From the theater to your garden: landscape lighting ideas

Did you know that creative garden lighting owes a lot to the art of theater stage lighting? Although theater lighting is a powerful and complex form of art, a lot of the subtle effects can be achieved with low voltage landscape lighting. Talk about adding drama to your garden!

Theater uses lighting to create the right atmosphere for each scene. Here the mixture of light colors with both up and down lighting techniques creates a traditional and very romantic hacienda feel.

Lighting is also used to mold backdrops and add some depth and interest to the stage. On this lovely contemporary patio, the brightened palm tree creates the perfect background.

Even leafless trees can be the main character of your garden. In this example, the designer used low-voltage well lights to make the trees stand out on the landscape.

In theater, lighting can be used to define the perception of day and night. In a garden, lighting can have the same effect. By adding brightness to your garden, you can enjoy the outdoors on a warm summer evening well into the night.

Lighting can also be used to alter the perception of temperature. Notice how the house seems warm and cozy despite its cold, wintery surroundings.

Lighting has the power of changing a scene’s perspective. For instance, a lit landscape viewed from inside a home encourages movement to the outside. Focusing landscape lighting on trees rather than paths draws the eye up and inspires curiosity.

How to choose a garden light transformer

A common question when planning a landscaping lighting design is “how many lights can run on a single transformer?”. As transformers are available in different wattage capacities, a better question to ask is “what is the best transformer for my design?”. Picking a garden light transformer is a matter of adding up the wattage power of each bulb needed to light the garden.

We recommend allowing some extra power on each transformer to allowing you to add lamps or increase wattage as your garden grows. An extra 25% to 30% will accommodate those potential changes. Transformers normally range from 60W to 900W in 50 or 100 steps, so once you calculate the total power needed for the bulbs, just choose the next step transformer for your landscape.

Another tip is to always keep the transformer with at least two-thirds of its capacity running to avoid overloading the bulbs and reducing their lifespan. See some examples below:

Fixture Wattage Total
2x LED Directional Bullet 20W each 40W
6x LED Brass Deck Light 20W each 120W
1x Well Light 75W each 75W
Spare capacity 65W
Recommended Transformer: 300W Multi Tap Stainless Steel
Fixture Wattage Total
5x Low Voltage Landscape Light 3 Tier Pagoda 50W each 250W
8x LED Deck Light 20W each 160W
3x LED Directional Bullet 20W each 60W
Spare capacity 130W
Recommended Transformer: 600W Multi Tap Stainless Steel