Joe Swift stays warm on cool evenings and shows how lighting can transform any garden.
There is nothing better than to come home from work, head straight out into the garden and enjoy the long summer evenings to the max. Just being outdoors on a warm evening Ė however small your garden - is the perfect antidote to the stresses of modern living. Even though I live in one of the busiest parts of London itís amazing how quiet and calm it gets in the evening- as if the whole city is relaxing after a busy day.
There are ways of instantly making your garden a more inviting space at night. They insure you use it as much as possible like a real outdoor room. Itís easy to create the perfect ambience to invite friends over to dine Ďal frescoí, or even make the right setting for a full-blown party! Why not? Go on - go for it while summerís here.
Sadly, even in the fleeting days of high summer, our weather canít always be relied upon and just as youíre about to serve up the food everyone is reaching for jackets. The perfect safeguard is the latest must-have, an outdoor patio heater.
Theyíre all the rage and will really extend the hours your garden can be used throughout the whole year. They really do give off a lot of heat, so as long as itís dry eating out doesnít have to be limited to the odd balmy evening. They are now available in smaller domestic sizes than before, and will really impress your friends when they come round.
Warmth, then light are what weíre dealing with here. Garden lighting has so many qualities that itís worth considering in some form or another. I guarantee that even a few simple lights (electric or candle-lights) will turn your garden into a more magical place.
If you choose to have lighting installed (only use a professional electrician) spend time thinking about positioning it. Youíre not just plonking lights in a garden; itís time to get arty as youíre designing with an exciting new medium If you have any specific focal points garden such as a beautifully shaped tree, large pot or even a prominent set of steps then these are worth highlighting with a spotlight or up-lighter.
A few tips. In a small garden just pick one or two points rather than have too many lights, subtlety is everything and with lighting especially, less is most definitely more. Make sure that the bulbs are not shining directly towards the house windows or any seating areas, as a light glaring into your eyes will ruin the whole effect. The lower wattage or low voltage fittings tend to give the best quality of light rather than those great big bright ones that will give the effect of a security light with a dodgy sensor thatís permanently on. To light a terrace or eating area try to mount a light as high up as possible to create a pool of light onto a specific area rather than an overly defined Ďspotí, which may look too sharp.
Electrical lights are obviously the most expensive to install, but with a flick of a switch your garden is turned into a fresh composition. Candle-lights, however can also be a great and there are some really nice holders available at the moment. These can be either wall-mounted, come with a shepherds crook type spike to stick amongst the planting or simply be placed on an outside table.
For an instant party atmosphere try buying a bag of a hundred tea lights and placing them all over the garden in clear or coloured plastic cups. The cups will make them glow effectively and stop them blowing out in a gentle breeze. Place them in flower beds, along walls and to edge a patio or deck. Alternatively you could buy some bigger candles and place them in a bit of sand at the bottom of a large brown paper bag- if you think Iím mad just try it and let me know what it looks like. Caution, donít let the kids do this unsupervised.