Plan and design a moonlight garden

When you’re having a great time in your garden, there’s no need to head indoors just because the sun’s gone down. With simple additions like LED garden lights to illuminate your entertaining space and a fire pit to keep the chill off, you can linger long into the evening, watching the stars come out. From advice on the best outdoor lighting to beautiful plants that reflect the moonlight, we have everything you need to make the most of your garden at night.

Moonlight garden introduction

With technology and screens dominating our daily lives, it’s become even more important to get out in the fresh air and enjoy a peaceful, natural environment. In recent years our gardens have become an extension of our homes, as families embrace the great outdoors to provide additional socialising, play and relaxation space. Well-considered lighting is a key component to make sure you can enjoy summer nights outside as much as possible.

It’s well worth planning your outdoor lighting with three outcomes in mind. Firstly, provide enough ambient light to illuminate seating areas and make surfaces and steps safe to navigate. Use accent lighting to highlight features and create interest, and task lights for specific uses such as lighting the cooking area around a barbecue. You’ll need more light where socialising takes place, but contrasting light and shade throughout the garden is the key to an interesting outdoor lighting scheme. The fun of being outdoors at night relies on creating the right atmosphere, easily achieved with a combination of ambient, accent and task lights, as well as glowing candlelight.

Lighting decks, terraces & patios

1. Lighting decks, terraces & patios

The decking and patio areas are generally the main focus points in a garden and where most of the action takes place. Use mini recessed deck lights to zone different areas and indicate where changes of surface occur. Install up and downlighters on walls and fences, to increase overall light levels in the seating area. Create accent light by uplighting vertical surfaces, particularly textural surfaces. Finally, install LED rope lights under overhangs of steps and benches to produce a soft, ‘floating’ effect.

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Lighting paths & drives

2. Lighting paths & drives

Leading the eye, a series of lights along a path or drive can produce a stunning effect, as well as adding a reassuring safety feature. To avoid glare, sink directional lights into hedges at a low level and alternate them at either side of the path. Alternatively, use bollard lights at an even distance apart. Combine these with uplighters against a fence or hedge to add to the overall light level along and accent the ends of the path with spotlights to highlight gateposts. For a magical effect, use glow-in-the-dark paint on stepping stones and stone paths, where it may be a problem to fit lights.

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Lighting pergolas, arches & gazebos

3. Lighting pergolas, arches & gazebos

Where you have a high structure in a garden – perhaps a pergola or gazebo – there’s a great opportunity to festoon it with strings of lights. You can use both LED bulbs and smaller pea lights to produce an intimate, twinkly effect. It’s a good idea to light up pergolas from the ground to highlight climbing plants or you could use two-way up and downlighters to highlight the vertical supports. For a seating area, choose low-power bulbs (3w or 5w) to avoid excessive brightness and position candle lanterns at the entrance to create a warm welcome.

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Lighting trees, planting , shrubs & borders

4. Lighting trees, planting, shrubs & borders

To successfully light trees and plants, angle spotlights from the base of the plants so you conceal the light source and avoid glare. Select specimen plants to illuminate, as this will add depth and perspective to the garden. However, be careful not to overdo it. If a tree is dense and leafy, light it from a distance away from the trunk to emphasise the texture of the branches and allow the light to reach the top of the tree. A carefully positioned spotlight installed in the upper branches can produce a very effective ‘moonlight’ effect.

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Lighting statues & focal points

5. Lighting statues and focal points

Ornamental design features look spectacular lit from the front, highlighting their form and shape. The shadows cast behind are dictated by the distance you place the light fitting in front of the feature. You can illuminate statues from the front, side or above and each position will produce a different effect. Generally, a statue will have more relief and texture if you light it from the side - and white or light-coloured statues will look washed out if you use a light fitting that’s too powerful.

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Lighting steps

6. Lighting steps

Lighting steps is an important safety precaution in a garden, but you need to take care to install fittings that cast light where it’s needed without producing glare that could cause accidents. Fit recessed lights with anti-glare baffles to flanking walls - or to the step risers to cast light across the treads. You should ideally install them on every other step for best results. If it’s not possible to fit them directly into the steps or flanking wall, use evenly spaced bollards to cast light downwards onto the steps.

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Lighting a party or social area

7. Lighting a party or social area

You can socialise outdoors later into the evening - and create a magical effect - by filling the area with candle lanterns suspended from trees, wrapping pea lights around tree trunks and stringing lights above the seating area. Paint plant pots with glow-in-the dark and brightly-coloured paints and add paper lampshades to the bulbs on a string of lights to add energy and fun to the space. Combine candlelight with shimmering solar-powered lights in jars to create an atmospheric evening party table.

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