Landscapers advice on outdoor lighting for garden designs (Part3)

When you have decided you are going to install garden lighting, there are a few things to consider.

  1. Switching position
  2. Power type
  3. Tips for garden lighting
  4. Lighting effect
  5. Lighting material
  6. light type
  7. Bulb type

For this blog I will discuss no. 4.

1. Lighting effect

When deciding lighting effects to achieve make a lighting plan. Take in the garden and decide on areas, objects and plants you want to illuminate. Be careful not to put in too many lights or they will drown each other out, alternatively too few will appear patchy, a spacing of around 3m is a good solution. When planning I advise employing a reputable landscaper to avoid costly mistakes.  The following is a description of some lighting effects that are easily achievable within the common garden.

Uplighting – This is when the light source is placed in front and below, the object to be lit. Its especially effective for highlighting a large focal point in the garden – a tree, a large shrub or architectural features such as pillars, walls, statuary and urns.

Outdoor Lighting Designs
Uplighting of tree

Cross lighting- This is similar to uplighting in that the light source is placed below and in front of the object to be lit. Where it differs is that the illumination comes from two light sources placed some distance apart and angled back to the focal point.

Garden Designs in Dublin at Night Time
Cross lighting of shrubs framing path

Silhouetting – Sometimes called backlighting, silhouetting is when the lightsource is placed behind the object to be lit. It can be used to create truly dramatic lighting effects. A solid object such as a statue will have its outline sharply defined but the details will be in the shadow. A translucent object will glow and the lighter parts will be highlighted.


Exterior Garden Lighting Design in Dublin by Kevin Baumann
Silhoutte of bamboo

Water reflection – Water features at night become a mirror. Lighting an object near the edge of the water, or branches overhanging it, will create a reflection on its surface. On a still night it will be a perfect mirror image. When a soft breeze blows the reflection will dance on the ripples.

Down lighting – This is where the light source is placed above the object to be lit. Down lighting is usually used to emphasise the architectural features of a house, garden buildings, or to spot light objects such as planters and benches.

Garden Lighting
Down lighting of sleeper wall

Shadowing – Like all lighting, garden lighting creates shadows that can be used to dramatic effect. Shadows of leaves, topiary, trellising or statuary can be projected onto walls or across lawns, decks and terraces. Adjusting the size of these shadows can be achieved by moving the light source nearer or further away to evoke strong moods in the night time garden.

Outdoor Garden Lighting Ireland
Shadowing on timber fence

Wash lighting – This is where a surface is washed with light. The solid surface might be on the ground, a wall, even a fence. The light source is placed as close as possible to the surface so the play of light and shadow emphasises the texture.

Garden Lighting Design Ireland
Wash lighting of circular patio

Step lighting – Whether lighting a single step on a garden path or an entire staircase, minimising glare is a critical safety issue as well as an aesthetic consideration. Unless steps are a distinctive, architectural feature in their own right, the use of discreet lights that create minimal light spillage will create a safer walking environment and avoid distracting attention from more interesting garden features.

Shankill, Dublin, Ireland - garden with outdoor garden lighting at night time
Step lighting

Path lighting – This needs no explanation but it dose need careful planning. The light beam needs to be directed at ground level to avoid dazzeling the walker, causing discomfort and possible injury. If a path is to be lit as part of a wider garden lighting scheme, keeping the path lighting discreet will enhance the impact of lighting elsewhere. Dramatic effects can be achieved using path lighting to mark any boundary.

Outdoor Lighting Designer Designs
Path lighting leading through garden

Moon Lighting – Many garden lighting effects rely on focusing a tightly defined beam of light at a single point of interest. Moon lighting dose the opposite – the effect is created by shining a wide beam of light downwards to resemble real moonlight. The light is usually mounted on a high branch of a tree and aimed down through the leaves. The result is a soft diffused light creating a soothing atmosphere for a seating area.





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