There’s sort of unspoken rule about garden lighting – there’s something mysterious and difficult about it. People who aren’t afraid to try transplanting a rose bush, say, might think twice when it comes to installing garden lights.
On the one hand, it’s easy to understand. After all, we’re talking about electricity here. There’s a reason people need to get a license before they start playing around with it! But when it comes to do it yourself garden lights, you can take a deep breath. Exterior grade light fixtures tend to function on only twelve watts of voltage – that’ll give you a little buzz but hardly more than that.
In fact, perking up your garden with some soft illumination is a great way to understand the basics of working with electricity!
Tips on Installing Garden Lights
First, get yourself organized – have everything you need on hand. Also, be sure you’ve decided where the lights are going – along a walk, at the base of a tree, in the midst of some ferns.
- Next, turn over the earth, run the cable (generally about twelve gauge) and bury it. You don’t want people tripping over the cords!
- Then, hook up the transformer to the power source. You can attach the transformer to the house if you’d like – close to the exterior power outlet – or give it its own base, such as a small stake or wooden panel. The transformer runs power to the garden light fixtures when its plugged into the outside outlet.
- Go back to your light fixtures and be sure you’ve got them where you want them. Remember, you don’t want to set lights up where people might bump into them or step on them. This is a question of safety as well as aesthetics – a broken light isn’t going to make your garden shine!
Always be sure that you keep a good distance – at least ten feet and preferably fifteen – between your outside light and any source of water such as a garden fountain, a decorative pond, or a pool.
Pinch the connector halves around the cable that’s rooted in the garden. You should hear a click and – just as important – you should see some light!
Most outdoor lighting packages will come with INSTRUCTIONS – be sure to read them carefully when you’re installing the lights. Safety is the key element. It’s not a complicated job – thinking a bit in advance will go a long way to ensuring that your garden lighting is lovely!
Less is More
If there’s one thing that’s true about garden lighting, it’s this. Once you’re hooked it can be hard to know when to stop. There’s always another plant that needs a little garden illumination, or a walkway that could use a little ground lighting. It doesn’t stop there, either. Maybe you decide to go with some eco-friendly garden lighting or gazing balls. Maybe you think, You know what? I want to string some Japanese lanterns back and forth between the trees. You’ve got a lovely pop-up shelter and the light would make it perfect.
Next thing you know your lovely garden looks less like a piece of Heaven glowing on Earth and more like . . . well, let’s just say that it looks a little less classy than it used to. So when you’re feeling like it’s time to add yet another decorative piece to your garden, you might want to rein that feeling in. Because the truth about garden lighting is pretty simple and can be summed up this way: Less is more.
That’s right. Less is more. And given all the temptations that can be a hard rule to follow. One visit to your local garden supply store and you’ll likely see so many lights you want to buy that you can shake a stick at.
Before you set up your first exterior light fixture, take a good look at the space that’s going to be affected. Consider the natural play of light and shadow.
When does your garden look best – in the morning sun? The direct light of noon? What about at twilight? For that matter, how does the moon reflect on your gardening efforts?
The best plan for exterior garden lights is to try and mimic – and, in some respects, enhance – the already natural effects of natural light. The tasteful and careful installation of exterior twelve-volt fixtures can create a world of beauty and simplicity that truly elevates your garden viewing experience.
Be sure to study the garden at night many times before you install lighting. Bring a flashlight – or several, preferably with varied beams and colors. Play the lights this way and that – at different angles and from different locations. What seems to work best? Keep an eye out on other sources of light. Is there a streetlight nearby? How about a neighboring house with floodlights aimed right at your property? These will impact your own garden lighting design scheme.
Remember, you’re not trying to drown your garden in virtual spotlights so much as gently boost its natural beauty and presence.