This blog is about growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area

February 13, 2014

Lighting your garden

Before I put lighting in my garden, I visited some fancy resorts here in the Phoenix area. I wandered around The Phoenician especially, making note of how they used light to show off their tropical plants.

Here at the Tropical Paradise, I use ordinary low-voltage Malibu lights, the kind you can get from Home Depot. They can be installed by someone like me, no need for an electrical expert, and like everything else in the garden, I experiment and refine (which is a nice way of saying that when I get it wrong I try again).

What I have discovered looks best is uplighting. If you have small palm trees, or cycads, like these, uplighting looks great. I also have a few "path lights" - although they really aren't along a path, they just give a nice soft circle of light. The spotlights are 20 watts and the path lights are 11.

I have a small backyard and all of the lights run on two 100-watt transformers. In other words, I light up my whole backyard for the equivalent of two 100-watt light bulbs. A little bit goes a long way out in the garden at night! And I have an ordinary on-off switch, as I don't keep the lights on all night.

If you want to do this, here are some guidelines:

• Watch where you point the lights. Be sure that you have a wall that's tall enough for the light to bounce off. Do not blast these lights into your neighbor's yard, or at their house. As you can see in the photo, I have six-foot block walls and none of the lights point up towards a neighbor.

• Don't rely on garden lighting for your patio. This is background stuff. For the patio, have lights so that people can see. Take a look at how it's done at resorts. They don't want you stepping into the pool accidentally. So lighting can be functional and look great.

• Don't add too many lights. You aren't lighting up a stadium here. If you have confused garden lighting with the light needed to see your way around on your patio, see the paragraph above. Garden lighting should be subtle and soft, never dazzling. This isn't a disco.

On a beautiful Arizona night like this, gardening lighting is just the right touch. Just like at the fancy resorts, but no room service.
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