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Garden Lighting Ideas: 12 Sophisticated Schemes for Your Outdoor Space

this small london garden has plenty of garden lighting ideas
(Image credit: John Cullen Lighting)

In our round up of the best garden lighting ideas, you'll find everything from simple, affordable additions to brighten up your space as and when you need it, to landscaping considerations and how to include mains-powered lighting in your garden design

Garden lighting is such an integral part of your design scheme —  not just for the summer months where you can sit out until after dark and still be warm, but also for enjoying your garden from your kitchen window all year round. 

So, get started with your garden lighting scheme with these 12 brilliant ideas. 

  1. Create a Garden Lighting Idea with Levels 

garden lighting ideas at different levels

(Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

The key to making the most of your garden lighting ideas is to introduce them in levels. From the floor to the walls (and, in some gardens, even overhead), building up layers of lighting helps you to control the atmosphere of your landscaping. 

Where using mains-connected low voltage lighting, use separate circuits to offer even greater control of how your garden looks during the night.

(MORE: Outdoor Wall Lights)

2. Use Directional Lighting to Highlight Key Features of Your Garden

a garden with feature lighting on trees and pond

(Image credit: getty images)

As gardens grow and change throughout the seasons, choose spike fittings on a long cable to allow repositioning as your planting changes. Also think about minimising light pollution by selecting fittings with glare cowls.

Sian Parsons, John Cullen Lighting

Directional lighting has a lot to offer a landscaping scheme. Uplighters located at ground level or in raised beds can be used to illuminate trees and planting, creating bursts of light and drawing the eye around the garden at night time. 

The most useful types of spot lights tend to be mains-powered, so may require an electrician to install unless you already have an outdoor plug. 

Spike spotlights can be staked into the ground to ensure they remain fixed in place with the cable run through the plant beds. Recessed spotlights sit directly into the ground, but can be tilted to focus on your garden elements of choice. 

(MORE: Best Garden Solar Lights)

3. Festoon Lights are a Simple Garden Lighting Idea

an under cover outdoor space lit up with festoon lights

(Image credit: Beaumonde)

Want an easy way to add atmosphere to your garden? Festoon lights are the perfect garden lighting idea for those who want to add something extra to their outdoor space. They can be mains- or battery-powered giving you great versatility, and come in all sorts of lengths to suit everything from the largest outdoor spaces to the most compact gardens! 

4. Light up an Outdoor Structure

a pergola with fairy lights in a garden

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

Whether it's a pergola, a shed or a garden office, use accent lighting in your garden to make a feature of a structural form. This, along with uplighting the right trees, will make sure that your garden lighting is in levels from the ground to the top of your boundary walls or fences, avoiding your lighting scheme looking too bottom-heavy. 

5. Illuminate Your Garden Path With Lighting 

a garden path light

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

Garden paths can prove hazards in the winter months thanks to dark and slippery conditions. Including lighting in your landscaping design around the path both looks great and makes your garden more usable at night. 

You have a few options to explore design-wise when making your choice. Downlighters can be used sporadically along the path to brighten it up underfoot, while border lights bring a more dramatic look to your garden. 

(MORE: Garden Paving Ideas)

Garden path lighting only needs a soft glow to mark the outline and illuminate a small section rather than the full floodlight treatment, so solar powered lighting can be an effective choice which requires minimal disruption to install. 

6. Create a Diffused Glow with a Discreet LED Lighting Idea

a modern patio with garden paving ideas for lighting

(Image credit: www.arch.photos)

Built-in benches and banquette seating are both growing trends in garden design, but they also provide another area to get adventurous with lighting. Using LED strip lights brings a soft, diffused glow to your outdoor living space come sundown, yet in the daytime, you won't notice them at all. 

This creates the perfect atmosphere for intimate social gatherings in the garden during spring and summer, as well as highlighting your choice of garden flooring. LED strips can be fitted with remote controls, meaning you can control the warmth of the light to suit the mood, as well as changing colour and dimming. 

7. Add Drama with a Garden Pendant Light 

a garden lighting idea with a pendant light over a dining table

(Image credit: Nedgis)

Gardens are more and more becoming outside living spaces, while the boundaries between indoors and outdoors are also becoming more blurred. This has led to a trend for garden pendant lights. 

Of course, these aren’t your everyday pendant lights. They need to be specialist designs that carry the appropriate IP (ingress protection) for use outdoors, which is IP44 or above. 

You’ll need to create a structure from which your pendant light can hang in most cases. Your home may have a covered outdoor area which would work perfectly, or you could tie in a pendant light to a structure like a pergola or outbuilding

8. Design Lighting for Your Garden’s Water Feature 

a garden pond with integrated lighting

(Image credit: getty images)

Adding lighting to a water feature or pond is beneficial for a few reasons. Ponds, in particular, can pose potential safety hazards at the best of times, but especially at night when visibility is reduced. Lighting will help highlight any water in your garden for anyone less familiar with the orientation of your outdoor space. 

Aesthetically, designing your lighting to illuminate running water can add an extra dimension and add a sense of movement to your garden design at night. 

9. Create Ambience with Sociable Lighting

a garden with atmospheric lighting

(Image credit: getty images)

When considering your garden as a social space, think holistically about your garden’s lighting requirements. While lighting hardwired into the landscape is effective, consider softer, more ambient lighting from candles, festoon lights and even an outdoor log burner to add to the mix of your lighting scheme. 

Think about the feeling you want to create when choosing the luminosity of your garden lighting too. “Select a warm white tone of light fittings to match the greens in your garden,” advises Sian Parsons, Associate Lighting Designer of John Cullen Lighting. “Anything cooler than 3,000 kelvins or higher can make a garden feel ghostly at night. Consider instead warm white 2,700 kelvin fittings for a soft welcoming look.”

(MORE: Patio Design Ideas)

10. Embellish Your Lighting Scheme With Solar Powered Lights

a solar power garden light by a pond

(Image credit: Limelace)

Not only are solar powered garden lights less expensive, they’re less disruptive to install in an existing garden scheme — by and large, you can’t run wiring across hard landscapes after they're already in place. 

While solar power lights (or those using rechargeable batteries) won’t offer the same power as mains-powered lights, they can be used to add fun and interest, especially when entertaining, with the added benefit that they can be moved to suit your specific needs for any given evening. 

(MORE: Best Garden Solar Lights)

However, there are some things you should consider before investing. Landscape designer Paul Hervey-Brookes cautions: “Novelty lights tend to have very short lifespans and are largely made of plastic. The light levels will dim with time and they tend to wear out from year-round exposure much faster than traditionally wired and mounted light units.”

11. Highlight Steps in Your Garden with Lighting

garden lighting on garden steps

(Image credit: Nedgis)

A design using lighting to emphasise garden steps not only looks great, but may help prevent trips and falls during night time excursions into the garden. For an underlit and integrated design, brief your electrician in at the start of your project. 

(MORE: How to Build Garden Steps)

12. Don’t Forget Lighting for Your Front Garden 

a front garden with solar lighting

(Image credit: Sparkle Lighting)

Often overlooked, lighting in your front garden will create the best first impression for visitors to your home. “Avoid security lights which are glary and will wash the space with too much harsh light,” says Sian. “Instead create a welcoming approach with softly lit features.”

Hugh Metcalf

Hugh is Digital Editor of homebuilding.co.uk and has worked on a range of home, design and property magazines, including Grand Designs, Essential Kitchens, Bathrooms, Bedrooms and Good Homes. Hugh has developed a passion for modern architecture and green homes, and moonlights as an interior designer, having designed and managed projects ranging from single rooms to whole house renovations and large extensions. He's currently renovating a Victorian terrace in Essex, DIYing as much of the work as possible. His current project is a kitchen renovation which involves knocking through walls and landscaping a courtyard garden.