Garden lighting can be the thing that really takes your outdoor space to the next level, but undertaking a landscape lighting plan can be a tricky project. The Lazy Susan guide to good garden lighting will hopefully help you get it right.
We often talk on our blog about the importance of garden furniture, and how no garden, be it a large patio or a small balcony, is complete without it.
However, a well-designed garden is only really achieved when all the different elements (hardscaping, landscaping, outdoor furniture, outdoor accessories, etc) are combined, when each component comes together, compliments each other, when there’s harmony across the whole scheme.
Garden Lighting is a great example of this... On its own, well, it’s a light. Yes, it will help with security and safety, but incorporate it into a wider cohesive scheme, use it to best effect, and it can take on a whole new perspective.
For example, it can be used to accent a focal point such as a large tree, water feature or piece of garden art.
It can be used to illuminate an outdoor seating area, extending its use long after the sun goes down.
…But just like it can inside the home, get it wrong, and it just won’t function as you want it to. The wrong type of fixtures or a bad installation will only frustrate.
For the team here at Lazy Susan, we feel good garden lighting, is achieved in two ways:
- When only the effect of the light is visible, not the actual light source itself.
- When you make a statement with feature lighting fixtures such as downlights, post lights or festoon/string lights (as shown in the garden party photo above) that look good and provide the type of light effect you want.
The only time the above doesn't always need to be considered is if you’re talking safety lighting on say steps or a pathway, then you might want it to be both subtle in design but clearly visible.
However, for us, a good garden lighting scheme should (most importantly) bring a little magic when the sun goes down, and in this article, we will hopefully give you a little food for thought!
Make a landscape lighting plan for your garden
The first big question you need to ask when thinking about how best to light up your garden is: What do you want to see and what do you want to leave in the dark?
Unlike a room inside the home, outdoor lighting works best when you have light and dark. It is that contrast that adds to the drama.
You want it to illuminate enough so that the garden can be used on an evening but dramatic enough that you get the wow when looking out the window.
If you establish what features in your garden you like best such as say a pergola or large tree, then you can look for solutions that will best highlight them, that will provide you with some subtle illumination.
It could even be that parts of the garden such as say a row of conifers to the rear that acts as your ‘green screen’ during the day can take on a whole new lease of life when illuminated of an evening.
Even an old brick wall can be given a new dimension when dappled with a good downlight, the shadows it creates giving you that all-important wow factor.
As well as drama and/or effect, it is of course important to consider the function of garden lighting too.
If you have any steps or pathways that you use when the sun goes down, then it is definitely worth illuminating them so you can move around the space safely.
Utilising post lights for example down a garden path often have a great contemporary look but they’re also practical.
A patio area on the other hand can be lit with soft glow festoon-style bulb lights to invite people outside and onto the space.
The warm glow will help to make the space feel cosy, even when the temperature dips, just like a well-illuminated front door will give the front of your property that all-important curb appeal at nighttime.
If you start by looking at what you want to light up and where, sketch it out on a piece of paper, note what function each light will serve (i.e. safety or decorative), then you can best identify the solutions (types of lighting) to install and create the look/effect you want to achieve.
How to start planning and designing a garden lighting scheme
Once you’ve answered the basics of what type of lighting scheme you want, the next step is to design and determine how to safely install it.
Start by measuring up and creating a detailed plan of the space, marking up where you want the lights to go, and what function you want them to perform.
From there you can start looking at solutions that will deliver the type of light and effect you’re looking for.
The video below from Architects the 30X40 Design Workshop is a great place to start.
It looks at the fundamentals of good exterior lighting design and some general design techniques to consider when looking at how to light outdoor spaces:
This next video from B&Q also has some great ideas, expert advice and tips that will help you complete a garden lighting scheme with confidence:
If you want to go down the smart route, then this video from Joe Robinson explores 5 ways in which it can be used in the garden. From changing existing lights to colour change or using geofencing to turn the lights on just before you arrive home.
If you want to look at things from another angle, then the next video from Landscape Lighting explores the common mistakes people make when it comes to lighting their gardens.
And, it doesn’t matter if you’re doing the installation yourself or hiring a professional, the design and planning process is always a great place to start.
Even for those with no experience, a little research will go a long way. It’ll help you decided exactly what it is you want.
When it comes to your own plan, draw it to scale, include all the landscape features, and mark up the areas that you want to light and how.
This will be invaluable if you’re doing the job yourself, but if you decide to bring in a pro, it’ll ensure they understand exactly what it is you want.
Even if the professional comes along and suggests ways of improving/changing, it will still give you and them a great starting point!
What types of garden lights do you need?
Now the previous questions are pretty easy to answer, even without any experience. From this point is where it can get a little tricky, depending on what it is you’re looking to do.
If you have a large garden then you’re probably looking at the need for a mix of different lighting types, such as security, wall and ground.
Selecting the best types to create the look you want can be a real head-scratcher, and of course, the installation is more complex, so it might be time to call a professional?
However, if you just have a small plot or you just want to illuminate a small section of a larger garden such as say the patio area, then a few decking, spike or festoon style lights placed around the space will often give you the inviting glow you’re looking for.
Generally speaking, there are 4 main types of garden lighting:
Within those 4 main groups, you have a host of different lighting solutions such as:
- Garden Spike Lights
- Garden Bollard Lights
- Garden Post Lights
- Outdoor Spotlights
- Garden Wall Downlights
- Outdoor Floodlights
- In-Ground Lights
- Festoon Lights
- Fairy Lights
...We could go on but you get the idea. There’s a lot to choose from!
Do a little research and shop around for the lighting type that will do the job - in terms of look/style and lighting effect - that you want it to do!
However, there’s a but. A big but!
Before you fall in love with all manner of stylish lighting fixtures and fittings, you need to think about the cost of installation too.
Do you currently have an outdoor power supply?
If not then that’s an additional cost you’ll need to factor in.
For example, if you’re looking at placing downlight’s on an exterior brick wall such as I have in my own garden, then you can run the wiring from the mains power supply through the wall from inside to out. I turn them all on and off from our kitchen diner.
Choose the right IP Rating
You need to think about the safest place to install both the light fixtures and any switches.
If you’re not a qualified electrician, then again, please call a professional.
Any light fittings you do purchase must have the correct IP rating (IP43, IP44 or higher) and any switches must be fully sheltered from moisture ingress.
The IP rating is critical, it is the Ingress Protection Rating.
The higher the rating number, the more waterproof that fixture is.
If you’re unsure, speak to an electrician before you buy, however, as a general guide, the following IP ratings are recommended:
Sheltered outdoor areas such as a wall with overhanging roof or garden shed.
Exposed outdoor areas that are open to the elements such as a wall or pergola
Exposed outdoor areas that are open to heavy rain such as a pathway or decking
Submerged in shallow water such as a garden pond or water feature.
Submerged in deep water deeper than 1 metre such as a larger body of water or swimming pool.
Our advice is to only purchase from a reputable supplier, if there’s no clear rating, don’t buy, and if you’re in any doubt, speak to an expert!
Hire a professional
We’ve said it a few times already in this article, but if you are looking for a more complex lighting solution, then please hire a professional.
A good garden designer, landscape architect, or lighting designer will really bring the wow factor.
An electrician will also make sure the installation meets all the necessary safety standards, and to be honest, many have significant experience in this field too.
You should never take risks with electrical safety or just ‘have a go’!
At Lazy Susan, we would always advise that you hire a qualified electrician to install and test all outdoor lighting that requires connection to the mains power supply.
Garden lighting ideas and inspiration from Lazy Susan
The Lazy Susan team has pulled together some of our favourite garden lighting ideas from a mix of customer photos and product recommendations.
Hopefully, they’ll help provide a little inspiration in order to pull that initial outdoor lighting plan together:
Light up that Lazy Susan garden table
To extend the use of your Lazy Susan Garden Table into the evening, then our advice would be to add some pendant or festoon style lights to keep that garden party going in style.
At Lazy Susan, the team and I are big fans of the Core Series Connectable Festoon String Lights from Ultra LEDs (shown below).
Their core range of festoons is here to provide a cosy and inviting atmosphere to your outdoor space, and you can choose from a selection of different IP44 rated decorative bulbs to get the exact lighting style you want.
Lights on your Lazy Susan garden parasol
If you’ve got a Lazy Susan Garden Parasol then why not use that to hang some fairy lights and create a cosy little spot for a glass of wine when the sun goes down?
One of our customers has achieved this to dramatic effect with our Alice Garden Table and coordinating parasol (pictured above).
Look to highlight key features and focal points
Maybe our favourite lighting technique?
Nothing brings a garden to life in the evening like some well-placed feature lighting.
The customer photo above shows how a patio at the bottom of the garden with our furniture can be brought to life with a spotlight. Possibly a little bright to use but dramatic when viewed from inside.
And why not even make the light itself the focal point?
Shape lights have these great Outdoor Sphere Lights (pictured above). They are USB-charged and solar-powered, giving you the freedom of positioning them anywhere in your garden.
Temporary lights can also bring the wow factor
A lot of the talk in this post has focused on hardwired permanent garden lighting.
However, you can also bring the wow factor with lanterns such as shown in the customer photo of our Olivia Garden Table below.
They’re a quick and easy solution to the need for some outdoor ambience but they really do look fab on our tables.
Bring planting to life at night with landscape lighting
With a little creative landscape lighting, you can showcase specific areas of planting or containers to really give them a new dimension in the evening.
This is all about standing back and admiring the view, drawing the eye to them like a painting, highlighting colour and shadow to create the drama.
When it comes to the actual landscape lighting itself, we could recommend a whole host of webshops and suppliers.
As a starting point have a look at some of the following as they all offer a full range of solutions:
John Cullen Lighting
Most of the above have their own guides and how-to videos too, so they’re perfect for shopping for the right lighting solutions for your garden.
Think about safety and illuminate steps and pathway
Whilst landscape lighting design gives you a warm atmosphere and enhances structural details/focal points, it is also essential in providing light for both safety and security.
A beautifully lit pathway will not only draw the eye and lead people to different parts of the garden, but it can also do it safely and illuminate any trip hazards such as steps and slopes.
And if it's pathway lighting you’re looking for, Lamp & Light have a great range of garden path lighting such as the stylish Baleno Industrial Pole Light (pictured above).
What about garden security lighting?
A secure garden with well-positioned outdoor lighting will deter burglars from targeting your home. The rear of our homes are often darker than the front, so some motion detection light is the perfect solution.
When it comes to outdoor security lighting, our advice would be to start at lights.co.uk.
They have an extensive range that’s easy to filter/search and much of their security lights, such as the Lucande LED outdoor wall light with motion detector (pictured above), look great too (in other words they don't look like a security light).
Solar Powered Garden Lighting
There were several points in this article where we were going to mention solar. Primarily, every time we suggested hiring a professional. If the cost of that is a little out of the budget, then solar is a great alternative.
They can be a little limited in terms of lighting effect but the market is definitely improving. However, you need to buy good lights, so our advice would be to head over to the Solar Centre.
Their Atlas Solar Spotlights (above) are a great way of illuminating planting without the need to hardwire.
Make your garden lights smart
If you are looking to do a new full install/scheme or update what you already have, then we would also recommend a little future-proofing. Just like the inside of our homes, you can now take the outside smart too.
With the Garden Lights Plus app (above) you can transform any 12-volt garden lighting system into a smart lighting system, giving you all the benefits of garden lighting with one big addition; their Plus Switch.
From their app, you can then create multiple zones, save your favourite settings and link them to as many timers as you wish. So you can set a timer for the evening and a separate one for the morning or have the lighting switch on as the sun goes down, by use of the integrated sensor.
Another great option, and my personal favourite when it comes to smart garden lighting, is the beautiful Phillips Hue Range.
Designed to bring your outdoor space to life with light, they offer two types of outdoor lighting in their range:
- Standard Voltage
Wired into your home's electrical system.
- Low Voltage
Simply plug into any outdoor plug socket allowing more flexibility in designing your outdoor lighting scheme.
Whatever you choose, the Phillips Hue range will enable you to transform both the look and how you use your garden with intelligent lighting.
Lazy Susans garden lighting tricks and tips
Garden lighting is definitely a subject we will revisit in the future, so please watch this space for more. In the meantime, we wanted to round off this article with a few final Lazy Susan tricks and tips.
One of the common mistakes many make is to over-light their gardens. Often low-level lighting solutions will give you that subtle glow many are looking for. Brighter lighting is best used for illuminating focal points and safety/security but not if you’re enjoying a meal with friends.
For example, you don’t want your garden table lit with a security spotlight every time somebody moves. You need enough light for the space to be safe to move around but not too much that the patio loses that cosy glow. It is a balance that a professional can help you get right, that or do your research, plan carefully and build in flexibility.
Different types of intensity and colour can have a big impact on the final lighting scheme. Selecting light fittings and bulbs that are dimmable and/or have a low lumen level is another way you can do this.
In terms of the planning and installation side, it is critical that everything is decided before you start any drilling and running of cables. There are lots you can do to hide things but a clear plan will eliminate mistakes and make the job easier.
Also, if you’re working with a new garden, think about how it will change as plants mature. Will the lighting scheme work in 2 years plus? Is it flexible and easy to adapt?
A poor design or installation will only disappoint. However, so will poor fixtures and fittings. The ‘buy cheap buy twice’ saying applies, cheap components are often prone to failure, so stick to the reputable retailers and listen to your electrician in terms of how best to install.
And last but by no means least…
If you’re not using the garden, turn those lights off, save power and money!
If your Lazy Susan garden furniture is all lit up at night then please send us some photos for our Do Some Good charity campaign.
Simply take a photo of your illuminated Lazy Susan furniture and we’ll donate money to our chosen charity partners.