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The Neighborhood

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Lighting Your Garden
By Plow & Hearth
2/21/2013 2:00:00 PM

You had "just a couple more little loose ends to wrap up" before leaving the office, but before you know it, it's already past 7 pm, daylight is waning quickly, and you're just pulling into your driveway. Fortunately, there's no more haunting or magical time in the garden than twilight, so you quickly remove your work duds, slip into something more comfortable, grab a cold drink, and head out to the garden to relax and unwind. Ahhhhhhhh. If only you could extend twilight for an hour or two, the day would be redeemed. Well, that's where outdoor lighting comes in.

You don't want the hassle or expense of installing underground wiring — just a little romance and illumination. That still leaves you with three very good choices: Luminaries (or other candle supports/enclosures), oil lamps, and solar-charged electrical lighting. Any of these can be used all by itself, or, better yet, together with one or both of the other options.

Canned Sunlight: The Solar Solution

It was only a few years ago that self-contained solar lighting seemed like an exotic, science fiction technology. Now solar lights for the yard and garden are affordable, reliable and come in a variety of styles, from spotlights to decorative string lights.

Three basic components that go into making solar garden lights: the solar cell converts sunlight into electricity, rechargeable batteries store the energy, and the LED (light emitting diodes) “bulbs” produce the light using a tiny amount of energy compared to conventional incandescent bulbs. For added convenience, a light sensor built into the solar cell automatically turns the light on at dusk and off at dawn.

Solar path lights come in variety of styles and finishes to complement many house styles. These path lights put out enough light to safely illuminate walkways or driveways.

Solar spotlights come in a variety of powers, ranging from smaller accent lights to spots powerful enough to light up a wall or a sign. The more powerful spotlights and security lights often have a remote solar panel allowing for placement of the panel in more direct sunlight along with a larger panel size.

Solar-powered string lights are available in different decorative motifs and make it easy to decorate a porch, tree, fence, table umbrella or arbor anywhere in the yard without need for an outlet.

Little or no maintenance is needed for solar lighting. The rechargeable batteries generally last about two years before needing to be replaced.

Oil Lamps: Rustic Light Is Right Outdoors

Before the advent of electrical lighting, there was the oil lamp, and though you’d find very few folks who’d swap the convenience and safety of electric lighting for the flicker of an oil lamp indoors, it’s a completely different story when it comes to outdoor lighting---for porch, patio, garden path or elsewhere in your garden. Somehow, the light of an oil lamp feels warmer, more natural, more rustic, more appropriate in the garden than electrical light ever could.

Candle Power: It's The Measure Of Light

From the time some inspired ancestor of ours first dipped a mullein stalk or something similar in tallow, ignited it in the community fire, and used it to illuminate the night, humans have been fascinated with candles. That fascination has been tempered sometimes with anxiety, however, because exposed candle flames can indeed be a hazard---especially indoors. Outside, though, candles in enclosed holders are reasonably safe, and they contribute to an atmosphere of warmth and romance in the garden after dark. They’re also probably the most versatile and least expensive solution to shedding some light on your private Eden after dark.

Whether it’s solar lighting, oil lamps, candles, or some combination of these that’s the right solution for your situation, one thing you should realize is that there are few---if any—other additions to your garden that will make such a profound impact for so little expense. And a garden, though perhaps beautiful by day, is pure magic when illuminated at night.

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Tags: Guides
Categories: Outdoor Living, Gardening


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