What are your needs?
What type of lighting do you require? You can start by strolling through the garden at sunset, watching the play of light on the plants or observing where the moonlight falls. (Repeat the exercise for a few consecutive evenings.) The same can be done inside the house to determine which outdoor elements you'd like to admire through the windows. Take note of the existing lighting (like cornice lights or luminaires) and identify the areas you’d like to brighten up.
- Safety: Which walls, paths, stairs, ground level, posts or doors should be lit up?
- Functionality: Do you intend to use a terrace, pool or spa? Will you be walking about the property or using the paths? Will you be receiving guests in the evening?
- Aesthetics: Are you intent on highlighting an architectural feature, such as a fountain, plant or shrub with an unusual shape or a work of art? Is there a specific atmosphere you'd like to create?
Should you draw up a plan?
If you already have a layout, make sure that you have several working copies. If not, draw one up on plotting paper. Include the property lines, the house, the location of the electrical outlets, as well as the different elements you’d like to emphasize (shrubbery, thepool, the terrace).
As you walk through the garden, take measurements to determine how much wire you will need (if you opt for a low voltage system). How long are the paths? What is the distance between the outdoor outlet and the elements you intend to highlight? How can the wire be safely run along fences or oundations?
The number of light fixtures needed depends on the dimensions of the lighting plan: the size of the garden, the elements you intend to emphasize, the desired lighting intensity and which effects you'd like to create. The golden rule of professionals is that less is always better. A successful lighting plan is not too bright, nor does it illuminate everything.