Drive away darkness from your garden
Photo: S. Mahinsha
NEW ENTRANTS: One of the latest garden lighting fixtures to enter the market is the solar-powered stake light.
It is a nice evening, a fresh breeze stirring the leaves and cooling the air. As dusk settles in, you reach for the cane chair to sit back and take in the beauty of the garden. But by the time you make it to the freshly manicured lawn, it is already too dark.
The garage lights are off to the other side while the canopy of the small tree blocks the light from the lamps near the gate. After all the efforts that have gone into landscaping the garden, you are still groping in the dark to find your way around the pots and shrubs. You suddenly realise that your garden is not the ideal place to spend the time after dark. It is time for some expert advice on lighting up the premises.
Landscape lighting is not just putting up a few lights at random. It requires a good understanding of the dynamics of illuminating the various elements that make up a garden, including green spaces, architectural features and water elements.
According to Thiruvananthapuram based landscape architect G. Viswanathan, garden lighting has two key elements - functional and aesthetic. The functional aspect involves illumination of footpaths and open spaces. "More than highlighting beauty, functional or utility lighting is used to ensure security and guide visitors around. In big parks and gardens attached to campuses, lights are strategically placed to highlight paths and other elements," explains Mr. Viswanathan.
Aesthetic lighting on the other hand focuses on bringing out the visual beauty of a landscaped ground. "By configuring lights of various kinds, different elements like trees, lawn, potted plants, sculptures and water features such as dancing fountain, cascade or pond can be visually projected. For example, a flowering tree can be dynamically enhanced by using a light from below to highlight its profile. Mercury vapour lamps which provide cool moonlight are preferable for gardens," says Mr. Viswanathan.
Several types of landscape lights are available in the market. These include post top lanterns or pole lights mounted on long stems, par lights which are used to focus a beam on statues and other hardscape elements, mini floodlights, stepper lights to be installed on stairs and bollard lights that can also act as signages in a public park. Up and down lights and dome lights can be used to impart a special effect to a landscaped garden.
Bollard lights are the most popular. Standing just two to three feet from the ground, they come in different colours and shapes. Some of the latest versions also have built-in speakers that can provide music. In large public parks with a network of footpaths leading in different locations, bollard lights in different colours are installed to guide visitors and prevent them from straying. Laser lights and fibre optic lights are also used to illuminate large landscaped grounds and water features. But they are prohibitively costly.
One of the latest garden lighting fixtures to enter the market is the solar-powered stake light which uses a small matchbox-size photovoltaic panel on the top to charge the compact flourescent lamp housed in a glass case. The fixture can be taken out and driven into soft ground or the lawn to illuminate the surroundings.
"Being a standalone fixture, the stake light can be installed anywhere in the garden. The solar charging feature is a major attraction for environment-conscious citizens," says B.R. Sreekumar of Perfect Agri Management Corporation, stockists for a range of garden lights and equipment in Thiruvananthapuram. The stake lights are imported and cost upwards of Rs.1,000 each.
Garden lights have to be sturdier than their interior versions to withstand continuous exposure to the elements. The connectors, fittings and bulbs all have to be heavy duty, waterproof and weatherproof. They have to be durable and equipped with insulation to prevent the ingress of dust, solid objects and moisture. Underwater fittings used to illuminate ponds, fountains and cascades are built for continuous submersion.
Lamp compartments used in outdoor lighting fixtures are made of injection-moulded acrylic with anodised aluminium for louvres and lampshades.
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