The winter months are the perfect time to plan garden lighting—the sun sets early, leaving you plenty of waking hours in which to note where your garden could use some extra illumination. Choose which plants deserve some spotlight, consider which areas you use for evening entertaining, and shop for appropriate fixtures. Come summer, you’ll be set to enjoy your garden late into the night.
Outdoor lighting comes in three categories: nonelectric, low-voltage, and standard voltage. Torches, candles, and solar-powered fixtures are easiest to set up and power, but cast the dimmest light. Low-voltage lighting uses a 12-volt current, provides a soft glow, and works well as accent lighting. You can install this sort of system yourself, laying the wiring on the ground or burying it shallowly. You can also rearrange the system easily. Standard-voltage lighting, which is permanent, uses a 120-volt current and must be installed according to code, by a licensed electrician.
When choosing any garden lighting, look for fixtures marked “UL-rated for outdoor use,” and carefully read and follow all enclosed instructions and safety information. Here are a few examples of low-voltage (and no-voltage) fixtures that light up the night, and look nice in daylight, too.—Meghan Lynch
For soft lighting and understated design, try votive candles or tea lights in clear glass holders. These bell-shaped hurricanes, mounted on powder-coated, three-foot stakes, make installation (and elegance) instant. Garden Candle Stakes, $35 (set of four). Charleston Gardens, 866-469-0118, www.charlestongardens.com.
A PATH LESS TRAVELED
It may seem as though all low-voltage path lights are alike, but be choosy. This handmade lamp’s blend of craftsman, Spanish, and Asian design motifs makes it unique yet versatile. Sonoma, $248 each. Copper Craft Lighting, 360-307-0331, www.copperlights.com.
HANG THE MOON
That old standby during power outages, the lantern, has lately become a staple in design, appearing in a variety of styles. Ribbed milk glass lends this streamlined model an old-fashioned charm. Milk Glass Lantern, $10 each. Illuminations, 800-621-2998, www.illuminations.com.
You won’t need spare light bulbs or matchbooks if you go solar. After a day of soaking up the sun, solar-powered fixtures cast a lasting glow. This one can even be recharged—if your party runs late, just hold the globe beneath any incandescent light for a few minutes. Illuminarie Globe, $39.95. Silvo Home & Garden, 800-331-1261, www.silvo.com.
Some fixtures do double duty: they’re lighting by night, garden art by day. Sculptural but not overdone, these lamps complement their setting, as their copper stems, leaves, and calyxes age to a mellow patina. Buds, from $130. Escort Lighting, 800-856-7948, www.escortlighting.com.
The den meets the deck in the latest trend in outdoor lighting: living room lamps designed to hold up in all weather. This one has a dimmer switch, too, to let you choose between low and bright light. Camille Outdoor Table Lamp, $302. Bellacor, 877-723-5522, www.bellacor.com.
Take string lights beyond the holidays, right into summer. This 50-foot set, fitted with ten weatherproof rubber sockets and copper or galvanized steel shades, goes the distance. Original Industrial String Lights, $169. Smith & Hawken, 800-940-1170, www.smithandhawken.com.