How to Choose the Best Patio Lighting Fixtures

Your patio is an extension of your home, a doorway from your inside haven into your outside oasis. Because of its importance, the patio must be lit correctly for safety reasons, and illuminated beautifully for design purposes. This two-fold function is not easy, but it is definitely possible.

Choosing patio light fixtures is not a process to be taken lightly. You can run to your local store and purchase any old fixture, but if you perform this process in haste, you may not be happy with the outcome. Patio lighting serves many purposes and if it is not considered carefully, it can devalue not only your landscape, but also your treasured home.

Patio lights serve three main purposes: aesthetic, safety and function. Safety is a must since all homeowners are serious about keeping people out of harm’s way. Aesthetic and function are personal preferences, though most homeowners opt for function first and design last.

When selecting your patio lighting fixtures, determine which of the three are most important. Obviously safety is first, but what would you like to accomplish next? Function is quite necessary and recommended if the patio will be used a lot; however, some lights can accomplish two or three purposes simultaneously. These fixtures would be ideal for the homeowner who desires a stylish, yet functional patio.

Types of Patio Lighting

Generally, the best choices for your patio are solar or LED lighting because they are both highly efficient and cost-effective.

LED light bulbs are known for their long lifespan which is typically 10 times as long as compact fluorescent bulbs. They also last longer than incandescent bulbs. While LED lighting fixtures will cost more than traditional ones, you will recoup the costs rapidly since the maintenance is cost-effective due to their efficiency. LED bulbs are also one of the safer choices because they do not generate a copious amount of heat. They are safe around children and neighboring plants.

LED bulbs come in warm white and cool white, a classification determined by the brightness of illumination they produce. Warm white emits stronger light similar to incandescent bulbs. Cool white emits illumination similar to a moonlighting glow and offer the opportunity to create a special ambience around the patio area.

Solar lighting is also cost-effective and very safe. It is also popular due its ease of installation which basically involves “jamming” the fixtures into the ground; no wires; no mess. They also come in a variety of colors and styles and are a great choice for the homeowner concerned about the way the patio looks and how its design matches the overall décor of the home.

Solar lights also contain photo cells that take in the sun’s energy during the day and emit this energy at dusk. You can also purchase motion sensors so the lights turn on and off when they detect movement.

Though some work is involved, your patio lighting design should be fun and enjoyable. If you get stuck with the logistics, consult with a professional designer or ask a friend or neighbor for assistance.



Tips for Installing a Privacy Hedge

Are you sick of running into your overly chatty neighbor every time you shuffle groggily down the driveway to retrieve your morning paper? If you don’t like talking to people before coffee, it may be time to “up” the privacy factor for your abode.

A privacy hedge is a great way to section off your home when you live in an area without much breathing room between houses, and you can choose from quite a few plant options to create the buffer. Most are easily installable, and with the right tools and knowledge, you will finally be reading the business section in blissful solitude right in your own front yard.

Figure Out Logistics

Before you decide what kind of plant to choose, work out some key logistical factors. First, decide how high you want to let the barrier grow. A good way to decide on a height is to grab a ladder and place it where your hedge will go. Climb up and gauge what you can and cannot see in order to render a verdict.

Next, nail down the amount of space with which you have to work. If you have ample space, two or three rows of hedges may be just the ticket – a thicker barrier will block more light and sound from traveling between your neighbor’s home and your own.

Finally, decide how long you need your privacy hedge to be. Measure the yard space carefully before deciding on a plant. That way, you can take the measurements of a fully-grown hedge into consideration with your existing yard space in mind.

Time to Pick a Plant

So you’ve figured out the measurements. Great job! You’re halfway there – now it’s time to choose a plant. If you opt for some of the more popular evergreen, tall tree hedges, shoot for one of two popular varieties. First, the Green Giant Arborvitae grows rapidly and it can reach heights of five feet or more. The American Arborvitae is also widely used for living privacy fences, but it does not grow as tall as the former hedge – it averages somewhere between three and five feet tall.

If you want a shorter privacy hedge, opt instead for bush-like plants such as the Rose of Sharon. It’s a shorter hedge with great flowing potential. Another good option is the North Privet – and this one grows very quickly.

Planting Your Hedge

How you plant your hedge will ultimately depend upon the amount of space available in your yard. When you calculate the room between rows, base your measurements upon the width of the plant’s crown. At a minimum, keep a foot or two between each plant to allow room for future root expansion.

Once your plants fully mature, prune and decide if you want to plant additional rows for greater privacy. Unlike fences, privacy hedges add aesthetic value to both your neighbor’s property and your own, and you will finally enjoy the free reign of outdoor living space you have been craving.


No Sun Required: The Best Plants for the Shade

Far too many people begin landscaping their yards with the best of intentions, yet end up disappointed due to a series of simple mistakes. For example, the sun moves throughout the day, and different portions of your yard receive sunlight as the daytime hours wear on. Some yards have overhang from trees or other obstructions that prevent the sun from shining onto plants, flowers, and shrubs.

If your yard is shaded and you plan your landscaping without considering the sun, your plants could wilt, refuse to bloom, or die completely. There are certain types of plants and flowers that do well in the shade, so stick to varieties that can grow without direct sunlight.

Vines that Do Well in the Shade

You may think all plants need direct sun exposure to grow, but that is not the case. In a “shade garden”, landscapers often plant vines that creep through a shaded area and create a dramatic, lush effect as they spread.

It’s not an easy feat to track down vines that are both tolerant of the shade and provide a visually stimulating display of flowering. However, climbing hydrangea vines are an option many landscapers choose to remedy this issue.

Another kind of shade-loving vine is the Sweet Autumn clematis. This vine is able to withstand shade more than is its typical clematis counterpart. The great thing about using the Sweet Autumn as a ground cover for your landscape is that it can grow upwards of twenty feet if it’s left alone. When August rolls into September, the vine begins to bloom into a breathtaking display of pungent white flowers.

Shrubs and Flowers for Shaded Yards

If vines grow too out of control for your taste, there are still options. Select shrubs that will thrive in shaded areas to give your yard an aesthetic pick-me-up. If you’re looking for shade-loving shrubs that bloom in the spring, opt for rhododendrons or azaleas. Hydrangeas are shrubs you can plant for summertime blooms.

As for flowers that do well in the shade, there are choices in that department as well. Some varieties of perennials are the safest bet since they will bloom every spring instead of lasting for only one season. Perennials will produce like clockwork year after year instead of the need to replant.

A few perennial flowers that do well in shaded landscapes are bee balm, bleeding hearts, and forget-me-nots. If you want a flower with a great aroma, try the Carolina allspice. It grows beautifully in shaded areas as well and blooms with a deliciously spicy smell.

Never let shade be a deterrent from planting a garden or landscaping your yard – there are quite certainly options when it comes to landscaping without access to direct sunlight. It’s true that the plants discussed do well without direct sunlight, but you should still take your region and climate into consideration before selecting any shade-friendly plants for your yard.