The light fantastic: Transform your garden with some well-placed tealights and lanterns

 

It takes Derek St Romaine and his wife Dawn at least two hours to set out the 500 candles that light their garden for a special evening opening each year. What dedication! They hang tealights in lanterns through the rose arbour. Their mophead hollies are lit from below by candles set in bags of sand. They float tealights in clear plastic cups on their pond, highlighting the gleaming scales of the koi carp nosing around underneath. "You've got to put a bit of sand in the cups as ballast. Otherwise they capsize," says Dawn.

They use tealights in hundreds of terracotta pots to mark out the geometric beds of the vegetable garden, packed now with purple-podded peas, yellow courgettes and fountains of elephant garlic. "The pots were here already," explains Derek. "We found them stacked in the old air-raid shelter at the side of the house. But we'll use anything that'll hold a candle – tins, jam jars, take-away carrier bags."

What he particularly likes is the effect that night-lighting has on plants like the gunnera that leans over the pond. "The shadows are amazing," he says. "Like something out of the dinosaur age. It's another world." The pond-planting is particularly dramatic with a fine stand of yellow-stemmed bamboo surrounded by the bold, bronze foliage of rodgersia and a statuesque dogwood in the corner, holding its variegated foliage in horizontal layers. "I'd be quite happy not to have flowers in the garden, says Derek. "Just leaves."

Being a photographer, he knows about lighting and the warm, intriguing atmosphere that lights can create in a garden as dusk falls. So far, he's stuck with low-tech effects (candles), apart from a rope of LED lights, cleverly fixed under the lip of a shallow step on the terrace. He did that for safety reasons, but it adds to the drama, as well.

The garden, unusually large for a suburban plot, stretches out behind a pebble-dash house. A yew hedge running across the middle divides it into two halves, each roughly 50ft wide and 100ft long.

A rose arbour laced with white 'Mme Alfred Carrière' and 'Iceberg' roses is lit in the evening from above and below and leads through to the ornamental vegetable and fruit garden laid out in the lower half of the garden. This is dominated by two big old fruit trees, their skirts of box and lavender lit up by lanterns hung in the branches above.

It's a richly planted area, but it's also a beautifully managed one: double cordon apples are trained on the south-facing wall and the compost heaps that St Romaine built at the bottom of the plot have hinged lids that double up as a standing out area for all the plants they raise from seed.

Go to the evening opening on Wednesday (8.30-10.30pm; admission £4 with wine), but go again on Sunday 17 June (2-6pm; £3) to catch up on the planting detail of this outstanding garden. Find it at 239A Hook Road, Chessington KT9 1EQ (020-8397 3761).

Low-tech lighting

Candles

Buy them cheaply at factory outlets. I go to Ethos Candles on the Quarryfield Industrial Estate, Mere, Wilts BA12 6LA, 01747 861839. They specialise in big church candles, but you can buy bags of tealights as well. For garden lighting, you'll need tealights that will stay alight for four hours minimum. The Candle Warehouse (candle-warehouse.co.uk) sells cases containing eight packs of 100 four-hour tealights for £38.24 or 10 packs of 50 six-hour tealights for £31.80. Short, fat church candles look good in old terracotta pots (8-10cm), steadied by sand or 6mm grit. A more expensive option is to invest in candle lanterns. Handsome zinc lanterns in two sizes are available mail order in two sizes (£15.50 or £30) from Cox & Cox (coxandcox.co.uk; 0844 8580744). They can also supply metal tealight stakes with patterned glass holders (£30 for a set of three) or small, upside-down glass bells with metal handles (£22 for a pack of six) to hang from the trees in your garden.

Storm lanterns

The lighting of choice for my farming uncles when I was growing up on the Welsh borders. Sturdy, practical, reliable pieces of kit, provided you have back-up supplies of paraffin and wicks. Lanterns available from hardware stores or from Toast (toast.co.uk/category/outdoor). They also sell packs of the right kind of wicks (£7.50).

Flares

These are made from sturdy bamboo stakes, split at the top to contain a tin can with a narrow neck that holds the wick. They burn paraffin and ours have done many parties. Some have small bamboo 'corks' to keep it dry, when not in use. Line them along a garden path or use them to lead the way to a party tent. Flares at least 90cm (36in) high will be more useful than short ones. Amazon (amazon.co.uk) can supply 90cm (36in) flares at £3.44 each, 150cm (60in) ones at £9.

High-tech lighting

The things you need to think about are...

Price: this will vary widely, depending on the kit. When Derek St Romaine thought he might move from low- to high-tech, lighting quotes for his suburban garden came in at around £3,000.

Running costs: halogen lamps will be more expensive to run than compact fluorescent ones.

Colour: are you looking for bright white light, or a softer, warmer colour?

Dimming: halogen and compact fluorescent lights are easier to dim than metal halide ones.

Energy source: are you hoping to use a solar panel to run outdoor lights or will you plug into the mains?

Lamp life: halogen lamps provide up to 1,500 hours, LEDs 10 times as much.

Use: what do you want to light and why? There are good practical reasons for lighting steps and LEDs fixed in long ropes under the risers are a neat way of doing this, as Derek St Romaine has in his back garden.

Safety: metal halide and tungsten halogen lights get hot; LEDs don't.

Get more information from Light Innovation Ltd, 020-8873 1582, lightinnovation.com; Solar Technology International Ltd, 01684 774000, solartechnology.co.uk; Prometheus Lighting Instruments Ltd, 020-7558 8359, prometheuslighting.com

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?