Garden lighting: how to make your outdoor space look magical

garden lighting

Garden lighting is the key to making your outdoors enchanting. Here are dozens of tips from the experts on how to make your garden look truly magical.

Garden lighting on your list of things to improve when it comes to your home? Then we’ve got the best advice for you from top designers and retailers. For instance, we have tips from Marketa Rypacek, MD of lighting retailer Industville, Homebase’s Tristan Sissons, and many more.

cool flame lamps
Smart solar 10 cool flame string lights, £11.99, Robert Dyas.

How to install garden lights

“There are plenty of kinds of lights to choose from to give a glow to your garden,” explains Tristan Sissons, Garden Buying Manager at Homebase. “Some take more time to install than others. If you have solar garden lighting or string lights, you can put them up yourself to bring a boost of brightness to the summer evenings. For example, simply place our solar lighting torches into soil so they can soak up the sun. Then once night falls, they’ll light up on their own.”

garden lighting
Solar mesh pendant garden light, £19.95, Homebase.

“Our string lights are often solar powered too,” Tristan reveals, “so they’ll do all the work for you! Place them securely around your fence or bushes to illuminate your space. Though for anything more substantial, we recommend investing in an electrician. They’ll install mains powered garden lights safely and in line with the manufacturer’s instructions.”

outdoor lamps
Eglo Alamonte 1 outdoor wall light in black, £45, Homebase.

How to use garden lights in your green space

“Whether your garden is big or small, lights can make all the difference in creating ambiance in your space,” says Tristan. “Spotlights on your fences or trellis will create intimate pools of light to help break your garden into zones of its own. You can create stunning effects with lights positioned around water, too.  And if you’re looking to create a holiday feel, candle-lit lanterns will take your patio from the UK to somewhere far away – even if the great British weather doesn’t do the same!”

garden lighting
Large crackle ball solar stake, 12cm, £8.95, Homebase.

More expert advice on garden lighting

Reilly Gray, Founder of SUNS Lifestyle, tells us:

“When it comes to lighting the patio or any area of your garden, you want to make the most of your outdoor space at night. There are a lot of options on the market so it’s important to think about whether freestanding solar-powered and rechargeable options would work best. Alternatively, whether you want something more permanent, in which case we’d advise you to get a qualified electrician to install this. This will provide added peace of mind and electrical support when needed.”

floor lanterns
Kate solar-powered lantern lamps, from £200, SUNS Lifestyle.

“Like your interiors, you want to create a layered lighting scheme. This should have multiple light sources in various areas and at different heights. This will help create ambience whilst ensuring there’s ample lighting however you’re using the space.”

Tips on wired lighting

“If you opt for wired lighting, pick options that can be hung from a structure or at height in the garden. Festoon lights or an outdoor chandelier will add brightness from above, lighting the space with good, general lighting. You then want to supplement this light source with others such as uplighters, floor lamps and lanterns. This will brighten up darker corners and allow you to highlight certains elements such as your favourite plants, furniture and ornaments. It will also add warmth, drama and help create that all-important atmosphere. 

“Freestanding lamps and lanterns that are solar-powered and rechargeable are great. This is because they can be moved around the space easily, offering flexibility and the option of directional lighting. Our own collection of solar-powered lanterns have 18 hours of light on a full battery. They can also be charged using USB-C and can be hung around the garden on stands or clustered on the floor.” 

garden lighting
Tom lantern, from £130, SUNS Lifestyle.

“Ensure you pick designs made from high-quality, weatherproof materials that are designed for a life outdoors. Our own lighting collections use the highest quality, weatherproof materials. For example, 100% rust-proof aluminium and FSC-certified grade A teak which weathers beautifully over time. They do not need to be brought indoors.”

Why not combine lighting with heating?

Paul Bevington, MD of Kettler, tells us:

“Whether it’s a sleek freestanding and table top heaters or atmospheric lanterns, outdoor heaters can offer fantastic value for money as a source of atmospheric lighting, as well as warmth.”

copper lantern
Kalos copper-style lantern heater, from £179, Kettler.

Transform your home with exterior lighting

Peter Bowles, MD of Davey Lighting, tells us:

“Good exterior lighting has the power to transform your home. Consider it carefully to maximise the features and function of your outdoor space. A well-thought out mixture of task and ambient lighting will make your garden, porch or patio an attractive, inviting space. It will also make it safer for people arriving at the property at night.”

garden lighting
Outdoor exterior bracket light with swan neck, credit @mytinyestate, £275, Davey Lighting.
porch lamp
Square pendant in weathered brass, £719, Davey Lighting.

Measure the space and factor in the throw

David Amos, Founder of Amos Lighting + Home, has some great advice. “Garden lighting is perfect for creating a subtle ambiance, allowing you to entertain guests later into the evening,” he explains. “When considering the best lighting options for your patio, it’s important to measure the space and factor in the throw of the lights.”

garden lighting
Astro Oslo 160 Wall Light, £186, Amos Lighting.

“Outdoor lighting is an investment – if you’re going for quality, it should last,” David adds. “We recommend choosing a style that suits the architecture of your home as well as your personal style, as this will aid longevity.”

wall light
Astro Newbury Exterior Wall Light, £138, Amos Lighting.

Consider using portable lights

Natalie Mann, New Product Development Co-ordinator for Iconic Lights, tells us: 

“Alfresco lighting can not only set the mood for your garden, but also allow you to spend a lot more time enjoying it (especially when it comes to the warm summer evenings we are all craving). Portable lights allow you to move around and change up the ambience as you please, all without having to worry about wires and outdoor power sockets. The Toka Outdoor Ball Lights come in three sizes (small, large and extra-large) and with an IP44 rating, this set of beautiful orb lights are placed together to add incredible wow-factor. Make a feature by placing them on your lawn or alongside your patio lounge furniture. Add an outdoor rug, throws, cushions, and some fairy lights for a chic Boho garden style.”

garden lighting
Set of three Toka rechargeable colour changing ball lights, £160, Iconic Lights.

Jane Nicholson, Co-Founder of House of Dome, adds:

“Lighting your garden correctly has the ability to elevate your outdoor space in a magical way. Creating an ambient glow doesn’t need to be restricted to fixed lighting solutions, instead look at ways to illuminate different areas of the garden through portable lighting. 

“The X-Pot 110 Luminoso is a fantastic example. The cylinder shape lights stand tall amongst planted boarders, highlighting the textures and colours within the garden. To make a statement place on the patio surrounding a garden room or glass doors, the soft light will illuminate the area, creating a tranquil glow, perfect for relaxing or entraining.  

“Double lined and weatherproof, they are suitable for both outdoor and indoor, meaning that should you wish, they can be used indoors during the colder months.”  

illuminated plant pot
Slide Design X-Pot 110 Luminoso light, £434, House of Dome.

Advice for solar-powered garden lighting

The retailer Annabel James stocks some lovely solar-powered garden lights and gave us the following tips:

Solar Garden Lighting

“Solar garden lights tick all the boxes; they’re environmentally friendly and obviate the need for messy cables running through the garden. They’re also cost-effective and low-maintenance. In addition, just a few strategically placed solar lights can really give your garden the wow factor.”

garden lighting
Solar dandelion starburst outdoor stake lights, £28.95, Annabel James.

How can I light my garden without electricity?

“You can light your garden without electricity by using solar-powered lighting.  Solar lights come in a variety of forms; but all have the same basic premise: place outside and the battery will automatically charge during daylight hours and will then power the light from dusk.”

“The length of time the solar lights will stay illuminated depends upon the weather conditions and the time of year. During the summer the lights should remain on for the whole night, so about 6 hours. In spring and autumn the lights will be illuminated for between 2-5 hours, while in winter they last up to 2 hours.”

How to use solar-powered garden lighting

How do you decorate a garden with solar lights?

“There are several different ways you can decorate a garden with solar lights and they can be used to highlight different areas in the garden.  

“Stake lighting is very versatile and can be used in a number of different ways. For instance, dandelion stake lights (below) can add oomph to a front door – just place one in a pot by the front door to give a subtle light. They look stunning with several lined up along a path or will create an intimate ambience when placed around an outside dining area.”

porch light
Solar dandelion starburst outdoor stake lights, £28.95, Annabel James.

“Solar lanterns (below) look magical in a patio setting and can be hung (hanging hook supplied); they also come with a table stand.”

garden lighting
Solar balloon lantern on stand, £32.95, Annabel James.

“Super-stylish solar powered globe garden lights will create a magical atmosphere in the garden at night-time with their warm white fairy light LEDs. They will make a statement whether staked in borders, patios or seating areas or hung from trees. They look spectacular when highlighting a water feature, reflecting their subtle light. These globe lights are supplied with a hook for hanging and metal stake for standing in the ground.”

illuminated outdoor balls
Solar-powered globe lights, from £47.95, Annabel James.

“Available in 30 cm and 50 cm sizes, they come in a foldable ball shape.  The larger 50 cm globe light can also be mains powered as well as solar powered so is suitable for indoor use as well.”

Will solar lights be OK in the rain?

“While most solar lights are designed to withstand rain, they will deteriorate over time if left outdoors during heavy rain or snow.”

How to illuminate your garden decking

Karl Harrison, a pro landscaper and Trex decking expert, gave his thoughts on installing lighting on decking. Karl has previously worked on the garden spaces at the Savoy and the Corinthia, in addition to a huge number of celebrity homes and residential gardens.  

“By adding lighting to your new decking terrace, you naturally soften the space, make it more inviting and look super stylish,” he explains. “There are many types of lights you can use but I prefer to use simple post cap lights, recessed lights, and stair riser lights.

“If your decking terrace has a balustrade then illuminating the posts is a great way to add a lighting feature. The lights are integral to the Signature railing by Trex®, they sit at the top of the posts illuminating the terrace around you.”

garden lighting
Stair riser lights, Trex Composite Decking.

Where to place your lights on decking

“Recessed decking lights are essential either side of a door or against a brick pillar,” Karl tells us. “Sometimes you can place them just in front of a planter. When using recessed decking lighting it’s essential that you have something to illuminate, as this will add the most to the ambience in the garden.

“Step or stair riser lighting is important, because you need to see the steps in a garden in the evening. They can be dark places so it’s important to show people the way.

“The best way to illuminate a decked garden is to add lighting into the planting areas and use uplighters. They cast shadows and add the most to the space. A garden with lighting will feel cosier during the evenings… When someone asks for that romantic touch in a garden, I always add lighting.”

step on decking
Lighting below a step from Trex Composite Decking.

How to create the perfect edge for decking

“There is a current trend for curved decking,” Karl explains, “and there’s no better way than finishing the edge of your decking with a CustomCurve by Trex®. This style of decking looks more organic than a straight line and feels as though it should be in a garden.

“The edge of the decking should overhang the edge in such a way it creates a lip. It hides the join of the fascia board and looks tidy. 

“Mitred corners look great too as a part of the perimeter board. When you get to a corner, it gives that refined and complete finish.

“You can design the fascia boards for the edging in two different ways – they can be fitted vertically or horizontally. If you have a project with plenty of off-cuts, you can use these to create a vertical fascia arrangement. I’d rather use off-cuts and save money. Alternatively, the design should be horizontal, and you must use full boards and mitre the corner edges.”

More garden lighting advice for decking

Director, Charles Taylor from Composite Prime commented: 

“As the nights draw in, you may be thinking of ways to extend your time outside to get the most out of your garden and deck. One of these ways is to install lighting to put on during the evening. However, the key is to strike the balance between comfort with warm light, recessed fixtures and natural textures, versus functionality providing enough light by which to move, gather or enjoy an evening meal.

garden lighting
Lighting of a garden office from Composite Prime.

“When it comes to outdoor lighting, you’re almost spoiled for choice,” Charles says. “These days you definitely don’t need to limit your choices to a set of string lights. Probably the easiest way to incorporate lighting into a composite deck is recessed lighting. This provides a diffused glow, perfect for creating a low-key, relaxed atmosphere. Just like with regular timber decking, you can easily install recessed lighting in composite decking too. 

“The same tools and process can be used, but if you’re not sure about installation, your decking stockist will be able to help. Perhaps they can even supply your light fixtures. It’s unobtrusive, means that cables and wires are largely kept out of the way, and allows you to get from A to B with zero accidents. Install along edges or steps for a cosy, low-effort aesthetic.”

garden lighting
HD deck 150, credit: @rugrats.and.renovation, Composite Prime.

Lighting is the perfect way to finish a decked space

“Deck lighting is the perfect way to finish a decked space,” Charles continues. “It gives you the opportunity to showcase garden paths and frame zones created in your outdoor space. 

“It’s simple to install deck lighting but positioning the lights requires precise planning. Lights can be inset into the top of the boards, or set into the fascia boards to give an impactful finish. Composite Prime’s HD Deck® range has a unique clip system which allows for easy board removal to enable installation, repairs or replacements. 

“There are a huge range of products to choose from when it comes to deck lighting. Both LED strip downlights and 30m inset spotlights offer stunning results. Inset light spacing should be followed consistently and are generally set around the decking perimeter approximately 300mm-400mm apart. Place strip lighting under an overhanging edge or under a bullnose board. These lights work best when illuminating steps and edges.” 

illuminated decking zones
Lights on steps illuminated by Composite Prime.

A little light can go a long way

Deborah Cobb, Landscaping Product Manager at MKM, gives us her advice:

“When it comes to lighting your outdoor space, the golden rule is a little can go a long way. That’s because your eyes need less light outdoors than they do indoors in order to see light, shadow, and pattern.

“A walk around your garden at night time will help you plan where you need lighting, such as pathways and entry ways. It will reveal where you could make clever use of lighting to highlight your best features. For example, don’t let those fantastic rose bushes or ornamental shrubs sit in the shadows – accent them with fairy lights. Or you could consider placing small lanterns around and through your flower and vegetable patches. Alternatively, use lights under your trees with large branches, creating enchanting and dramatic silhouettes when the night draws in.”

decking zoning
An example of zoning on decking from Composite Prime.

Plinth or strip LED lighting is a possibility

“You could also use plinth or strip LED lighting to illuminate decking, steps and patio areas or use spike lights to light up pathways and stepping stones. The options are endless. Another clever way to highlight feature areas, drawing attention to the most impressive area of your garden, is to use outdoor lighting to illuminate wooden garden features such as pergolas, arbours and arches. 

“Our landscaping experts are on hand in our branches nationwide to offer help and advice on the best way to illuminate your garden and more. For details about your local, branch visit MKM.

How to create a romantic atmosphere

Jeroen Dalderop, co-founder of Innr, says:

“Garden lighting is essential to enjoy the garden at night. If you use smart outdoor lighting, you can control the colours and warmth of your lights, as well as when they turn on and off. Even on nights that get too cold to sit outside, you can still enjoy the backdrop of your beautiful, well-lit garden comfortably looking out the window. Have you always dreamed of a fairy-tale garden? Hang fairy globe lights or bulbs from your cover for a romantic atmosphere.”

garden lighting
An outdoor garden scene lit by Innr.

Study how light falls on your outdoor spaces

Piero de Marchis, Director of Detail Lighting, tells us:

“It’s important to study how light falls on your outdoor spaces and understand what it looks like as daylight fades. Then you can decide what needs lighting and how. Also, you may have architectural features, trees or shrubs that would add drama with carefully placed lighting. Never underestimate the power of lighting to connect different zones.

“Harsh, bright, cold lighting isn’t exactly conducive to relaxation. For external lighting, it can be too hard on the eyes, which is why we always recommend using warm white LED lighting for outdoor spaces. Choose a colour temperature in the region of 2700K-3000K. This bathes areas in a wonderfully golden light that feels cosy and comforting.”

illuminated staircase
A staircase lit by Detail Lighting.

Garden lighting makes it easier to unlock your front door

“In-ground uplights and spotlights should always have a form of glare control cowl, honeycomb or baffle. For subtlety, avoid direct light. Either wash walls with light or uplight to gently highlight features, including garden furniture from below. Spike lights are great too for tactical lighting. Doors, entrances and porches are obvious external features to light, and they need it from a practical point of view. It increases security too and it can deter unwanted intruders. To create a warm and welcoming feeling, an entrance should be well lit, but not over lit. Consider wall lights either side of the door or possibly a recessed spotlight from above for a porch.

garden lighting
Saxby single light coach lantern in charcoal, from £150, Cotswold Co.

“If you are opting for one light, place it on the side where the keyhole and door handle are as it will make it easier when unlocking your door. Above all, ensure it is warm, inviting and makes guests feel safe. Exterior lighting for walkways, driveways and steps is far easier and more effective if you plan it in at the construction stage. This not only gives you more options which are likely to be less intrusive, it also enables you to custom install cabling before anything is built. There’s nothing worse than having to channel through a perfectly set driveway or dig up the perfect lawn.”

garden lighting
Outdoor Allegro lighting by Detail Lighting.

How to place external LED lights

“Advances in safe low voltage, IP65 waterproof LED lighting technology with discreet transformers have made external lighting much easier to retrofit, cheaper to run and more resistant to the elements and condensation. Retrofitting LED lighting is of course possible and there are plenty of ways to do this. Discreet exterior in-ground path lights and spike lights angled are great lighting solutions that create interest and depth.

“Outdoor lighting can also be highly effective at creating something from nothing. A wall that you might not think twice about during the day can become a dramatic feature at night with clever lighting. By aiming a wide beam of light from below or above, a wall can be washed with light and bring its warm tones to life. Alternatively, positioning the beam closer to the wall can catch and accentuate the natural texture of the wall itself using light and shadow.

hanging lanterns
Lights around a tree. Seating in Sadolin Classic all-purpose woodstain in light oak, from £33 for 25L.

“However, if you have a modern home with a ‘perfect’ finish, any slight imperfections and undulations would be exposed by positioning the light close to the wall. So, consider the position of your exterior lighting carefully – possibly even experiment at night using a wide beamed torch to see how light affects the surface.”

Jonas lantern, £22.99, Dobbies.

Outdoor areas are extensions of our homes

“Entertaining outdoors has become increasingly popular and with that, more attention is being paid to the ambience of our external living spaces such as patios, dining and cooking areas. We tend of think of these areas as extensions of our homes – outdoor rooms, even. Patios are now our outdoor lounges where we can sit and socialise with friends and family well into the evening. Al fresco eating areas are our outdoor dining rooms.

“Both require subtle, intimate lighting that relaxes guests and encourages conversation. Consider soft indirect lighting and use surfaces to absorb and diffuse light. Strategically situated dimmable LED linear lighting and inground lighting can create a feel of floating, while thoughtful pendant lights and ceiling lighting can illuminate faces and table settings.”

garden lighting
Lights strung up on a fence. Panels in Sadolin Classic all-purpose woodstain in natural, from £36 for 2.5L.

Jon Sharpe, Chief Creative Officer at luxury interior marketplace LuxDeco, says:

“We are noticing a real rise in the popularity of fuss-free cordless lamps when designing outdoor spaces. A cordless lamp introduces ambient interior-esque lighting but without the complication of messy sockets and wires. Designs have also come on vastly in recent years, promoting them to worthy contenders to their interior siblings.

“We would recommend introducing one as a garden table light just as you would sofa-side in a living room. Or if you find a design that’s tall enough, position it in the centre of your outdoor dining table. We’ve just launched new pieces from Italian lighting experts, Contardi, that are perfect for this.”

garden lighting
Contardi Cube large battery outdoor light, £1710, LuxDeco.

Opt for subtle, indirect wall lights

Mary Buchanan, Creative Director of Laura Ashley Lighting and Mirrors, says:

“In the summer it is essential to provide both practical and ambient lighting within the garden for social events. Avoid bright spotlights and opt for subtle, indirect wall lights to create a restful mood.”

wall lamp
Georgie wall light, IP44, £70, Laura Ashley Lighting and Mirrors.

Ten tips for perfect garden lighting this summer

This advice comes from Marketa Rypacek, MD of Industville.

  1. Firstly, use a plan and carefully calculate; before you start shopping determine how much light is needed and where
  2. Secondly, layer your lighting and include 3 types of lighting; ambient, task and accent
  3. Thirdly, use LEDs; they are the perfect sustainable choice
  4. Choose fixtures that will stand the test of time; metallic finishes on outdoor lighting suit any space
  5. Take a look from inside your home; it’s important your outside space looks good from the inside, as well as out
  6. Use subtle light for entertaining; a soft, indirect, subtle glow provides the perfect illumination for eating outdoors
  7. Think about security; ensure entry points of the home, as well as garages and driveways are well lit
  8. Position lights to highlight areas of your garden that you wish to draw attention to, such as architecture, a water feature or special plants and trees
  9. Create a seamless inside outside look; use the same lighting style outside, as you have inside your house, for the ultimate coordinated look
  10. Go bold with your lighting designs; have fun with your lighting and create a truly personal space that you are proud of.
garden lighting
Brooklyn outdoor and bathroom dome 13″ pendant with pewter and brass shade, £169, Industville. Photographer: Joanna Kossak and designer: Chris Harrington.
set of lanterns
Gulsanger lantern, £27.58 (€32.99), JYSK.
string lights
Fairy lights against a fence painted in Fence Life Plus in midnight blue, from £22, Ronseal.

Lastly: want more lighting tips? Then check out Lindsay’s feature on how to get your kitchen lighting right first time.

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