Landscape lighting adds elegance to your home and makes being outdoors at night a visually rewarding experience. Properly placed landscape lights increase safety of steps and walkways and improve home security. Use landscape lighting to accent plants in your landscape like trees and shrubs or water fountains. Mounted and up-facing lights will show off distinct architectural features of your home and step lights bring border plants and flowers into view. Research and planning for your landscape lighting will assure that the result meets your needs and budget.
Plan a field trip. Drive through some the exclusive neighborhoods in your area and look at how their landscapes are lit. Chances are these homes had professional consultants help with their lighting and you can get some great ideas on what to feature and how to do it for your home.
Invite a landscape architect to your home and ask his or her advice. Although the architect's goal might be to sell you services and products, he or she will answer questions and make suggestions that you can use whether you hire one of them or not.
Consider your options. There are several kinds of landscape lights including in-ground, step lights, pathway lights, flood lights, building mounted lights, and pole-mounted lights. Landscape Lighting Concepts offers more than 100 pictures of completed landscape lighting projects for inspiration.
Walk your yard at night. Identify features you want to highlight or select areas that would benefit from lighting. Cathy Jean Maloney of the the Morton Arboretum, writing for the Chicago Sun Times, recommends "selectively lighting specimen trees, interesting shrubs, or architectural features. … Uplighting (pointing light up from the ground to a tree’s branches), downlighting (affixing the light source higher in the tree to trickle through the branches) and backlighting (where lights behind the subject create interesting silhouettes)” are popular techniques.
Try using landscape design software. Not everyone has the ability to visualize how his or her landscape will look with different styles of landscape lights. Landscape software lets you try out different concepts for visual appeal and effect. For example, IdeaSpectrum software called Realtime Landscaping Pro allows you to add landscape lights to your design and "watch them come on at night. You control the size, orientation, color, and brightness of each light.”
Place down-facing flood lights on eaves, in trees or on trellises to show activity areas such as decks, arbors, and hot tubs.
Place step lights low on the ground next to stairs and walkways or mount them on posts. These lights also accent plant border areas nicely.
Place security-oriented landscape lighting near doors, ground level windows, and by the garage. These lights can be coordinated with a motion sensor that causes them to come on when there is movement within a specific distance.