Essential guide to garden lighting

All you need to know about outdoor lighting. Sally Storey, Design Director of John Cullen gives us her tips for some magical garden lighting effects…

Q. What is the advantage of using low energy LEDs in the garden?

A. Prior to the arrival of LEDs, each fitting for garden lights would usually use 20 watts of energy – now these fittings can be as low as 1 watt each.  This enables you to light a small patio for around 5-7 watts or a whole garden for 60 watts – which is less than a single light bulb!  They are also cool to the touch so will not burn the planting.

Q. How can you illuminate a pretty tree?

A. Try uplighting a tree with three 1w Kew spiked spots.  Alternatively, the John Cullen Starliter hung in the tree can create a really magical effect. These are best hung in 3s, 5sor 7s in differing lengths and can be combined with the Kensington LED uplight, which is the perfect way to highlight the tree trunk.

Q. What IP rating do you need for outdoor lighting?

A. Selecting IP65 rated fittings will ensure that your fittings are suitable for use in the garden.

Q. Can you explain what IP rating is?

A. Ingress Protection (IP) ratings define levels of sealing effectiveness of electrical enclosures against intrusion from foreign bodies (tools, dirt etc) and moisture. The IP rating normally has two numbers: The first indicates the degree of protection to people from contact with moving parts, as well as the protection of enclosed equipment from solid foreign bodies.  The second defines the enclosure’s protection level against various forms of moisture (drips, sprays, submersion etc).

Q. How can you enhance a small garden with lighting?

A. A small garden should be treated as an extension of space beyond the house – like another room.  There are endless tricks to play such as combining downlighting with uplighting, or thinking of lighting a specific special feature.  Water can be an amazing tool as its movement can create wonderful patterns across surrounding walls and bubble jets can act like night lights.

Lighting a small garden can create an area of magic. Recently I was involved with lighting the Moon Garden at the Connaught Hotel.  This garden was at the end of a corridor and combined planting and light.

Q. When is it better to use wall lights rather than in-ground lighting?

A. It’s best to select wall lights when you’re looking to create ambient lighting, for example in a seating area.  Uplights can create glare, so it would be best to avoid this by using a  light such as the Pillar wall Light or Wall Downlight with a cowl.

Q. What is the best type of lighting for garden security?

A. Floodlighting is the obvious choice, but another effect would be to use a sensor to turn all the garden lights on at once.  This acts as a deterrent as it appears as if someone has turned the lights on manually.


Q. What would you do differently when designing lighting for a large garden in comparison to a small garden?

A. The main difference when lighting a small garden is that they can be treated as if they are literally a room outside, whereas a large garden may not need to be totally lit.  I normally consider lighting the immediate areas around the house or maybe a walled garden, then maybe a tree or folly in the distance to give a sense of perspective.  I also consider how the garden is used – for example, if one needs to go for a walk at night, then maybe the route needs to be lit.

It’s also important to think about creating a first impression on arrival at a house; however this needs to be considered with care and subtlety to ensure that it does not appear like a hotel.

Lighting large trees is a different skill to small trees where a subtle LED spiked spot lights will suffice.  Other techniques such as Moonlighting then come into play.

John Cullen offers a complete service for all aspects of garden and exterior lighting. They sell a unique collection of light fittings, all designed in-house and manufactured in the UK, and offer an award-winning lighting design service. Visit their spectacular London showroom to see the latest lighting technology in action. 

And for more suppliers of garden and outdoor lighting, including exterior lanterns, deck lights, pond lights, underwater lighting,  see The House Directory’s listings pages.



2 thoughts on “Essential guide to garden lighting

  1. Hello, your blog fulfills all the requirement regarding this topic.
    in my view, Pathway lights
    are a game-changer for anyone who wants to enjoy their outdoor space after dark.
    Not only do they look great, but they also provide much-needed safety and security.
    I highly recommend investing in a set of pathway lights to transform your landscape.”

  2. It really helped when you talked about outdoor lighting and how to design a wonderful garden with it! Recently, my wife and I moved to another house with a bigger patio area! We’re excited to start decorating our outdoors, so we’ll be sure to read your lighting tips carefully! Thanks for the advice on checking lighting supplies and their energy-saving features!

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