Before you invest in any landscape lighting, ask yourself what your purposes are for wanting illumination in your backyard. Perhaps you want to set a soft, romantic mood during the evening hours. Maybe you have a bench or a shadowy garden corner you need to illuminate for security reasons. A path leading through the garden may require landscape lighting to mark its boundaries. You might want to highlight some features of your backyard like a water fountain or pond.
Make a Sketch of Your Yard
After you have defined your reasons for wanting to add landscape lighting, sketch your yard. Include in the sketch existing lights, buildings, benches, trees and shrubs, as well as the vegetation and decorations in the garden. Each of these items will reflect light or absorb it. Estimate the height of each of the objects, especially the foliage.
Decide Where Landscape Lighting Should Go
Match the reason for lighting to specific locations in your backyard. You may want to illuminate a bench along the path with a pole-type lamp placed behind it. A soft mood can be achieved by hiding landscape lighting under shrubs. A path may require a series of short stake lights along its border on one side or on both sides (Image 1). A water fountain can be enhanced with a spotlight (Image 2), and a pond can have soft lighting around its perimeter.
Landscape lighting is an important safety element for any outdoor space. In this garden, a series of path lights illuminates the meandering walkway that leads to the destination terrace.
Detailed Water Feature
Resembling a Corinthian capital, this ornately carved stone water fountain is lit from below.
Determine How Much Effort You Want to Expend
The landscape lighting that requires the greatest effort to install is 120-volt lighting. Wiring for these types of garden lights must be buried at a depth of 18 inches or encased in conduit to protect it from water. A licensed electrician has to install the electrical components.
Low-voltage landscape lighting for the backyard needs only an outdoor receptacle and a transformer. The transformer converts the 120 volts coming from the household line to a usable 12 volts to operate the lights.
The easiest landscape lighting to place in the backyard is solar lighting (below). This type of lighting has no cords to be hidden. It should be positioned in such a way that the photovoltaic cell in the lighting fixture receives enough light during the day to allow it to shine at night.