Sunday, March 27, 2005

Light Up Your Garden And Brighten Your Life

Extending Your Living Space

The garden is fast being considered to be an extension to your living space and homeowners are putting as much effort into creating a harmonious environment outside as they are inside. A beautiful garden is also considered to be one of the biggest selling features of a home and can certainly help to add value and appeal.

As the short days of winter recede, many of us will be starting to think about our gardens and dreaming up projects and schemes that we plan to undertake when the days become longer and the weather warmer. For many traditionalists this will mean planting borders, manicuring the lawn and cultivating a myriad of blooms that will add colour and life to their gardens throughout the summer, whilst others will view their garden purely as an area in which to relax.

Garden centres are already stocked with outdoor furniture, ubiquitous decking and the eclectic range of artefacts that are designed to help you enjoy your garden to the full. However, garden lighting is one of the most effective ways that you can improve the look and functionality of your outdoor living space and increases the time that you can appreciate this natural extension to your home. Garden lighting has moved beyond the occasional wall lantern or halogen floodlight illuminating the patio or garden path, blending functionality with creativity. Strategic outdoor lighting enables you to enjoy aspects of your garden at all times of the day or evening, all year ‘round, whether for entertainment purposes or your own pleasure.

The garden at night should be considered to be a blank canvas on which one’s own creation can evolve. Properly placed lighting can create the most wonderful ambience by silhouetting trees, highlighting favourite shrubs, accenting flowerbeds or reflecting the diamond like sparkle of droplets cascading from a water feature.

The Key to Successful Creative Lighting


The key to successful lighting is to focus in on specific architectural features:

Uplight pergolas, archways or façades for a dramatic effect

“Wash” sides of buildings with a subtle light

Focus a gentle light across fences and walls

Highlight water features with submersible lights

Silhouette trees by placing lights below and behind them.


Bring your garden alive after dark by illuminating it with a range of carefully chosen coloured lights:

Add warmth with tones of yellow or red

Add a green light beneath foliage to make leaves appear greener

Create a fresher, Nordic atmosphere with white or blue light. This is particularly effective if you have a lot of pine trees.



Subtlety is the key, since a blend of too many colours can give a gaudy appearance, unless of course you have a penchant for theme park styles.

Functional Lighting

If you are seeking more functional lighting, then low voltage fittings are the best option. Uplighters fitted into decking or patios can add that subtle but necessary source of light when the sun goes down, whether you are entertaining or just relaxing. But there are always more creative possibilities. Recessed lighting can be built into steps and fixed seating or under handrails. Each source of light becomes a feature in itself and creates the individuality and atmosphere that reflects your own needs and personality.

If you are an active barbecuer and you need more direct light, then spotlights that are discretely located but focused on your cooking area are ideal. If safety and security are your concern then there is a wide range of functional but aesthetic lighting available to illuminate steps, paths and driveways and help to prevent accidents after dark. Motion detectors that activate lighting when someone passes by have proved to be a boon for added security and safety. Another way of improving security is to have certain strategically placed lighting linked to photo electric cells that automatically turn on at dusk and off at dawn.

Lighting Tips

When creating a lighting scheme for your garden you should adopt the less is more approach. The objective must always be to see the landscape and not the lights, with the right balance between aesthetic and functional lighting.

It is important always to use lights that have the correct IP rating and are therefore suitable for outdoor lighting. Although the installation of these types of light is not difficult, it is recommended that you employ a qualified electrician for their installation.

There is a wide range of products on the market from which to choose, but the most cost-effective solution is to buy the best quality you can. By choosing quality products and having them professionally fitted you’ll have something that will not only last for years, but also maintains its good looks.

Don’t forget that you are starting with a blank canvas. Like art, there are a few basic rules that you should follow, but in the end beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Be creative. Make your garden an extension to your home. A ‘room’ under the stars!

www.thelightcompanydirect.co.uk

About The Author

Carolyn and Laurence James own The Light Company Direct Ltd, an independent, family run business, based in the heart of the Cotswolds. The company offers a superb range of distinctive and stylish lighting for homes and commercial establishments via mail order and the Internet. Carolyn and Laurence have selected lighting that represents the very best in design and craftsmanship. They have developed close links with key manufacturers throughout Europe and are able to offer customers many designs that are rarely seen in the UK.

carolyn@thelightcompanydirect.co.uk

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

How To Choose Water Garden Plants

So. The water garden bug has bitten. You’ve dug and leveled and sweated and said words you hope that no one else has heard. Now it’s time for the fun part – picking out your water garden plants!

Plant varieties within these four categories are what you need to eyeball: deep-water, marginals, oxygenators, and floaters. (If you think these words are big and weird, just thank your stars we’re not talking medicine.)

After you’ve diligently planted your babies in plastic tubs, pans, or clay pots, packing the fertilizer- and chemical-free soil down tightly, load the container down with pea gravel to keep the soil from floating away. (Don’t ask why this works, but it does.) Plunk your prize into the water at the appropriate depth (You’ll read about that in just a minute, so hang on to your hat.) and you’re on your way!

Plant-dunking should be done during the growing season. Wait four or five weeks for the water plants to do their thing before you add your fish. If you just can’t hold your horses, er, your fish, for that long, you can jump the gun a couple of weeks, but the idea is to let the plants first get established.

When picking your plants, you’ll no doubt be wowed by water lilies of the tropical persuasion. These aquatic wonders lord it over their hardier cousins with knock-out fragrance, big blooms day or night – depending on the variety – and a habit of blooming their little hearts out nearly every day during the growing season. They love their warmth, though, so unless you live in a year-round, warm-weather climate (in which case, you are used to being hated and has absolutely nothing to do with this article), be prepared to hasten them into a greenhouse or at least muster up enough moolah to buy them some “grow” lights to tough it out through the winter. They will definitely bite the dust at freezing temperatures, but give them night-time temps of at least 65F and daytime temps of 75F or warmer, and your love affair with tropicals will only grow that much more torrid.

Hardy water lilies, while not the showboaters that tropicals are, are . . . well, hardier. Their big advantage is that they can stay in the water year ‘round unless it freezes so deeply the rootstock is affected. And being the tough guys they are, you can plant these puppies deeper than the tropicals, some living it up in depths of 8 to 10 feet.

Both hardy and tropical water lilies are real sun worshippers. At least 5 to 10 hours a day is what it takes, along with regular fertilization, to keep these plant pals happy.

Everybody and their brother with a water garden wants a lotus plant. (Sisters, too, no doubt.) These water-lily relatives come in hardy and not-so-hardy strains, so make sure you know what you’re buying. Much bigger than water lilies, lotus have huge, famously splendid blooms that not only will knock your socks off, but make you forget you have feet altogether. Their leaves and seed pods are so breathtaking, they’re a favorite in costly cut-flower arrangements. Big, bold, and beautiful, with water-depth needs of 2-3 feet, these shouters are really better off in big ponds that get plenty of sun.

Marginals (sometimes called “bog” plants by those less high-falutin’) are grass-like plants that strut their stuff in shallow areas no deeper than 6” that border the water garden. They also do well in mud. Cattail, bamboo, rush, papyrus, and many other plants fall into the family of marginals and grow best with a minimum of at least three hours of jolly old Sol.

Some plants are there but not seen, working stoically under water and without fanfare to fight algae, oxygenate the water, and provide food for fish. (In lieu of these plants, if your pond is small, you can fake it fairly adequately with an aquarium pump.) Easy on the wallet, varieties of these plants can be bought in bunches and like their soil sandy and/or gravelly. Like hardy water lilies, they, too, will warrior it through the winter.

Water hyacinths have become a recent rage, especially for the lazy among us. No soil is required for these beauties. Toss them in the water and they’re “planted.” A water hyacinth ain’t just another pretty face, though; these plants do their part in the war against algae and blanket weeds by keeping sunlight scarce on the water’s surface. But one note of caution: This plant may take over the world if allowed. It’s invasive as all get out, so keep it under control or you (and your neighbors) may wish you’d never laid eyes on it.

A water garden isn't a garden without plants. Take your time, know your climate, and choose wisely. Your rewards will be great in return.

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Brett Fogle is the owner of MacArthur Water Gardens and several other pond-related websites including MacArthurWatergardens.com, and Pond-Filters-Online.com.

He also publishes a free monthly newsletter called PondStuff! with a reader circulation of over 9,000. To sign up for the free newsletter and receive our FREE 'New Pond Owners Guide' visit MacArthur Water Gardens today!

compiled by : Simply Flower Garden