It is no longer necessary to wait for a full moon to see your landscape at night. For just one-tenth the cost of a landscaping job, says the American Lighting Association—a trade association for the light industry—you can light the landscape and enjoy it around the clock. Outdoor lighting also provides security for property and increased safety around pools or steps.
"Some people tell me," said Constantine G. Pergantis, a local lighting consultant who specializes in outdoor lighting, " 'I just spent $25,000 landscaping my lawn and I want to see it.' "
"Used sensitively," advised Scott M. Watson, a Gaithersburg-based lighting consultant, "you can light a house and give it presence. "
According to Watson, landscaped lighting is also appropriate if the homeowner has a big picture window that is kept open or uncurtained. Creating a beautiful vista in the lawn with light is a great alternative to having "the black hole of Calcutta staring at you in your living room," he said. Outdoor lighting can range from the dramatic to the sublime to simply functional. By playing with the source, intensity, color and focus the possibilities are endless. And the light we take for granted as simply white light, actually comes in many different hues which can ignite colors in brick, trees, sculptures or any surfaces.
"The whole idea is not to make the job look like a model home," explained Pergantis, "but to focus on something that is unique about the area maybe a waterfall, a statue, a Japanese maple, brickwork, the stone wall around the house or interesting steps." Pergantis is fascinated by landscape lighting "because each landscape is different; there is not one yard that is the same. Light goes a long way at night."
With uplighting, a tree can be made to stand alone and the source is easily camouflaged said Pergantis. "With very very tall trees you are able to create a canopy effect by shining lights into the upper parts of the tree, " he continued, "and this can also make your yard look bigger." "I prefer to put fixtures on the ground and do uplighting," said Pergantis, "because that way you have more flexibility in moving the fixtures and maintenance is easier."
With uplighting, the interior branch structure and the bark are more visible, said Pergantis. Downlighting has its own lure as well. Pergantis likes putting downlighting high up in a tree that is not densely foliated to cast shadows down onto the ground; and "when the wind blows, the shadows dance," he said.
When he lights pathways or driveways, Pergantis tries to create enticing pictures that allure people to walk on them, he said. This is done by subtly lighting bends in the path or highlighting a tree at the end of a path. "People are drawn to lighted things," he said. Interesting shadows can be created either by silhouetting or shadowing. To silhouette a subject, a wall or any backdrop directly behind the subject is evenly lit and the subject is left unlit. Pergantis likes silhouetting abstract-shaped trees.
Lighting systems can be either 120-volt line or 12-volt low voltage. A 120-volt line is good for lighting large areas that require longer beam throws. Such a system, however, must meet local and national electrical codes and is generally more expensive. A low-voltage system is perfect for smaller properties and is much less expensive to install. Low-voltage systems are easily relocated and less hazardous. However, said Watson, the 120-volt line fixtures are indestructible compared to their smaller low-voltage counterparts.