‘A Clean, Well-Lighted Place’: Tell clients to use a pro

Updated Dec 5, 2019
This landscape lighting project by McKay Landscape Lighting features uplighting on trees, lighting for steps and accent lights in the pergola. Photo: McKay Landscape LightingThis landscape lighting project by McKay Landscape Lighting features uplighting on trees, lighting for steps and accent lights in the pergola.
Photo: McKay Landscape Lighting

Landscape lighting is often forgotten when customers are figuring out their budgets. If they do think of it, lighting may be seen as an expensive extra and thus frivolous.

While it’s hardly frivolous, whether the addition of lighting is expensive will depend, of course, on a project’s scope and the kind of lighting used. One thing, however, is virtually guaranteed: Landscape lighting demands professional installation.

Lighting and the effects it creates in the landscape can be tricky, and so can the technical requirements of making a well-conceived idea become reality. If a customer expresses interest in lighting, let them know the benefits of having a professional install it.

While they may not know it, there are numerous lighting options and the character and aesthetic they evoke varies.

“The idea of enhancing your outdoor environment to reflect your personal style is very popular, especially as we look for more ways to extend the amount of time we spend outside,” Rick Wiedemer of Hinkley Lighting told the American Lighting Association. “There are many attractive designs available and you can add color and interest with different glass choices, unique castings, nature-inspired shapes, and architectural elements.”

Here are some of the design possibilities you can suggest to your client and what lights work best with them.


An obvious place for some well-placed lighting is the front entrance. It not only allows guests to see where they are headed in the dark, it also provides a sense of security for the homeowner. Anyone approaching the door will not be able to hide in the shadows. Lights for entries, garages, or house numbers should be place on either side or overhead.


Another practical lighting application is for pathways, walkways, and driveways. Pathlights can be used to cast pools of light that lead a person from one destination to the next in the landscape. With the proper lighting, it can also extend the amount of time your client can enjoy their space. If there is a driveway lined with trees you can get creative and install uplights so the glowing foliage appears to lead the way.


Specialty lights are a good choice for these areas, since they add accent to a space and can create a certain mood or atmosphere. These lights can be tucked away under built-in seating or countertops in the dining area or mimic a starry sky with a canopy of tiny bulbs hanging from a pergola.


If a space has any number of steps, lighting is needed from a safety standpoint. Even if your client doesn’t play host to guests, having these sudden drop-offs outlined with lights on the risers or tread can save everyone a lot of trouble. If the landscape has many levels and terraces, show off these different layers with lighting on the various elements, such as uplighting on feature plants.

Water features

Water features such as pools and fountains are where colored lights are found most often, as a rippling rainbow of light is intriguing underwater. It also allows for safe swimming in pools. Lighting a trickling stream or frothing fountains ensures that even at night these features are seen as well as heard.

Architectural structures or plants

If your customer has some well-established trees that are works of art in and of themselves, highlight this feature of the landscape with uplights and downlights. Be careful in selecting which plants to spotlight – not every plant in the yard needs special attention.

The architecture of the house can also be displayed at night without being ostentatious if the proper spacing and wattage is used.

Lighting can be used in almost every space imaginable. Elsewhere in the landscape, other light sources such as candles and fire features can provide illumination options for more intimate spaces.

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