By Michael John McGarr
Garden lighting in landscape design.
Garden lighting in landscape design is extremely important and it is often an afterthought for most clients. However, we
encourage them to think about lighting early on. In our British climate, our garden is viewed most of
the year from the interior of the property so it is paramount that lighting is effective. This is
particularly poignant in winter when shorter days render lighting the most effective feature within a
It always make me smile when clients use their garden lighting systems to wow guests at winter
dinner parties. It never occurred to them that they would be enjoying their garden at Christmas!
Don’t over-light a garden. It often tempting to use a lot of lights, but the mantra “less is more” will
put you in good stead. This allows the lighting design to breathe, making the most of shadows and
light and dark created around each light. Remember simplicity is the ultimate in sophistication.
Lighting helps your guests use your garden. Think about how you may lead guests through the
garden showing end points and full stops within a scheme. Up-lighting a sculpture or specimen tree
allows the garden visitor to see the end of a vista.
As a garden designer it is useful to mimic the interior lighting design of the kitchen out into the
garden, further blurring interior and exterior lines. If the kitchen has down lights in the ceiling, it is
useful to mimic this in a pergola or veranda structure close to the house.
1. What are the main trends in garden lighting in landscape design? How have things moved on design-wise?
Design-wise, we have seen a move towards remote-controlled iPhone-app based systems that
allow our clients to adjust and adapt systems from the house.
Strip-lighting which can be fixed into the drip lines of porcelain steps have also been big on our
agenda for the last couple of years. The LED strip fits neatly into the groove underside of bullnose
step units creating a wonderful effect across step risers while allowing the filament to remain
hidden. This combined with remote technology can add for some spectacular results.
2.What options are available for garden lighting in landscape design ie is mains power your only option?
We have seen a move towards “plug and play system” which allow greater flexibility in light fitting
choice. They are installer-friendly as they can be fitted without the need for an electrician, meaning
as designers we can focus on utilising lights in unique ways rather than specifying large
proportions of budget having electricians on site.
3.What sort of running costs do you need to consider for garden lighting in landscape design and heaters?
Running costs can be minimal due to LED technology and a typical LED can last 3000to 10000
hours. LED use their lumen over time unlike halogen which will blow in one go.
LEDS are more cost-effective to run as they use much less power than halogen lights which lose
light through heat.
4.What sort of price points do you need to consider when buying a product that will have
better longevity or are there some good affordable options?
A correctly-installed high spec mains system can cost a upwards of £300 per fitting on minimum 10
light system. This cost is for the design, which are built into hard landscaping surfaces by your
contractor and installed by a qualified electrician, but be prepared to pay much more than this for
bespoke remote systems etc. Typically we recommend that our clients expect to spend 10-15% of
their allocated budgets on lighting.
An average guide on a £10k project is: 50% infrastructure, 30% fittings and 20% labour.
Some of the best lighting we have used is supplied by Collingwood. You can find their products at https://www.collingwoodlighting.com/index.php/en/
5. What sort of care and maintenance do outdoor lights and heaters require? Do they need
servicing or packing away for winter?
Clean lights regularly – leaving leaves and debris over light fittings can cause water ingress.
Lubricate fittings and screw heads in high end lights as even top spec light fitting may be come
unusable should you be unable to access the inside of the light during maintenance.
Replace lights often LED in particular lose their lumens over prolonged use and although are cost
effective to run clients should expect to replace them periodically so they remain effective.
Position lights well and you can expect a long service form them. Although outdoor lighting is rated
for IP ingress protection, it is sage advice to only go for IP68 which are suitable for being
submersed totally in water. In this way you can expect much less problems further down the line
and can enjoy years of service from a properly designed and installed system.
The visuals articulating garden lighting design in this article are created using Sketchup. You can find further details of our use of Sketchup within our landscape design practice in our previous article at http://: https://www.wm-design-ltd.co.uk/2019/01/09/sketchup-for-landscape-design/