Landscape Lighting: Science or Art?

The idea of landscape lighting was relatively simple in the past. You fitted bulbs into recesses in the ground or patio sides, installed a few spots in the trees, and that was the end of it. But today, people have seen the “light” and want more of an artistic approach to their garden or yard lighting.

Lighting up the outdoors is as much a science as it is an art form. Business owners pay thousands of dollars for commercial property lighting, and even private home owners with large properties spend big bucks on lighting alone. So where does this leave the average home owner with an average-sized garden and an average-sized budget? In a good place…let’s take a look.

A Balanced Approach

Research on ambient lighting is an advanced subject that is definitely more of a science than an art, but its actual and effective use is certainly an artistic endeavor. The science of lighting is concerned with efficiency, miniaturization, luminosity and other aspects of artificial light itself, while the way in which the lighting is used to enhance the aesthetic qualities of a garden, yard, pathway, pool, etc. is nothing short of art at its most creative. So the question really is not whether landscape lighting is a science or an art, but whether advanced technology can be used to create stunning visual effects that are characteristically considered to be art. The answer is an emphatic “YES!”

Let’s take a look at what technology can bring to the table, and then explore the artistic possibilities landscape lighting can offer.

The Science Aspects

Modern lighting is focused on the ideas of small, bright and power-efficient. LEDs offer all three benefits, and are a preferred choice for today’s lighting needs, although compact fluorescent and incandescent lamps are still very much in vogue in some parts of the world. But the desire to be carbon footprint-conscious is making more and more people shift to the highly efficient LEDs. Another contribution to technology is alternative power, such as solar energy. If you go to a lighting store today, you’ll see them occupy a considerable portion of the displays; again, the need to be power-efficient is a driving factor.

Solar technology not only allows lighting to be free-standing, but since they can work in dim or low light, they’re also perfect for climatic regions that don’t acquire much sunlight. Technology has also given birth to several different forms of lighting for varying functional purposes: security, safety, accenting, visibility, etc. Each type of lighting is meant for a different purpose, and each is designed with that purpose in mind.

The Artistic Considerations

On the artistic front, the rules are clear: fixtures and bulbs should never be seen – only the light against the various landscape elements must be visible. The rest of it is made up of purely creative choices, although it takes some education and experience to do a really great job. DIY lighting is still the most popular form, although a landscape lighting consultant might be a better option for a truly stunning, professional look. The color of lighting, the intensity, the focus and dispersion – these are the equivalent of the artist’s palette and brushes to the landscaper. A professional will look at every aspect of your property before making recommendations, but the final effect will be worth the patience and expense. The basic approach to lighting is to use the landscape features the way an artist uses a canvas or other medium to express herself or himself.

Landscape lighting can be neither pure science nor pure art. It is a combination of both, and the better you understand both aspects, the better the outcome. The marriage of the two will give birth to the right combination in the form of a rousing “WOW” by all who see the final effect.

How to Lay a Stone Patio

Making the decision to put in a stone patio is arguably one of the best landscaping moves an ambitious homeowner can make. Stone patios are functional as well as beautiful, and they can inject a burst of value to your property – sweat-equity style.

There’s a range of patio materials available in big box stores from here to kingdom come, but not much beats natural stone. Natural stone is easy to obtain, usually inexpensive, easy to care for, and very durable. If you’re the handy type, installing a natural stone patio is a snap – and, depending on the size – it’s a project you can knock out in as quickly as a weekend.

Installing Your Stone Patio: The First Steps

First on the to-do list: designing your natural stone patio. Using either graph paper and a pencil or a computer software program, calculate the area of your patio. You’ll need this ratio to determine how much natural stone and materials you will need to procure.

There are a few different options when it comes to obtaining natural stone for your patio. Choose stone that is naturally flat and smooth, as it will result in a safer, more level surface. Paving stones, slate, and blue stone are all excellent choices for the job.

Before you start laying your natural stone patio, mark off the area you will cover by using stakes and string. If you want a curved patio, marking paint would work better.

Next, dig away the sod and soil within the marked area. Remove roughly four inches of soil. The bottom of the hole should be as level as possible. Lay down plastic or fabric landscaping sheets to prevent weeds from growing as well. If you plan to use edging around your patio, now would be the time to put it in place.

Laying the Stone

When the landscaping sheets and edging are both in place, begin filling the hole with sand. Leave roughly an inch of space from the top of the sand and the top of the hole or edging. Next, lay the natural stones on top of the sand. Stamp them into the sand by either stepping on them or hitting them with a rubber mallet.

To ensure that the tops of the stones are even and level with the ground, lay a flat board across the tops of the stones, with one edge on each side of the hole. If a rock is too low, remove it and add more sand underneath; if it is too high, set it aside and remove a bit of the sand beneath it.

The Finishing Touches

Once you’ve laid all of the stones in place, the final step is to fill in the gaps between them. Pour sand, gravel, or topsoil into the spaces between the sand. Brush away any excess with a wide push broom. Filling in these gaps not only makes your new patio safer, it also creates a more polished look.

Once your new patio is installed, you’ll be amazed at the burst of interest it adds to your yard’s existing landscaping. When installed correctly, a stone patio that took a mere weekend to build can pay dividends in aesthetic value and home equity for years into the future.

Simple Steps to Creating Your Own Backyard Pond

A backyard pond isn’t merely desirable for the serenity it adds to your landscape ambience, it’s also showcases how man works in harmony with nature. Water is nature at its very best, arguably, and creating anything with water as its theme is sure to be associated with tranquility and peace. It can also bring a family together for DIY projects. Working towards a single result is one of the best bonding mechanisms known to the modern world.

Building a backyard pond is not a complicated project unless you desire a more professional look which will require the work of an expert and some additional money. For simple ponds, the projects are DIY jobs that any averagely dexterous human being can accomplish. It may require some amount of heavy digging and lifting and a whole lot of squabbling, but this is one family project you will never forget!

The Structural Aspects

First, identify the area and mark it off with a rope. Set an outline of ground limestone to define the limits of your water garden. After digging to about 16 inches and gouging a hole for the pump, rake mason’s sand evenly. Lay geotextile fabric and a fish-proof rubber pond liner to form water-tight layers for the catchment area. You can choose elevations based on how high you want the waterfall that feeds the pond; you can even decide what kind of stones you want to line the pond – or what ornaments to use for an authentic fairy tale look. This aspect is often the most crucial because it defines the tone of your garden.

The Functional Aspects

The next step is to check the functional features of the pond: the gradients, water-tightness, pump and hoses, overflow drainage, water inlet, etc. This is essentially the engineering side of gardening, and it accounts for ‘all systems go’ on your water project when you throw the switch for the first time. This is often seen as a tedious requirement for the proper working of a water garden, but once you understand the mechanics, you will find it is not difficult.

Creating water systems that thrive amongst the greenery of living organisms is a thrill that can only begin with a simple project like a pond – one that involves elevating water up to a high place and letting it run down the course you’ve set.

For more information on creating beautiful water ponds for your landscape, visit your local nursery and purchase some handy guides. Every garden enthusiast has one element he adores, and water gardening is right up there among the most popular.