Lighting the way to creative lanscaping

The leaves are turning color, the morning temperatures are cooler, and the sun is setting earlier. Fall will soon be upon us. With fall and inevitably winter, our sunlight will diminish and we will begin to rely more and more lights to help us see. Thanks to Thomas Edison, the interior of homes are well taken care of through the use of lamps, canister lights, wall or ceiling mounted fixtures, track lights, chandeliers etc. Interior lights are not only functional but can greatly enhance look of our home and become an integral part of our décor.

Lights can be an integral part of the look of the outside of our home also.

Recently, I needed to make a late night run to Walgreens. While I would have much rather been at home asleep, the drive was made so much more enjoyable because of the beautiful landscape lighting in this community. I was in awe of how different the community looked at night. Of course I have seen it at night before, but on this particular night, the lights really added to the beauty and feel of the community.

Landscape lighting can be used to accent portions of your home, while adding to the safety and security. There are five basic types of lights and with a thorough overall plan they can each be used effectively.

Pathlights – These lights are, as the name implies, placed along sidewalk and driveways to help people safely navigate the area at night. They are generally installed low to the ground and have a spreading light.

Backlights – These lights are usually placed behind something specific such as a specimen tree or unique piece of garden art to case a silhouette along a wall. These lights, when installed, are generally hidden from view.  These are usually floodlights or spotlights.

Uplights – These lights are usually placed at ground level and aimed toward a focal point.  The focal point may be an architectural feature on the house, sign or a specimen tree. They are usually floodlights or spotlights mounted at ground level.

Downlights – These lights are usually mounted above an area or object and are aimed downward. They imitate natural light and are often used to provide extra security. Again, these are usually floodlights or spotlights.

Specialty Lights – These lights are usually used to enhance the atmosphere or create a mood. Lights used in fountains, garden décor or string lights are all examples of specialty lights. When considering landscape lighting be cognoscente of light pollution. Too many lights or lights that are poorly installed can cause problems. Be sure to use the minimum wattage necessary, aim the lights carefully and shield the bulbs, where necessary. You may also want to control and light with timers or motion sensors.

While I would never presume to advise homeowners on how to spend their money, I do think that the old adage ‘You get what you pay for’ rings very true with landscape lighting. Prior to our daughter’s graduation party, my husband purchased some very cheap solar lights to put along a path. While they worked for one evening, they didn’t last much longer than that. High quality landscape lighting certainly enhances the look of the home; our cheap solar lights did not.

Kathleen Carr is the owner of The Growing Scene, Inc., a garden center and landscaping company. She can be reached by calling 815-923-7322 or Have a gardening question? Please contact her. She may address it in an upcoming column.

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