Gardens of light

Add depth and atmosphere to your garden with landscape lighting.

For several months of the year, Cayman’s hot and humid climate makes it uncomfortable to be outdoors during the day.

Many people eagerly wait for darkness to fall before venturing into their gardens to enjoy the cooler temperatures but to make the best of the outdoor space it needs to be properly lit.

Landscape lighting, correctly designed, can not only illuminate your garden or outdoor space to great effect but it can even make it look bigger.

Good landscape lighting calls for layering, spacing and using ambient light to best effect, explains Tom Balon, manager of Vigoro Nursery.

And good landscape lighting design will give you enough light to be able to walk around your garden at night, without being a Vegas-style extravaganza where every corner, shrub and pathway is illuminated.

Instead, Tom advocates moderation: spotlighting specific trees or flower beds, but leaving darker spaces in between to create a greater sense of depth.

A combination of up lights (lights that are angled upwards from ground level), well lights (sunken lights that lie flush with the ground or lawn) and path lights (small lights on stakes that cast their beam downwards) is essential to create a layered effect.

It’s rare to have lights shining down from tall trees, Tom says, because that would necessitate wiring in the tree in order to have the light shining down, which would be an eyesore in daylight.

Light fixtures

The most important aspect of good landscape lighting design is using the right fixture for the right application. Lights placed in the lawn, for example, should use well light fixtures.

“If you’ve got big black light fixtures poking out of the grass it looks awful,” says Tom. “It’s also a problem when you come to mowing the lawn as they’re going to get in the way.”

Likewise, you would not put a well light into a flowerbed as leaves and falling debris would soon cover the light.

“If it’s a low palm tree with a broad head you’ll use a spread out, low bulb. If it’s a tall tree, and you want to light up the trunk and the head, you’ll want a narrow beam that will reach all the way to the top,” adds Tom.

Depending on the effect you want to create, you might choose to shine lights at the building, causing trees to stand out and create shadows. Alternatively, you can light the trees, and have the ambient light illuminate the building more subtly.

Typically, you don’t have to spend too much money lighting areas further from the house, but concentrate on investing around pools and outdoor living spaces.

Gardens are not static entities – they are living, breathing spaces. Over time, trees grow, shrubs fill out and the angles of lights may need to be adjusted accordingly.

Equally, lights may get knocked out of position, so a periodic walk-through at night for maintenance purposes is always recommended.

Other than the odd architectural light, most landscape lighting can be installed in existing gardens.

“The beauty of the system is that we can go in, fit the lights and two days later you won’t know anything has changed – except you will be able to see your garden,” says Tom.

Without landscape lighting, the use of the garden is limited after dark. Installing a well designed lighting system will have the effect of increasing your outdoor living space dramatically and, if you do it correctly the first time, there’s no reason it shouldn’t last a lifetime.