The New Original Garden Lighting Book (part 3)

The New Original Garden Lighting Book (part 3)

By Mike Gambino

Garden lighting bookThe new original Garden Lighting book written by F.B. Nightingale, myself  Mike Gambino and Mark Carlson will be available for sale early December. The cost of the 8 1/2” X 11” full color soft cover book will be $45 plus the cost of shipping  and is  available direct from this website. E-mail me for more info

This project started earlier this year when I mentioned to Mark that I would love to reprint the out of print Original Garden lighting book by Nightingale first published in 1958 so it would be available to those in the trade and Garden lighting enthusiasts alike.

We went one step further and not only reprinted the book in it’s entirety ( except for 15 pages dedicated to water pumps) complete with photo’s and line drawings, but we added our own comments, project photos and  updated it by adding some new  content  with current  trends and information.

This is part 3 and the final part of the Introduction to this book. It was announced a few weeks ago that the books would be available now. Unfortunately due to issues with the printer beyond our control the books release and availability date has now been delayed until early December. Both Mark and I apologize for this. We both want to thank you for your patience and as soon as we have a release date it will be widely announced.

INTRODUCTION (continued from previous blog article)

Even after becoming proficient in the art make it a practice to re-visit every garden you have lighted at least once a year; once by day to see if any mechanical defect has developed, then by night to be certain all lamps are burning and properly directed.  These visits will be found very much worthwhile.  There will always be unforeseen developments which cannot be anticipated.  All this adds to your knowledge and helps you to reduce errors elsewhere.  It also shows the client the continued interest and pride you take in your work.

Never become complacent and stop learning.  There is great value in this re-visiting of a past project, as it allows you to see things with fresh eyes after a period of time.  You will gain better insight to your design approach.  You will see what works and what doesn’t.  Use this as a means to improve yourself and your design ability.

I strongly agree with instituting an on-going maintenance program.  There is great importance for doing this because if keeps your clients happy and it provides proof that you care.  There are too many installers out there today that are doing such a bang-up job—they would never dream of returning to the scene of the crime, so to speak.  If you are going to install top-notch lighting systems, then you have to sell them a maintenance plan to care for them. I have always strongly advised property owners who are interviewing designer/installers to disqualify those right away who will not maintain it.

It is not desirable, in garden lighting, that we attempt to reproduce daylight conditions.  It is, however, consoling to know what we who work with lights into the night have one great advantage over the sun who without favor treats the beautiful and ugly areas alike.  We, with the use of controlled light, locate it in the most favorable spot and ‘freeze’ it there.  We allow the unsightly areas to remain cloaked in darkness.

If garden lighting is to become a serious part of your future life work, you must become devoted to it.  You will do well to develop an eye that by day sees in terms of night.  To succeed in creating lighting effects of which Alladin might be proud, takes time.

This is a hugely important statement.  Too many installers already are in it for the buck.  And as Mark has correctly noted, many of these people lack the passion for the art. We are not shining big flood lights off a building without discretion. On the contrary we are using multiple small limited spread light sources typically located close to their subject to achieve our goals.

While this book may answer many of your questions, you too must spend some part of the “Thousand-and-one-nights” in the garden.  Even my wife, knowing that she married a Nightingale did not expect him to live in the garden, -not singing, but lighting.

There is an important truth about this career—if you cannot do the night hours, then you better find another line of work.

Garden lighting, as far as the installation is concerned, is in the electricians field.  The public quite naturally turns to him for advice on this subject.  While it does require specialized study, there is no reason why he should not become proficient in making the lighting recommendation, and doing the installation as well.

Please remember that the electrician at this time was the most qualified to install such a system—it was only available in 120-volt applications, therefore, it made complete sense to pursue this tradesman.  However, in today’s market, the electrician is typically one of the last contractors to call to perform this work.  I say this because it is there common lack of the necessary artistic value required for this work.

Very important that property owners due their due diligence and make sure they are hiring someone who is legally permitted to perform the work they desire completed on their property. After all we are dealing with electricity here and not only is it potentially harmful to persons but to property as well.

At present this lighting art is an open field.  It belongs to him who has the ‘know-how’ regardless of his profession.

The landscape architect, because of his intimate knowledge of growing things—their mature forms—how they can be treated or mis-treated—his sense of the artistic and appreciation of the beautiful—all this and more—would mark him as having an ideal background to become a success in making garden lighting recommendations.

Although I agree that this seems to be the most likely person to perform this design service, most are no more capable to perform this work than the standard landscape contractor.  This is not a slam against either professional, but it is a reflection of their lack of education and/or experience to do so.  No other trade specialty, contractor, or architect has the field experience required to effectively perform this role, and that is why I keep referring this to an ‘art form’.

I believe the next best individual professional that is most capable to perform this specialty would be the actual ‘lighting designer’, from the architectural community.  This fact alone is because of their direct relationship with light and the understanding of light.

Even though I am not a landscape architect nor do I have any formal training in this discipline, I do possess the passion that is required to advance in this understanding.  I have been extremely successful in this business and it is because of this.

No one will ever be closer to the garden than the landscape architect who designs it.  Luther Burbank once said, “When the masons, carpenters and decorators have finished, and the keys are turned over to the owner, –then—and from that moment, the structure begins to depreciate, but, when the architect of plants has combined them into the production of his ideal, he has fashioned something which, if his work is well done, the suns and the rains, and the frosts and the winds will not depreciate; he has produced a living thing, which in spite of discouragement, and neglect and abuses, will keep on and on, improving as it goes.”

It should be noted that Nightingale felt that ‘quality’ was extremely important, and especially so for landscape lighting equipment.  In recent years, there has been an influx of lesser quality and lower cost products.  Many of these manufacturers are using pot metal and plastic fixtures, which do not stand up to mother-nature.  So, I agree with Nightingale with an asterisk, when quality brass, copper, and bronze materials are used…?….

To expand on this topic of quality materials, I think it is important to note that of the typical materials (metals) used in landscape lighting products, brass and copper will provide the best performance measure for life.  There are some quality-oriented companies out there using aluminum alloy to produce good fixtures.  However, there will need to be an additive treatment to these metals against the harsh environmental conditions we face.  For example, anodizing will be a better option than the typical chromate conversion process with regards to this longevity.

Please remember that the metal exterior housing of the fixture is only one part of this ‘quality’ factor.  You must ensure the entire luminare or fixture is built with quality components and parts—socket assemblies, screws, O-rings, etc.  A quality product comes from its complete design and construction, to include the LED or lamp source type.

When the landscape architect plants a garden today, he knows how it should appear tomorrow.  A tree, not much larger than a reed now, might be entirely overlooked by the layman in his lighting plan.

The landscape architect would know where to locate the lighting fixtures today, to provide for tomorrow’s need, using small lamps until the larger ones were required.  He knows, that if a lag-screw, to support a light, were driven into a tree trunk today six feet above the ground, it would remain at that height; that a screw-eye, in a limb to support a light ten feet out from the tree trunk, would always remain at that distance.  Trees grow up only from their tops; limbs grow out from their tips.  Both will increase in diameter, but not otherwise.  It is not necessary to allow slack in wires or conduits to compensate for growth.

Great point, because too many property owners, let alone landscapers, do not know how plants grow.  I am constantly told to “leave some slack at the base of the tree to allow for future growth”, which receives a chuckle from me. In my opinion those who have not studied plants and trees and are not expert in their growth habits and eventual mature size really have no business recommending or designing a Garden lighting system.

When landscape architect and lighting engineer are two different individuals, they should make every effort to understand each other’s problems.  Both have a common goal.  A spirit of co-operation existing between them insures a satisfied client and an artistically lighted garden.

I think this holds true with all team members of a project, as everyone brings a particular professional aspect, application, or thought to the overall successful outcome.  Too many times, we see one trade or specialty try to take control of the whole project and it limits the client.

It is my opinion that not everyone can be an expert in all trades or crafts.  Therefore, to achieve the best results, a client must select the best individuals for the job and this especially is true for landscape lighting design.

As Mark had mentioned that ‘not everyone can be an expert’, this is especially true.  There are too many tradesmen and women who try to offer a ‘one-stop’ shop for their clients to do all the work themselves.  This is not a slight against landscapers but I have seen so many fail by trying to offer too many aspects of a project in house instead of bringing in better qualified  specialists to put the finishing touches on their beautiful work. We have worked successfully over the years with many other related trades, all with the same goal in mind, which is to give the client the best end result.

This landscape lighting blog is published by Mike Gambino of Gambino landscape lighting inc. all rights reserved. Mike is a professional landscape lighting system designer/ builder and has been designing, installing and maintaining landscape lighting systems for more than 20 years. Mike resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 2 sons. To visit his website go to . To inquire about hiring Mike please  click here .

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