What is reflectance and how it affects your garden lighting

Reflectance is the measurement of the amount of light reflected by a surface. While the concept sounds very technical, knowing how the light will behave around the materials in your garden can help you create a better landscaping project.

Although most garden surfaces are dark and do not reflect light well, your eyes need less light outdoors than they do indoors to see forms, shadows and patterns. To choose the right lighting intensity for each area of your garden, remember to also consider the materials around the fixtures.

Below are some ideas of landscape lighting that take advantage of materials and their reflectance. The more reflective a surface is, the less light you will need to achieve the desired brightness around it.

Here the design makes use of the highly reflective white walls to brighten up the whole area.

Light stones reflect around 50% of the light, making it possible to create a well lit entryway with soft low voltage lights.

Concrete reflects about 40% of the light and the rough texture creates a sharper outline of the lighting spots.

Red bricks reflect about one third of the light shed on them and they provide a warmer, cozier look to the garden.

Placing lighting fixtures closer to vegetation can be a good way give the garden a more discrete lighting. Plants have around 25% of reflectance.

Soil and dark stones reflect about 15% of the light and it is possible to create an interesting design by featuring different shapes and textures.

Grass is one of the lowest reflecting surfaces, only 6%. In this example the lawn creates a great separation around the house.

8 Beautiful Garden Lighting Projects

A good landscape lighting project has the power to enhance outdoor spaces, by taking control of what is seen. With directional lighting, for example, we can create focal points in some areas while adding a touch of mystery to dark areas. We can also play around with color and texture by using different kinds of bulbs in different areas. Below are a few examples to inspire your garden lighting project.

Image: diynetwork.com
Image: diynetwork.com

Play around with the location of pathway lights to add interest. By placing some in the middle of the garden bed and others closer to the path and by varying the distance between them you can guide the visitors eyes down the path.   

Image: MIKI Yoshihito on Flickr
Image: MIKI Yoshihito on Flickr

Mirroring is a simple technique that can be achieved by adding accent lights on the far side of a body of water, across from the viewer’s point. In this case, the accent light should be bright enough to outweigh the moonlight and there should be no underwater lighting.

Image: telegraph.co.uk
Image: telegraph.co.uk

Discrete lighting and fixtures can add depth and color to a garden without overwhelming the view.

Image: houzz.com
Image: houzz.com

 

Mixing uplighting fixtures with strings of glow lights can add a festive mood to your garden patio.

Image: houzz.com
Image: houzz.com

 

Uplighting is the most common way to emphasize  trees,  adding scale and drama to your garden. Also note that different types of fixtures and bulbs will produce different results.

Image: naturallivingmag.com
Image: naturallivingmag.com

 

Underwater lighting can be used to emphasize the shape of a pool and looks great, especially for geometric designs like the one in the picture above.

Image: coolshire.com
Image: coolshire.com

Just because step lighting is a functional requirement does not mean that it has to be boring. Using the same lights for both garden beds and stairs can do the job and save energy.

Image: fydeo.com
Image: fydeo.com

With a few low-powered bulbs, you can achieve enchanting visual effects by shadowing small plants onto walls or other vertical surfaces.