Garden lightning: Illumation inspiration, from back-lit chairs to high-drama arbours

Garden lighting used to be an afterthought. Once you had spent thousands of pounds designing and landscaping your outside space, you might have bought the odd storm lamp if you had any money left over, but mainly you lit a few candles and hoped they didn't blow out. Not any more. These days, there are specialist lighting designers who will work with your gardener to highlight, uplight, downlight and cross-light your favourite tree, patio steps and water feature.

It's not cheap but it means you can use the space more and it can add value to your home. Particularly if you've already converted the loft and put in that new kitchen and bathroom. And if you've just spent a small fortune on garden furniture, you might as well make sure you can admire it during the day and the night, as you probably can't afford to go out any more.

Sally Storey, design director of John Cullen Lighting, says: "It's mainly expensive because you have to buy fittings that are completely sealed against the elements. The transformers need to be hidden in the plants and the cables buried in the ground.

"You probably need at least two circuits running off two transformers, each one capable of running about six lights. Then you can use candles to supplement your main lighting and create a mood."

Do remember your neighbours, though. You might think your Caribbean date palm looks fabulous when it is lit by that copper uplighter. They might find that a bright light beaming straight into their toddler's bedroom is somewhat less fabulous.

A little light goes a long way at night so you do need to plan it carefully, says Storey. Use it to highlight the good bits and leave the other bits in darkness. She suggests using low-level step lights for atmosphere and safety, so that guests can see where they are going. "Think about the colour of your fittings as well. Garden lights are often black, but green will obviously blend better and copper ages beautifully. Bronze looks good against a tree trunk," she adds.

WHAT TO BUY

Of course you can buy cheap lights from any DIY store but they probably won't last as long or be as pretty. Decide if this is a house you are going to be in for a long time or just a transition before you start and adjust the budget accordingly.

Hunza outdoor post light, from £89.30

Made in New Zealand, this is the Rolls Royce of garden lighting. Each piece is assembled by hand and individually tested. Their bronze and silver range looks great and will age well over time.

www.allweatherlighting.co.uk; 01299 269 246

Leafy rope lights, £17.50

Rope lights create a pretty effect either strung round the branches of a tree or pinned under the edge of a chair or steps to light the way. You can spend a fortune on them or you can go to Habitat and buy this, which is very attractive and gives around 20,000 hours of illumination.

www.habitat.net

Moonlight Chair, £150

Kill two birds with one stone by dotting these sculptural chairs around the garden. Simply screw in a bulb and plug and they will create pools of coloured lights that you can sit on at the same time. The bulbs are low energy and you can either use any old bulb and buy a filter to create colour or buy the ready-coloured ones, which cost around £9.

www.earlsmann.co.uk; 01884 855 320

Elipta copper wall-mounted up/downlights, £70

Elipta has a large selection of lights, including recessed ones for paths and decks as well as adjustable wall-lights and posts.

www.lightingforgardens.com ; 01462 486 777

Wisebox remote control, £133

Easy to install and will control all the lights, water features, electronic gates and shutters. This means you don't have to chase out all the walls inside to run the cables out to the garden but can keep the bulk of the work outside which reduces the disruption.

www.moonlightdesign.co.uk; 020-8925 8639

HOW TO CREATE DIFFERENT EFFECTS

David Haslehurst, of Moonlight Design, suggests the following ways of creating different effects in your garden. He reckons you will need to spend a minimum of £1,800 to light your garden properly.

Light-washing

Put the light at the base of the wall and it will gently wash over the nearest surface.

Shadowing

To create a dramatic look for a sculptural plant or object, put the light in front of it. The height of the light will make the shadow larger or smaller.

Cross-lighting

Using two lights at opposite ends to highlight a feature, such as a bench, will also soften the effect

Downlighting

Another good way to pick out a plant or tree or useful above a table where you are eating.

Moonlighting

A romantic effect creating by mounting the light in a tree so its beams are broken up by the foliage.

Uplighting

Using these at the end of the garden shining on to the fence will make the space appear larger.

Water-lighting

Purely for the effect rather than a useful source of light, this creates a mirror effect. If you have a pond with fish, they will turn into colourful streaks of light as they dart through the water.

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