Outdoor landscape lighting is a necessity for an environment that is viewed 30% of the time at night. Busy Houstonians are seldom able to arrive home to enjoy the outdoors until well after dark. Landscape lighting allows them to enjoy every fine element of their property regardless of natural light levels.
Unlike natural lighting, outdoor landscape lighting can be controlled by man to emphasize only the most desirable and attractive elements on a property. During the day, anything unattractive that might fall or be left in the yard will be unavoidably visible under natural sunlight. At night, however, only carefully selected landscape elements will be showcased under professionally installed luminaires carefully chosen to showcase the very best aspects of these particular forms.
In a very real sense, then, outdoor landscape lighting serves to magnify objects on the property; not in terms of size, but instead in terms of importance. The key to achieving this effect is positioning and angle of incidence. Due to the ornate designs of gardens, hardscape, patios, walls, and swimming pools, the placement of the fixture and the angle of the light it emits must be much more precise here than it is in many other forms of lighting.
Because of this need for a high level of excellence and accuracy, we always subcontract a reputable professional lighting design company who knows how to install fixtures in the right locations to achieve maximum results. Professional lighting design firms know how to get more out of less, so to speak, when it comes to the actual number of light fixtures installed on a property. They also have access to commercial, specification-grade lights that can only be obtained through vendor agreements with top-of-the-line US manufacturers. These lights are designed with special optical features that minimize glare and better focus the lamp’s beam spread. This is critical to creating an impeccable presentation of your own property without light pollution spilling onto the property of your neighbors.
While many homeowners will ask us to install perimeter floodlights controlled by motion sensors, we strongly discourage this practice. The aesthetic of the entire property will be ruined every time a person walks onto the property. If flood lights are to be used, they should only be mounted near home entrances such as utility areas, or placed at the entrances to outdoor storage buildings.
The applications of outdoor landscape lighting vary according to the specific elements found throughout both front and back yards. An exhaustive listing of every type of light and lighting design can provide is therefore beyond the scope of this article. However, certain applications that are prominent in most home landscapes bear special note.
In gardens, uplights are used to showcase the natural beauty of surrounding trees and larger shrubs. They are also frequently used to back drop or frame a structure with a “wall of light” effect. Another application commonly used in the Memorial Area is to up light ravine trees to show the depth and scale of a property.
This form of outdoor landscape lighting illuminates both trees and the areas immediately surrounding trees. Mercury vapor lights are hidden among the branches by experts in tree-friendly installation methods. The bulbs in these fixtures last much longer than incandescent lamps. They have much more ability to push through the foliage to illuminate the entire tree. The mercury vapor lamp also emits a blue-green light which brings out the greener color in the plant life. When this light surrounds a tree, it resembles pools of artificial moonlight that bring romance and mystique to a back yard landscape on even the cloudiest of nights.
Special pool lights are manufactured to operate safely underwater without shorting out or creating the risk of electric shock. These should ALWAYS be installed by professional pool contactors who know where to source their equipment and who know how to install it. Incandescent and LED options are available depending on pool style. In recent years, we have seen an increasing interest in LED lighting for pools that have custom fountains shaped like waterfalls.
Any number of underwater lights can be used to showcase a fountain from beneath the surface of the water. The benefit to using underwater lights is that they tend to refract light through water droplets like prisms, creating a rainbow effect in the sparkling dance of the water.
Underwater lights can add mystique to the surface of the water on nights where there is little or no moonlight. Low-voltage ground lights installed around the perimeter of the pond can help further distinguish its presence as a key element to the nighttime landscape.
Outdoor landscape lighting works best when it is conceptualized by a landscape architectural services firm who can then subcontract an expert entity in lighting design. When the very best equipment meets with the very best design plans, the outcome is a luminary experience whose purpose extends far beyond the functional level into the realm of the aesthetically chic. It unifies the architecture of the home with Nature like nothing else, and it extends its warmth and light throughout the neighborhood as a phenomenon for all to admire.