Planting and Shrub Borders
Colour considerations are a significant factor in the lighting of shrub borders. In winter, variegated evergreens, colourful stems and berries and the dried stems, foliage and seed heads beloved of the flower arranger can provide a surprisingly strong impact under lighting. In summer, lighting of borders often appears less bright than in winter as the light is absorbed by darker, denser foliage. Darker leafed specimens are less reflective than lighter coloured or variegated foliage; lighting camelias and rhododendrons in flower can be stunning, but for the rest of the year these are fairly boring subjects for illumination unless companion planting offers seasonal alternatives. Flowers in pale colours such as pink and yellow, and in particular in white, stand out readily under relatively low levels of light. Where planting is dense, downlighting from trees and structures can introduce wide coverage and provide a contrast for uplighting or crosslighting of planting from ground-mounted lights. This is particularly important where flowers rather than foliage are key to the garden design, as flowers tend to face upwards and are not seen at their best when uplit from below. Downlighting from a pergola beam, post or wall is often an effective way of highlighting flowers of climbing plants as well as providing overlapping lighting onto a path or patio beneath. "Moonlighting" down from trees is a subtle way of lighting areas planted with bulbs or to light herbaceous borders where planting density conspires against uplighting of individual plants.
Plants with strong leaf shape offer opportunities for projecting shadows up through the plant or onto adjacent surfaces, and architectural planting makes a striking feature. Small specimens in containers can be lit with a low power spotlight such as the 20w Microspot Spike. Phormiums, gunnera and tree ferns are three contrasting examples of individual specimens where leaf shape determines the drama of the lighting subject. For natural colour effect, use the white light typical of tungsten halogen and some discharge light sources as this flatters the natural colours of flower and foliage, as well as of construction materials. The misguided idea of using a blue or green spotlight to light a specimen plant is more likely to make it look like an artificial Christmas tree. 50 watt 60 degree lamps are often the best choice for uplighting larger shrubs in the more mature garden. In smaller gardens, or newly planted ones, use 35 watt lamps with 36-60 degree beams; in roof gardens and small courtyards, stick to 20 watts.
Spike spotlights are more versatile than recessed lights for shrub borders as they offer a greater degree of lamp beam adjustment, can be moved around for refocusing according to which plants are of current interest, don't get covered by foliage, leaf litter etc as much and are cheaper. Lighting diagonally along the border rather than just shining the spotlight straight backwards from the front of the border will increase coverage, reduce the visible boundary of the light beam and produce an interplay of shadow between adjacent plants to provide a more three-dimensional effect. For borders the Elipta green spike spotlight (E4141) and rustic brown spike spotlight (E4171) - are good choices for general-purpose shrub lighting as they are easily hidden among low planting at the front of the border and can accommodate an internal glare louvre. It is also available in traditional black (E4131), though many designers are choosing the E4121 copper version, particularly for gravel or mulched areas and for small gardens and courtyards where it may be less easy to hide a larger spotlight with glare shield among low planting - in just a few weeks copper weathers to a mottled brown finish which blends well with bark mulch and gravel, while its compact shape is pleasing where it is visible at the front of the border. In particularly modern settings you may choose the Elipta stainless steel spotlight (E4111). These Elipta Compact spotlights are available with optional finned "ground anchor" for firm positioning in loose soils or with a useful 50cm extended spike which can be changed at any time without requiring rewiring in order to cater for plant growth or seasonal plant height changes. Don't forget to add some variety by downlighting planting from pergolas or trees - a useful technique for lighting herbaceous borders.
If you want to have 2 spotlights in one location but only want to run a single cable from the transformer, Elipta's twin spike spots are a combination unit to fit the bill, but if you have taller planting pole mount spotlights will raise the spotlight through the foliage for lighting taller shrubs or trees behind. If you are replacing existing old-fashioned 240v spotlights, use one of the new generation of compact 240v spotlights which use controlled halogen beams instead, such as Elipta's compact spike spot range. They have an attractive choice of finishes at reasonable prices - E4112 316 Stainless Steel, E4122 Copper, E4132 Black, E4142 Dark Green and the E4172 Rustic Brown finish which blends well into gravel-mulched beds. They also offer led and compact fluorescent options for low energy lighting; an 11w compact fluorescent spotlamp gives a pleasant wide beam to replace PAR38 lamps. (Tip - always grease screw threads in garden lights with copper grease during installation to make sure they are easier to remove when you need to change lamps!)
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