned off.  Having a security light continually flicking on and off when entertaining with friends and family is not particularly conducive to a relaxing evening!
  • Technology
    Most lights we install have LED bulbs with options available on colour and amount of light omitted. LED lights have a low energy consumption and long service life which makes them a relatively low cost to run.

Types of Garden Lighting

If you feel inspired and would like to discuss lighting ideas for your own garden, we’d love to talk! Please get in touch.

Photo Credits
Shirotori Teien Garden Light up” by ururun4412 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Like what you see?

From planning a new border to a complete garden remodel, we pride ourselves on transforming ideas into beautiful reality, with minimum disruption. If you’re based in or around the Reading and Newbury area, we’d love to meet and discuss your project in detail – book your free no-obligation garden consultation today. We do get pretty booked up, particularly during the Spring, so plan ahead if possible!