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Lighting adds touch of magic to the garden

John Zvirovski / The Sun White lights cause the snow in the garden to reflect shadows and create depth, as seen Tuesday in Jamestown.

There is nothing more apparent in the yards and gardens during this time of year than all of the lights for the holidays. Whether they are bright mixed colors, solids or just white lights, they illuminate the garden into a different dimension. There is always a certain glow during winter as the reflections of the lights bounce off the snow and create a warming effect to the visual senses.

During winter the lights’ hues create soft shadows that give depth and rolling textures around the plant residue left behind from autumn. Animal tracks paint deep pathways through the snow along with gentle impressions from the feet of numerous birds seeking food among the seed heads that stand tall. The shadows of the tall ornamental grasses seem to look so much taller during the nighttime hours.

Lights don’t only seem to warm the winter scene, but during the spring summer and fall, outdoor lighting makes the garden come to life during the evening hours. There is no reason you can’t enjoy the gardens long after the sun has gone down. The fragrances of the plants still permeate the air and the sounds still fill the senses even when the plants are not as visually detailed.

There are many different types of lighting that can be used within the garden depending on what you are trying to accentuate. Most of the time lighting is used as a softening agent and to give a subtle flow to the landscape. Other times lighting is used as a safety feature and for creating bright spots around doorways, entrances and stairways.

Yard lights along main walkways and entrance points are usually quite bright to show you the way. Often they can be decorative to give different character to the yard. The generic utility-type of lighting has faded into the past as new designs have taken its place for a more inviting appearance.

Pathways in the gardens have now become lined with small lights to guide your way through the yard. Some are electric and wired into timer systems while many others function on solar energy for better efficiency. These types of lights come in numerous styles to fit anyone’s design features. Usually they are from 1 to 3 feet in height for a subtle ambiance.

There are lighting systems that are placed into tree canopies to shine down at night creating a cascading glow from within. There are also ones that are placed at the base of trees and shrubs shining into the canopy giving a bright indirect light that seems to make the gardens come alive and invite activity.

If you are looking for lighting that is not quite as elaborate, but offers a good deal of night lighting, try putting up the numerous types of string lighting. There are regular types or the LED selections for greater efficiency. Place them in the canopy of trees and bushes during the spring months before the leaves come out for the best effect. Once in place, allow the leaves and new growth to take over and the lights will seem to twinkle from within throughout the season. It creates a wonderful atmosphere for yard parties during the summer and adds a magical touch to the gardens during winter. You never have to remove them unless they burn out. But they are inexpensive and easy to replace.

Creative lighting is not only used in the residential areas, but also in public spaces where parks, plazas and businesses exist. They tend to add a different level of sophistication to the scene if used properly and tastefully. Occasionally the light twinkling of lights gives that starry-night appearance when placed high into the canopies of older trees. It nearly acts as an extension of the night skies down to our level.

This time of year is always an excellent time to observe how lights work in the garden and yard. So many homes have lights for the holidays and some of these light applications can be used for everyday lighting throughout the year. With all of the displays lit up in the evening, you can see what works for your tastes and what does not. Some may seem gaudy where others may have a simple elegance to them. Take pictures and jot down notes so when the season warms, you can incorporate some mood lighting within your gardens.

It won’t be long before our growing season begins again and you will want to add new features into the landscape. Until that time arrives, get outdoors one evening and check out all the many light displays in town. You never know when a new idea will occur that allows the perfect accents for your garden space. Allow the season to enter your heart and soul and have a very Merry Christmas!