A nicely landscaped garden isn't just to be enjoyed during the day. The right lighting allows your yard to come alive at night and you to make the most of your outside space no matter the hour.
"If you have a beautiful landscape, you want to keep it as visible as possible at all times," says Glenn Primavera, national account manager for Garden Light Inc., a low-voltage lighting company specializing in light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. "Lighting is not only used to beautify your property and add usable outdoor living space but also used as home security."
Primavera says that most lighting for the outdoors is done with uplights, or spotlights that shine up on trees or homes, accenting the property and making it look even bigger than it is. Lighting pathways or walkways using lights that stick in the ground and shine downward is also common.
The majority of decorative landscape and garden lighting is done with low-voltage and LED lighting, Primavera says.
"With low-voltage lighting, the bulbs are warm and subtle, not bright and obtrusive, and they're more directional, so you can move them around," he says. "LED lighting is the newest form of lighting. It's very low-energy and very environmentally friendly."
For those who have ponds they want to illuminate in their gardens -- especially those with koi living in them -- the LEDs should be used over the low-voltage lights because they produce considerably less heat.
Colleen Maiura, a spokeswoman for Lowe's, says other outdoor lighting options include solar and electric lighting systems that are easy to install and economical to operate. Solar lighting requires no tools for assembly, and because it has no wires or electricity, it can be installed anywhere. Maiura says recent improvements to solar lighting have made them six to 12 times brighter than standard solar lighting. Most new solar lights offer easy bulb replacement and an easy-to-handle connector. And they are energy-efficient, can reduce your utility expenses and will work during power outages.
"A great thing about solar lighting, too, is you can buy an eight-pack of them and just pop them in," she says.
Maiura says the goal of outdoor lighting is to fashion a subtly lit area. It's important to find a focal point to spotlight and use a combination of uplighting, downlighting and crosslighting to show off the best features in your yard. Backlighting and downlighting create subtle silhouettes, whereas crosslighting adds dimension, she says.
Lighting also can be used strategically to help turn attention away from out-of-season or wilting plants.
"You may have some plants that are not doing so well, and you can have people avoid looking at them by uplighting ones that are," Maiura says.
She says people are starting to look at outdoor space as an extension of the indoors, "and just as you would bring area rugs outside, it's the element of bringing lighting outside, too."
Primavera points out that certain geographical areas -- for example, those near the ocean -- present challenges when you are choosing the right kind of lights.
"You do want to be careful what type of products you use near the salt air," he says. "You want to use a natural metal like brass or copper. You don't want to use aluminum products; they tend to corrode near the salt air."
Primavera says that no matter where people live, whether they get great weather year-round or for only a few months, it appears they want to take more advantage of their outside space. He says his company has seen considerable growth over the past two years.
"A lot of people are spending money on fixing up their homes and staying at home rather than taking vacations," he says. "Instead, they are putting that (vacation) money into their yard and can enjoy staying home for the same price."