As well as illuminating your outdoor entertaining space (seeing who you’re talking to and what you’re eating is obviously an advantage), lighting has lots of other functions in the garden.
It can, for example, illuminate pathways and steps so you can see where you’re going, making your garden safer after dark.
If you want to be creative, you can use accent lighting to highlight the landscaping and pick out key features, such as flowerbeds, water features and trees (outdoor fairy lights look lovely wrapped around tree trunks or strung through the branches). This will give the space a totally different look and feel to during the day.
Using different types, colours and strengths of outdoor light creates mood and atmosphere, just as it does indoors. Lighting can be targeted in all directions, depending on the effect you’re trying to create.
And if you don’t want to commit to something as permanent as painting external walls a bold colour, you can train coloured lights on them and change them if you want a new look.
Garden lighting can also make your home more secure. Security lights, especially sensor ones (looks for lights with passive infrared or PIR), are a good way to deter burglars and make you feel safer when you are at home, or when you arrive home, after dark.
A wall light by your front door makes finding your keys more straightforward at night and also makes it easier for visitors to see your house number or name and garden path.
The best lights to use outdoors are low-voltage LED ones, which can be up to 80% cheaper to run than other types. They’re also safer to use and cheaper to install and maintain. Good quality ones can last for up to 30 years, so they reduce waste, as well as saving on your electricity bills.
The cheapest of all are solar lights, which obviously cost nothing to run. They store up the sun’s energy in built-in batteries during the day and then come on at dusk, providing a soft, ambient light.
It’s essential that you pick lights suitable for both outdoor use in general and for where you’re planning to put them. Lights fitted inside a pond need to be more waterproof than ones in decking, for example. The ingress protection (IP) rating tells you how waterproof they are, but ask the retailer/manufacturer or an electrician if in doubt.
Installing garden lighting can be as simple as sticking some solar lights on spikes into your flowerbeds, but if you want something a bit more imaginative, you’ll need to employ an electrician and maybe a garden lighting designer.
Adding garden lights falls under building regulations, so make sure your electrician can self-certify that their work complies (ie, they belong to a competent person scheme).
When mixing electricity and water, you obviously shouldn’t take chances.