Lights up! Designer Janine Pattison on how to illuminate your garden

Just because the sun sets before 6pm, doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy our gardens in the evening. All you need is a bit of expert lighting positioning...and possibly a warm jacket! But if outside is lit with a warming glow, it's easy to enjoy your garden from inside too. As spring approaches, now’s a great time to start planning your garden lighting. To find out how to create the perfect outdoor lighting plan, we called upon the expertise of leading garden designer, Janine Pattison. Janine has won many awards for her stylish modern landscapes, and says that lighting is one of the most important elements of her designs, extending enjoyment of the garden into the night, and creating a range of exciting visual effects.

‘Adding lighting to your garden gives a whole new dimension to the space, creating a chic, modern look and bringing a touch of luxury to your home and garden, whether it is a small city space, a large country home, or something in between,' says Janine Pattison. ‘As with any significant investment, commissioning an experienced design team to create a bespoke lighting scheme for you will pay dividends. When preparing a scheme for one of our projects, we consider the client’s likes and dislikes, the site and design, the best use of modern technology, and various effects we can create, as well as considering safety and security.’

What lighting effects can you achieve in the garden?

‘Night-lighting your garden offers a creative way to showcase your property after dark. A well-designed scheme will dramatise trees, highlight specimen shrubs and accentuate sculptures, water features, and architectural features.

‘For example, we often use spotlights at the base of trees to light up the stems and lower canopies, creating a dramatic theatrical effect. We may also backlight plants or features to throw them into silhouette, or shine a spot onto a sculpture to pick it out from the darkness. Another technique is wall washing, where we light a wall from the base with a soft, wide beam to highlight its texture. These effects, combined with careful use of colour, make a garden a magical place to be after dark.’

How can you make the garden safe at night?

'Place garden lighting around and near areas where there will be most activity, such as paths and steps, to prevent accidents. A good lighting source is also important near gateways, parking areas or garage doors.'

Can security lights be integrated into an attractive lighting scheme?

Any areas that are masked in darkness should be fitted with lighting; motion sensors can be installed to light up gloomy spots, or photocells can automatically turn on fixtures at dusk and off at dawn providing protection even when you’re away from home. These can be installed at a reasonable cost in conjunction with any type of garden lamp or light, and don’t need to be those ugly, utilitarian types you may see outside offices or shops.

‘Also ensure that electrical installations are carried out in accordance with the latest building and wiring regulations, employ a qualified electrician to do the work, and ensure that all exterior electrical circuits are protected by an RCD (Residual Current Detector).

Which lights would you recommend?
‘As well as traditional halogen lamps, which are useful for house walls to provide a transition from inside to out, we use low energy LED fittings in most of our designs. LEDs offer many excellent benefits: they have a very long life (up to 50,000 hours), are cheap to run, don’t get hot, and they’re available in a vast range of colours. This image shows a garden installed with LED light-changing strips along the base of the wall, which can be programmed to run through any one of thousands of colours. LEDs are also virtually maintenance-free, which is a big attraction for many of our busy clients.’

Photo credits: © Denise Wright

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Zia Allaway, Garden Expert

View all posts by Zia Allaway, Garden Expert