In many neighborhoods, it is uncommon to see outdoor lighting beyond a couple of porch and garage lights. It's kind of tragic, really, as landscape lighting can turn a dark, unnoticeable yard into an outdoor art gallery. Perhaps it's time for you to set the standard in your neighborhood for nighttime illumination. There are ideas galore when it comes to landscape lighting. Here are a few unique design ideas that will help you create a stand-out nocturnal display.
Start With the Plants
Anyone can throw an uplight in their yard to highlight a tree or bush. Don't follow the crowd. Create a more dramatic look with one of these ideas:
- Choose plants that have interesting lines or textures. Plants with these qualities will not only look great during the day, they will have an artistic quality when lit at night.
- Uplight from the center of the plant. This technique is particularly effective with bushy plants and grasses, as it highlights the central architecture of the plant, rather than just the front. Grasses give additional visual interest when you can see the movement created by an evening breeze.
- Use a plant to create shadow art on a bare wall. With this technique, it is important to select a plant with interesting lines. This approach loses its wow factor if your shadow is merely a blob on the wall. Some good plants for this technique include agave, yucca, lily, and topiary trees. Select your plant based on its full-grown size, the size of your wall, and the local climate. To create a shadow on the wall, you will have to install the uplighting at an angle, well in front of the plant.
Add in Hardscaping
Hardscaping features like steps, walkways, walls, and sculptures are added to a yard for both functional and aesthetic reasons. Use these features to your advantage in your nighttime art gallery. In many designs, you will see house walls uplit with an ambient wash of light. Think beyond the walls and spread light on the hardscaping throughout your yard.
- Have lights installed in the rise of your steps or underneath the lip of the stairs. A soft light can create both beauty and safety for your family and guests.
- Run rope lighting along the underneath edge of a railing. This will add linear interest to a landscape that is generally dominated by curving forms.
- Place lighting under a bench or seating wall. It can be installed directly under the seating surface. Or, for a different look, it can be installed below grade so that it illuminates the underside of the structure but you won't see the lighting fixture.
- Highlight the interesting architecture of your home. If you have Colonial columns, a recessed alcove, or an ornate railing, you have the perfect opportunity for feature lighting. Light these features so they look as interesting at night as they do during the day.
Finish it off with Water
Despite their pleasant sounds and aesthetic qualities, water features are uncommon in landscaping. So, if you really want your yard to stand out, get one installed. There are so many choices available including ponds, streams, fountains, wall mounts, and sculptural fixtures. Don't forget to light it up! Some ideas include:
- You can choose to light it up from underneath the water. This works especially well in ponds and fountains.
- Some water features like Plexiglass water walls or waterfalls look stunning when lit from behind.
- If your fixture has a strong sculptural quality, light it from the front. During installation, try straight-up and angled lighting to see which you like best.
- Water features are an excellent place to use different colored lighting. Don't hesitate to install some colored bulbs.
Creating and installing an eye-catching landscape lighting design can be tricky. Don't hesitate to get help from professionals. In particular, you'll want to work with an experienced electrician when you're running power to your new lighting installations. When the sun goes down and you can enjoy it over and over, you will find that it was definitely worth the effort.