Water is always a prime candidate for lighting, whether it is moving or still. Underwater uplighting of a waterfall or fountain is a common and effective technique using a halogen underwater light; glistening water and the shimmering light projected by underwater lighting through moving water can be fascinating. Crosslighting of marginal planting or a pondside feature from underwater can produce a contrasting, subtle effect, but careful positioning is needed to avoid the error of a well-lit liner! And remember that good underwater lighting is fundamentally dependent on the clarity of the water, and therefore of the quality of filtration.
Streams can make beautifully illuminated features but planning lighting in advance of construction can be difficult as the final look of the feature will owe much to the placement of the rocks and the skill of the landscape contractor. One option is spotlights mounted on an adjacent pergola or wall, or "moonlighting" from a tree using a Compact tree mount spotlight with a wide beam lamp for a really natural effect, producing a silver sheen on the water framed by the natural colour of rock and foliage. Moonlighting or downlighting reduces the problem of camouflaging ground-mounted fittings and helps to avoid glare from upward or horizontally focused lights. The potential for still water as a creative component in a lighting scheme is often missed. Consider lighting a subject on the far side of a pond to be reflected in the dark still water. This "mirroring" effect is particularly effective for a strong architectural feature, such as a temple, but can also be used with trees if the body of water is large enough. See the page on lighting Statues and Focal points for more ideas on how to do this. For the small garden, water features such as millstones, urns or bubble fountains can be accented from wall or pergola using a fitting such as the Elipta Compact wall spotlight; alternatively, use a pole-mounted spotlight such as the Elipta pole mount spotlights hidden in adjacent planting to provide a low power beam of light to frame a low water feature.
One of the most popular small water features is an urn with water trickling down the sides into a cobble-covered reservoir and then being pumped back up through the base. Underwater lighting inside the urn is one option, but usually the water trickling down the side is the aspect of the feature for which lighting will work best, producing a little sparkle from the water for subtle effect.A small underwater light with a 20w lamp and a frosted lens for a diffused effect is a good option; an Atlantus brass underwater light weathers well among cobbles while a black one will be camouflaged amongst slate or darker rock. For setting into the cobble or slate covering of a mesh-topped reservoir, remove the U bracket and set the underwater light amongst the cobbles for unobtrusive uplighting using lamps up to a maximum of 35 watts where the fitting is not actually submersed in water. Atlantus in natural brass is a favourite choice, though black is an option, and can be anchored on an optional heavy brass base mount in most open water features such as ponds and fountains - they are also available with an optional spike for mounting in planting baskets. This is a versatile range of underwater spotlights suitable for halogen reflector lamps up to 50 watts underwater. Atlantus has a 6 metre cable fitted, which is long enough to reach the transformer outside most water features without having to use an underwater joint, which is a common source of unreliability. The availability of a glare shield version covers the need for glare control in shallow water features such as rills or locations where shielding of the light source is especially important, and there is a wide range of surface-and spike mounting options. For stainless steel water features, Elipta's streamlined E2511 provides a matching finish and comes complete with 6 metre cable.
L.e.d. lighting is increasingly popular for underwater lighting, either for low energy applications, to provide a miniature lighting effect or to achieve intense coloured lighting, of which blue is the main favourite. Atlantus accepts 3w and 5w led lamps.
View our Water Features photo gallery