Before deciding what and how to light, we must first ask “why light?” Our design decisions are dependent on proposed uses for landscape lighting…for safety, security, roperty value, or enhancement of the beauty of the garden and structures. Most likely, the answer will be a combination of two or more of these uses. A specific technique can be employed to satisfy more than one requirement…for example, uplighting a prominent tree near the house entrance will provide safety, security and aesthetic enhancement.
Landscape lighting design is very similar to the design of the landscape itself: we must determine focal points, use areas, traffic patterns, outdoor “rooms,” style, mood, etc. We need to consider how the proposed lighting will enhance the form, color and texture of the soft and hard landscape elements. Lighting should serve to unify both interior and exterior design themes, conceal what may be unattractive and shape the view of the landscape at night.
The design process should begin by showing all landscape features and areas that need lighting. Fixtures and lamps are chosen for each area based on the desired effects …path lights for safe passage along walks and stairs, wash fixtures for silhouette effects against a wall, etc.
One common mistake is to overlight; low levels of light create subtle beauty, and are often also sufficient for safety and security. Use brighter lighting effects for focal points, and consider the effects that different light intensities will have on the overall design.