Why it’s a huge mistake for property owners to choose fixtures and lamps themselves for their landscape lighting project

Why it’s a huge mistake for property owners to choose fixtures and lamps themselves for their landscape lighting project

By Mike Gambino

When hiring a landscape lighting designer builder it is most important that the products that are specified and chosen for your project are chosen by them and them alone. Why? Because when it comes to garden lighting it is not the “pretty fixture” that becomes the focus but the pretty tree, plant, waterfeature, statue etc. In fact the fixture and lamp is important but what is much more important is the effect that the fixture and lamp (bulb) itself is capable of creating.

This is something that takes much time and experience to figure out. An experienced and seasoned specialist who works day in and day out designing and installing lighting systems outdoors is much better qualified to make such decisions. Property owners and those who dabble in occasional projects cannot come close to equaling this expertise.


This is Garden lighting at its best where the subject, in this case a beautiful multi trunk Mediterranean fan palm specimen is the focal point and not the fixtures and lamps that high light it.

Fixtures such as uplights, downlights, backlights are all designed to be concealed as best as possible within the native landscaping. Therefore the physical look of the fixture is something that should not be of great importance. Durability is of great importance because the equipment is exposed outdoors to all sorts of environmental abuse from gardening crews, weather, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, bird droppings, storms, cold heat and UV rays of the sun and whatever else mother nature cares to dish out.

Pathlights might be the only fixture that by design might be prominent in the landscape as they are sometimes located along walking paths, patios , sitting areas where people congregate.

When a prospective designer pulls out product catalogs and starts asking the property owner which fixture design they like or tells them to go on the internet and choose fixtures then I say it’s time to immediately disqualify this service provider because he/she has just displayed that there are an amateur and don’t know what they are doing. They would prefer to have the property owner make the decisions this way when things go south and do not turn out as planned they have a scapegoat. Choosing fixtures and lamps from a catalog or on line is equal to playing blind archery. It’s a fools practice.

Would you feel confident that you were going to get a good meal if the chef came out of the kitchen and asked you which brand or ingredients they should use to prepare your entre? When you bring your vehicle for service isn’t it best to leave the choice to the mechanic as to which parts they are going to use to fix your car? After all they should know best, no?

Stylish fixtures usually don’t last very long in the garden, are prone to go out of style and most always do not perform as well as fixtures built specifically of casted brass or copper with heavy duty construction and suitable for wet locations and landscape lighting use.

So this added responsibility of the designer installer choosing the right products that will perform and last begs the inclusion of the fact that whomever you do choose for your project is someone you must trust 100% to deliver the best.

You should be aware as a consumer that  unfortunately there are some designer installers that choose certain products that are not necessarily the best for your project but because they are compensated with free trips or other hidden back end incentives that you probably would never know about unless you do your due diligence and asked. Such spiffs for those selling their products are not illegal but know that you as they end consumer are subsidizing these exotic trips, dinners, drinks and whatever these product representatives use as incentives to get their products sold.

My feeling about this is that if the products were so good and not overpriced for their value then there would be no need for these freebies given in order to move the products off the shelf. On the flip side if the designers who are getting these free incentives by using the products were so good then they wouldn’t need the free gifts , paid for by their clients in the form of added product expense, and could afford to make these trips, take these dinners and drinks and pay for them on their own if they were successful on their own right.

Before signing any agreement to have a system installed you should handle and inspect actual fixtures that are being specified. Quality or lack there of is usually pretty easy to detect while handling products regardless if you have any previous experience with outdoor lighting or not. As for their actual effectiveness to provide the best performance and effect for this you must have faith and trust in your designer.

Facebook-iceThis 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 www.gambinolighting.com . To inquire about hiring Mike please click here .

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  • Mark Carlson
    Posted at 05:19h, 07 June Reply

    Great points again. You are especially right about the people who hand over catalogs to allow the consumer to choose what is best for illuminating an area–what???

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