Just as the scents in a garden increase in the evening, so too do the sights, as textures and shapes take on different dimensions. Strategically placed lights change the shadows and lighted areas in your daytime garden to entirely different shadows and light in your evening garden. Lighting of all kinds allows you and your guests to enjoy a new view of your garden in the evening and when chosen carefully, lighting minimizes any hazards in a darker landscape.
Providing safely lit areas for entrances and doorways should be your first priority as a homeowner. If you have a long driveway or walkway, it's a good idea to light the entire area. All sorts of options are available for entrance lighting from solar-powered lanterns, to recessed LED lights to bright floodlights. Consider the option of motion sensor lights for entry ways, which allows you to save on electric costs by having the lights go on only when needed.
Eleanor Perenyi, essayist and author of "Green Thoughts---A Writer in the Garden," cautions homeowners to be discreet in choosing garden lighting. She would like a garden at night to "be itself," that is, to still maintain a sense of the natural world having precedence over artificial man-made elements such as lighting. To maintain this effect in your garden, choose subtle lighting such as soft glowing lanterns rather than spotlights and completely lighted pools.
Lighting to Fit Your Style
If your garden looks fantastic with strings of lights or lanterns hung for a party, consider keeping those strings up as a permanent lighting feature or finding weather-proof versions of paper lanterns such as ones made from nylon. Strings of white or pale amber lights wrapped around tree trunks or draped among branches add a surprising amount of light to a garden as well as a sense of whimsy. If your garden and your home reflect a more contemporary or modern aesthetic, choose lights that are similarly modern, with clean lines or sleek curved surfaces.
Garden stores and on-line retailers offer a wide variety of specialty lighting, from simple $10 LED battery-powered lights you can place in any lantern to translucent rock shaped lights costing over $400. Solar-powered lights come in a similar range of styles and prices, from small, plastic versions for pathways that cost less than $5, to elaborate glass versions designed to look like lilies or tulips. The quality of solar lighting varies too, with some lights that last only one season and others available with rechargeable batteries that can last for years.