My new 'Glowing Embers' Japanese maple uplit in snow.
This is my new screensaver, at least until spring arrives. I took this photo (a 15-second exposure, on a tripod) the other night when we had an unexpected, very tiny snowstorm. I liked the photo so much that I posted it to Facebook and wrote, “Snow + up-lit Japanese Maple = magic. Takes some of the sting out of losing my beautiful crabapple.” Later the image was re-pinned on Pinterest to a “Just a little magical” board. Magic, indeed.
Garden lighting is often thought of as an extravagance, an “extra” that you’ll get around to – someday. But I’ve concluded that it’s one of the most worthwhile investments you can make, to dress up even a new landscape, in terms of bang for the buck. My own front yard is a good example. I had to spend a lot of money this year taking down and replacing two trees,including getting the tree stumps ground out, and replanting one bed area around the new ‘Riversii’ beech. I may have to spend more this coming year because I suddenly have a sunny exposure where I had shade before, and I don’t know which of my current plantings will survive.
It broke my heart to see how small my new trees were when they went in, and how dark the front yard seemed at night. The old trees, you see, had been uplit beautifully.
The branches of my old American beech tree uplit at night.
Without the lighting, the front of the house looked bleak and sad at night, with the only lights on my steps and two carriage light fixtures on either side of the front door. So I bit the bullet and had lighting installed on the ‘Riversii’ and the new Japanese maple by my go-to lighting contractors, Outdoor Illumination Inc. Neither tree is large, but the difference the lighting makes to the house and landscape is amazing.
Lighting can be used not only for trees but to draw your eye to other built elements in the garden, such as these wooden Nepalese screens one of my clients installed as a kind of sculpture.
Three wooden panels surround a young copper beech in a garden in Chevy Chase, Maryland, uplit by soft spots.
Behind this screen is an up-lit Magnolia 'Leonard Messel'
In a more modern landscape setting, you’ll see lights used around pool perimeters, as here in this Potomac, Maryland garden designed by landscape architect H. Paul Davis.
Spotlights for the pool jets as well as the hornbeams and river birches adjacent to the water area create a beautiful effect as dusk descends.
But even away from paths and major trees, lighting in the garden can contribute to an atmosphere of calm and magic.
As evening approaches, a garden bed with color fall foliage is illuminated, bringing the outside in for a little longer.
So consider some “night lights” if you’re working on improvements to your garden. You won’t regret it.