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
Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
Paul McCartney backs the
people
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
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

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone