The sun rises later, sets earlier, and the evenings are cooler. Fall is here, and it’s going to keep getting a little bit darker and a whole lot colder for a while. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop enjoying your outdoor space.
Whether you’re willing to brave the chill to spend time outdoors, or you’d prefer to enjoy it through your living room window, landscape lighting is an absolute must-have for anyone who wants to connect with their landscape during fall and winter.
Here are some tips and ideas for using landscape lighting to brighten up even the darkest fall or winter evening.
Switch To Low-Voltage LED Lighting
If you’re installing lighting for the first time, or thinking about upgrading your old halogens, now is the perfect time to do it. Now that the days are getting shorter and you’ll be using more lighting more of the time, you’ll really start to appreciate the energy savings that LEDs afford.
The up-front cost is higher but the long-term benefits are worth it. LED lighting lasts longer, requires less maintenance, won’t “pop” in the cold and don’t pose the fire hazard that halogens do when covered with dry autumn leaves.
Install A Timer
Nobody wants to be turning lights on and off, day and night. That’s a surefire way to ensure you’ll probably never use your outdoor lighting at all. Plus, unless you’re willing to drop everything and time it perfectly, you’re likely going to run up those energy bills unnecessarily as lights stay on longer than they need to.
Most landscape lighting timers will automatically turn lights on at dusk, then turn them off again after a certain amount of time. You can set the timer to turn your lights off after a couple of hours, or just before sunrise. This way you’ll always be assured of coming home to a safe and welcoming atmosphere without blowing the budget on electricity.
If you already have a timer, check to see if it needs to be adjusted to accommodate shifting daylight hours and clock changes.
Try Color Changing Lights
You can use color changing lights all year long but they’re especially fun during winter when the landscape tends to become more monochromatic.
Use seasonal colors to set the tone for holidays like Halloween or Christmas. Create your own color schemes to reflect your personality or a big event like a birthday or wedding.
Use colors strategically to create different lighting effects. For example, green or green-blue lights enhance the color of foliage, which can be an advantage near evergreens, especially as other colors start to fade away. Red lights placed at a distance give the illusion of firelight.
You can choose a single, subtle color, or let the lights change color on their own. Color changing lights can be especially effective when used underwater in waterfalls, fountains or with other water features.
Clear Off Debris
Remember when we mentioned that leaves could pose a fire hazard if they’re sitting on top of halogen bulbs? That makes an excellent case for upgrading to LEDs! But if you haven’t yet, be sure to clear leaves from bulbs regularly.
Even if you do have LED lights, it’s a good idea to keep them free of debris, especially around ground lighting and spotlights. Bulbs blocked by leaves, twigs or small branches aren’t going to light much of anything.
The “good little soldier” look is not particularly attractive when it comes to pathway lighting, but it’s all too common in landscapes. A naturalistic landscape requires a naturalistic approach to lighting, and that means less regularity and less formality.
Whether you’re using ground lighting or stake lights, it pays to place them intermittently along pathways and walkways. Offset fixtures and leave variable distances between each. Place some in garden beds to illuminate plants, and others closer to the pathway to cast light on pavers or stepping stones.
You don’t need to create a runway for people to be able to navigate – you just need enough lighting so they can see where they’re going. Keep in mind you’ll probably have other sources of lighting available, whether natural moon lighting or other lighting from around your space.
Don’t Overlook Task Lighting
When you’re imagining a cozy evening outdoors, you probably aren’t thinking about task lighting, but if you’ve got an outdoor entertaining space, that’s exactly what you’ll need.
Task lighting is important outdoors for the same reasons it’s important indoors. When you’re cooking, grilling, serving or just pouring a glass of wine or cup of hot cocoa, you want to be able to see what you’re doing.
Recessed lighting in a pergola, a ceiling fan light, even under-counter lighting to illuminate an island countertop or appliance can help make your space useable even when dinner at 5PM is served in the dark!
Appreciate The Trees
Spotlights and up-lighting can enhance the beauty of autumn trees. You can enjoy the colors, textures and shadows as leaves change and eventually fall.
But when branches become bare, it might be time to adjust your lighting strategy. Highlighting those stark branches can be severe and even a little spooky. So unless you’re going for a Halloween look, you can resolve this by tilting the angle of the light down to show off more of the trunk and bark. That will still create light and let you appreciate the texture and shape of the tree without turning your yard into a film noir.
Alternatively, you could switch to frosted lenses, or even remove some of the bulbs to create a more diffuse effect.
Add Your Own Moonlight
On a dark, dark night there’s nothing like a little landscape moonlighting to create a charming and almost-realistic effect that just might fool anyone nearby into thinking you’ve somehow bottled the real thing.
Lighting installed high up in trees, where fixtures are hidden and the glow is diffused through leaves and branches, creates a woodland feel and even illuminates walking areas without pathway lighting.
If you don’t have tall trees, you’ll have to get creative. Install lighting under eaves, or into pergolas, and use a dimmer switch to tone it down when you’re up close.
Showcase Your Water Features
Fall is a great time to highlight water features. When the blooms are gone and everything seems faded and quiet, water features can really stand out as a focal point, offering multi-sensory beauty.
Underwater lighting will ensure that you continue to enjoy your pond, day and night. If you’ve chosen to keep your waterfall on during winter, lighting can accentuate any ice formations and turn your space into a brilliant white wonderland. Even something as simple as lighting a bubbling column, orb, or fountain can bring texture and depth to your fall landscape, and treat you to some spectacular winter visions.
Even if you’re not looking to create a focal point, you can still use lighting subtly. Use soft downlighting if you want to create a more naturalistic “walking in the woods” effect.
Set It On Fire
Ok, so fire is not exactly the same thing as the landscape lighting we’ve been talking about, but autumn is the perfect time to get cozy around an outdoor fireplace or fire pit. Grab a blanket and a hot beverage and your fall evenings just got a whole lot more fun. Fire features are not only great for adding true natural light and warmth, but they make the ideal gathering spot and can even be used to cook.
Of course, it pays to have landscape lighting near your fire feature as well. Anything from string lighting above a patio, to ground lighting to keep everyone safely aware of their surroundings, can enhance your outdoor experience.
Outdoor lighting can enhance your enjoyment, improve curb appeal, and boost safety all year long, but it’s especially effective during these darker, cooler seasons. If you’re interested in installing or upgrading your landscape lighting, contact us for a consultation. We’ll make recommendations and design the perfect illumination for your space.