The 10 Biggest Landscape Lighting Don’ts

The 10 Biggest Landscape Lighting Don’ts

By Mike Gambino

There’s much to be said about a well-maintained lawn and an alluring garden. For starters, the property instantly communicates that there has been considerable TLC put into the property. This is even more true after dark  with spectacular custom garden lighting.

Stevens-architectureBy showing a little initiative and being willing to invest, you can improve the aesthetics of any property at night. Here are 10 of the biggest don’ts that every property owner looking to improve their nighttime appearance should know.

  1. Don’t begin the project without a plan

If you want great things to happen to a property, you need to spend time conceptualizing precisely what those things are before you move forward with your project. Prior to breaking ground, take a stroll and envision what you have in mind for the property before and after the sun goes down. Ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish. Devise a thorough plan, but don’t hesitate to alter that plan as your project progresses. Do you want a Las Vegas light show or more understated elegance or somewhere in between.

  1. Don’t hire the wrong Designer

An  inexperienced designer  won’t have access to every creative lighting opportunity that is possible on your property. All too often, a property owner will hire a non specialized trades person to design and install their landscape lighting. Whether it is for cost savings or convenience this often times is a mistake. Using the wrong service provider can also result in less efficiency and you are less likely to see the results you envision.

It’s important to realize that landscape lighting is an art and takes years of experience immersed in the trade day to day to master. While your landscaper or electrician is well intended they may not be the best suited for your lighting project if you are expecting that special look.

  1. Don’t forget to develop focal points

Clutter causes fatigue, which is why it’s important to set up a focal point that causes viewers to immediately focus on a primary point of interest. Even for the smallest of properties, consider a pond or a fountain or a statue to highlight and demand attention.

Of course, the needs for all gardens are different. People might not always remember even the most luscious lawn, but they will remember a beautiful specimen tree or koi pond that is spectacularly illuminated.

  1. Don’t do too much of the same thing

If you have a consistent theme in the garden or if it is strictly formal then repetition may be appropriate. Otherwise don’t fall into the trap of relying on too much of the same thing. If you like the drama of uplighting, for example, that’s great. But if that’s all you do, your property will look rather flat and bland.
Be sure to diversify lighting effects throughout the garden that will keep your property alive and exciting throughout the year.

  1. Don’t light in the wrong areas

You want things to look as sleek as possible, and that often results from taking a calculated approach to where things are illuminated. When it comes to lighting, you’ll want to avoid coming too close to another home or business. Also, avoid lighting in undesirable areas that don’t warrant it like trash can enclosures (lights that can be switched off are most desirable in these areas) or light in a way that obstruct focal points.
When plants are in their infancy, make sure you understand how big they are likely to grow and install the appropriate number of fixtures and consider placement for future growth. That way, you won’t have to worry about digging them up as they grow too close or cause damage to one another. Try to think about how the landscape lighting scheme you’re creating will appear from various locations — both indoor and outdoor.

  1. Don’t compromise on the quality of your lighting materials

In order to produce the best results, you need to use the best materials and equipment. When it comes to landscape lighting, modern fixtures equipped with the latest LED technology will make maintenence easier than outdated fixtures that have excessive lamp replacement requirements due to early burn outs. Reliable brass and copper and other quality lighting materials can also help create truly impressive properties that perform and last.

Cheap materials will certainly cost you more in the long run — at least when it comes to disappointment and financial replacement costs. Do it right the first time, and buy materials that will provide an ample foundation for years to come. Your fixtures need the best materials and construction to survive the rigors of the outdoor environment.

  1. Don’t neglect outside lighting

hats-1You’re going to put lots of hours of wear on the landscape lighting equipment on the property. Even if your lighting does not operate from dusk until dawn you’ll probably be operating them an average of 5-7 hours per night. Gardeners, extreme weather conditions, sun, rain, snow, fertilizers and other chemicals put stress on your lighting equipment. Set up an ongoing maintenance plan with your designer so your system can operate at its peak efficiency at all times. Stuff happens at the most inopportune times like right before a large outdoor garden party at night. Well maintained systems are much less prone to troubles that can ruin your next event.

  1. Don’t rush work plan ahead

Plan ahead so you are not rushed into hiring a service provider at the last minute. After all, the goal is for your landscape lighting to be admired for the coming months and years. Do it right the first time, so you don’t hastily construct things that will only need to be repaired or replaced in the near future. Patience is a virtue, and the more precision you apply to your landscape lighting project, the more impressive it will ultimately be. Start the planning early on during a new landscape or renovation project. A week before a party is never the best time to start interviewing landscape lighting designers.

  1. Don’t skip your due diligence

Now that you’ve spent countless hours preparing your lawn and garden, it’s important to put the same time and energy into choosing the right landscape lighting designer for your project. Do not hire anyone who does not offer ongoing maintenance and service programs for their systems. Choose wisely, never hire anyone until after you have seen their work. No portfolio, no work !

  1. Don’t over or under illuminate your property

Garden lighting is not about placing large high output fixtures up on a building an casting uncontrolled light out in all directions (including in viewers eyes). It’s about using multiple low wattage fixtures carefully placed and concealed within the garden in that their appearance should not be apparent during the day or night. In fact it’s the light itself that should be appreciated and not necessarily the source of that light. The subject , what is being illuminated, becomes the focus. Do not confuse over illumination with large qty fixture counts. It is going to take probably m any more low wattage fixtures than what you would have thought to effectively illuminate your garden.

Facebook-ice-256This 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 .

Blog articles may be published with permission on other websites without editing or removing links.



  • KeithRosser
    Posted at 07:01h, 26 September Reply

    Mike, this article truly shows your experience in this craft. Spot on on every point. To many do not take the time to consider these valuable tips resulting in way to many mistakes.

  • Mike Gambino
    Posted at 15:41h, 26 September Reply

    Thank you Keith, that is much appreciated.

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