Archive for Garden Lighting

Beating the Heat!

The roses love the sun — but me, not so much. Especially when the “feels like” temperatures are approaching 115 degrees outside! Doing anything we can to stay cool is important. Here are a few things that you might not have thought of, but they really do help:

Most importantly conserve, conserve, conserve! Water is precious, and so is electricity on days like this. Try to stay indoors as much as possible during the sunny hours. Draw your shades and curtains on the sunny side of your home, it adds insulation, and protects flooring and fabrics from fading as an extra bonus. We have found that the rooms are 10 degrees cooler by doing just that. If you have ceiling fans keep them running, stale air and humidity can lead to mold and mildew. Try to eat fresh and healthy salads, or no-cook meals. Just turning on the stove or oven can heat up your entire kitchen. Run your dishwasher overnight when the water usage is less. After washing, air dry your clothing, or minimize using your dryer. I find that removing clothes from the dryer and then simply hanging them to dry after 5 minutes releases wrinkles and works great. And who likes to iron anyway, right? Those are some of my best indoors tips, now on to the outdoor tips–

Watering flowers after the sun has moved off of them keeps them from getting scorched, also gives the butterflies a safe place to drink some water. Don’t forget to leave a bowl of fresh water out for pets at all times. And for extra help, a soaker hose under a blanket of mulch 2″ deep is great for retaining the soil’s moisture, and it keeps their roots cooler, too.
Trim the back of foundation plants all around your home to leave at least six to twelve inches of airspace between the plant and the exterior wall so your house can breathe. This keeps down the pests and insects as well as molds and mildew. Consider upgrading your outdoor lighting to a power-saving low voltage lighting system. Our’s here provides nice lighting to walkways at just 4 watts per fixture. Much better than a 60-100 watt bulb from old style lighting!
Another way to minimize heat in the garage is with insulated doors, and if you have garage door windows, cover them during the summer months to keep the sun out. I created my own shades by cutting simple pieces of fabric and attaching them with velcro all around the edges of the windows. The coach lighting here is energy saving diode lantern style fixtures which use the equivalent of a 15 watt bulb in energy, but provide terrific lighting for safety.
All around the back of the house, we have these great new solar powered lights. They are motion sensitive, so they are just on when needed. It’s always great to have these in case of of power outages, you will always still have light.
My most important tip is to always have some water with you if you are going to be outside. You can’t drink too much water on these brutally hot days. Wear light colored, loose fitting clothing, and try your best to stay in the shade. Please be careful everyone!

A Walk Through the Garden

What a beautiful day it is to take some time to be outside, even if only for a quick trip around the house. I love the colors of the fall! Here’s what’s going on in my garden:

The neon shades of the nandina always make me happy.

The neon shades of the nandina always make me smile.

The trees are really starting to show color-

The whole landscape is shifting to shades of rust and gold…

I finally had the chance to divide all the liriope, and fill in the walkway- done!

I finally had the time to divide all the liriope and fill in the walkway. Done!

I think the variegated grass this year is the best it has ever looked.

The variegated grass this year is the best it has ever looked.

Even the mahonia leaves look splashed with Fall color-

Even the mahonia leaves look splashed with fall color.

And a quick look at the new uplighting in the garden- more on this soon!

The new uplighting in the garden — more on this soon! Enjoy your evening!

Setting the Scene for Fall

This year's Fall colors on my porch are deep pinks, purples and teals.

This year’s Fall colors on my porch are deep pinks, purples and teals.

I am getting the gardens ready for Fall, and it has been a beautiful weekend for doing the last bit of weeding and edging. Although the chores are not much fun, I rewarded myself by getting some gorgeous additions for the front entrance: ornamental kale, mums, violas, eucalyptus and some variegated ivy that I will use to add some punch.

This year there are some very interesting colors in the selections at the nurseries. I was inspired by a really beautiful kale, and I am pulling various shades of purples, deep pinks and a teal green from it and adding some bright accents with the ivy and the violas.

This ornamental kale was my inspiration for the Fall colors I chose this year.

This ornamental kale was my inspiration for the Fall colors I chose this year.

As the season progresses, I will add pumpkins and gourds for Halloween, and for Thanksgiving I’ll add some Indian corn. Here again, the choices are amazing — the gourds I’ve seen have so many beautiful greens and ivories, not just the traditional oranges and yellows of yesteryear.

Normally by this time of year summer annuals would be in decline, but our strange year once again is proving to be different.

Normally by this time of year summer annuals would be in decline, but our strange year once again is proving to be different.

It seems that we are having a very late Autumn in the mid-Atlantic region. Barely anything has changed color, and most of the summer annuals are still blooming well. Because of this, I am going to break one of my cardinal rules.  I am normally not one for mixing seasons, and I like to give each season its special time to shine, but it makes it hard for me to remove the summer flowers when they are all still looking so pretty. (I know, I get too attached to my babies… I mean my flowers, LOL!) In order to make the summer flowers work in the design, I bring in texture and color that will coordinate with the vinca and the mandevilla vine which are still thriving. They are both deep pink, so I especially like the combination with the kale! This is normally where I would have installed pansies, so when the frost arrives (and the vincas pass on to flower heaven), I will replace them with some pansies or violas. I love to have some flowers on each side of the driveway to welcome us home year ’round since that is the entrance most used.

Lanterns on sheppard's hooks are a great portable way of lighting a pathway- or anywhere else!

Lanterns on shepherd’s hooks are a great portable way of lighting a pathway — or anywhere else!

I have been so taken with gorgeous candle lanterns from magazines and in pictures that I have seen lately. I love to make the garden come alive with light especially on Halloween and when guests are expected, so I will be adding all my lanterns here and there along the walkways. In addition, there is some beautiful uplighting in the trees and against the house, which have been in place now for many years. I just love the look, and it really shows off the trees at night in a very interesting way! If safety is a concern, battery-powered candles can be substituted in lanterns for real ones. Another easy way of adding lighting is with solar lights, no wiring involved. It seems technology is really improving at a rapid clip in this field, and there are some really pretty styles now, unlike the clunkers of a decade ago.

Fall is a season full of beauty, and it’s so nice to have some cool fresh air again. I hope you can find some time to get out and enjoy what Mother Nature is giving us. Please let me know what is inspiring you this season.  Happy gardening!


Happy Fall!

Happy Fall!

Garden Lighting

Highlighting certain trees or plants at night can really enhance your landscape.

With the days getting shorter, I thought it would be a great time to talk about garden lighting. The kind I would like to highlight are the ones beyond the normal entry door lights and post lamps, and move further into the garden. There are so many types out there to choose from, and they can really enhance your landscape as well as provide some safety.

Whether you choose hardwired, low-voltage, or solar here are some things to consider. With hardwired you need some electrical knowledge, permits, and may need to bury your lines quite deeply, to pass code. Usually the hardwired lights are installed during a new build, but can be added later. Solar has come a long way in the past few decades, and has some clear advantages in some applications. You can easily find kits with multiple pathway lights, deck post-cap lights, and even stair tread lights in solar. About the only drawback is that you must get six or more hours of sun on the panels each day for them to work, and the light that they cast is not very bright, but is good for guiding your way as an accessory to a brighter light source. That leaves us with low-voltage, which I personally think is the best. It is consumer friendly being easy to install, and very flexible. You can change your layout as needed without to much effort. Also, you can determine what wattage is best for your personal application.

Low-voltage is the type that we chose for our yard, and my husband installed it more than a decade ago. We have changed it around a few times, and learned a lot about what works best. Here are some helpful tips he wanted to share.

*  When you are planning your lighting layout add up your total wattage and get a transformer that is the next size up. That way if you want to change it around, or add an extra light or two you will have the capacity.

* Up-lighting is truly a great way to highlight your house. To do this place the spotlights about 2-3 ft. away from the foundation with a slight angle toward to house. It will highlight the brick or siding and bathe your house in glow, a real professional look.

When up-lighting a tree, aim the spotlight mid way on the trunk for a great effect.

* When highlighting a tree, aim the light about half way up the trunk. It will cast light up into the branches, and highlight the bark.

* When connecting the individual lights to the main wire, leave the junction above ground. Even though it is “waterproof,” the connectors are the weakest link, and are usually the first part needing to be checked.

* We have found that using 40-50 watt bulbs works best for us, the lower wattage is just to dim to cast light beyond a few feet. Also, please be considerate and do not aim your lighting beyond your property line.

* For safety’s sake make sure to light your property’s address number, in an emergency it could make a difference!

I hope you will add some lighting to your garden, you will be amazed at how much beauty it adds.

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