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11 Great Landscape Lighting Ideas for Trees, Pools, Walkways, and More

Posted On: April 05,2018 By: Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

Adding landscape lighting is such a valuable addition to any outdoor project. Not only does it serve a functional purpose by adding an element of safety and security, but it also adds a tremendous amount of aesthetic appeal.

There are countless ways to light up a property. While you may have seen a variety of landscape lighting ideas, you’re not sure which would work best for your property or even how they’d all come together.

Looking at pictures of landscape lighting is one way to start narrowing down which ideas you might like best. We’ve also rounded up some other ideas to keep in mind as you start planning your outdoor space.


Watch this Case Study Video About a Landscape Lighting Transformation!



Landscape Lighting Ideas for Trees

Trees are such a valuable addition to your property and you want to be able to enjoy them, even when the sun goes down. Lighting your trees is a great way to add visual interest to your landscape in the evening hours. There are two key ways that we suggest lighting your trees. 

1. Uplight Your Trees

When uplighting, the light fixture is placed in the ground around the tree and shines on it to accentuate its trunk and canopy. This is a great way to show off an attractive tree in the evening hours. The resulting shadows can also add some interest after dark. Uplighting provides a bolder, more dramatic effect for landscape lighting.


2. Downlight your Trees

You could also choose to downlight a tree. In this case, the light fixtures are added in the under canopy of the tree from which they shine down. This is also called “moonlighting” and can look absolutely stunning when done correctly. Downlighting provides a more romantic feel.

It’s important to note that downlighting is best done on trees that have a backside which is not visible. That’s because a wire must be run up the tree and for aesthetic purposes, it is best hidden.


Landscape Lighting Ideas for Driveways

Landscape lighting for your driveway makes it safer and more attractive. When done properly, it can impact your home’s curb appeal in a positive way. A well-lit driveway looks inviting and attractive. But the key is definitely that it’s done properly. If done poorly, it can negatively impact curb appeal.

3. Opt for Soft Lighting

The biggest mistake with lighting a driveway is creating that “deer-in-a-headlights” feeling that people get when they pull into a driveway that has a spotlight shining directly in their face. Instead of fulfilling the function of lighting the way, it actually makes it harder to see where you’re going as you are essentially being blinded by the light.

4. Avoid the Runway Look

In addition, when lighting a long driveway, be careful to avoid the “airport runway look” that can be achieved when too many lights fall into a row. You’re not trying to achieve a landing strip—and if that’s what it looks like you’ve created, it’s not going to be very attractive.

The key to proper driveway lighting is that it should be subtle. Landscape lighting should be soft and skillfully placed. It’s something that takes a professional eye for design.


Landscape Lighting Ideas for Pools

Lighting up your pool area will serve the functional purpose of allowing you to use the space in the evening hours. But it will also boost your aesthetics. That means that even if you’re not using the pool, but maybe enjoying dinner on your patio—or even looking at the pool from inside your home—it’s going to be much more visually appealing.

5. Go Subtle

When lighting your pool patio and walkways, the idea is to do so in a way that is as unobtrusive as possible. There should never be lights placed in areas where they are are trip hazards in your pool space. And, similar to your driveway, you do not want to create a lighting situation in which light is shining in anyone’s face and impacting their experience—nor do you want to create a runway effect with your pool walkways.

Lighting should be subtle and attractive, creating a resort-like feeling to your pool space.

pool and landscape lighting

6. Go Beyond the Pool

Also, think about lighting the areas around your pool as much as the pool itself. After all, your surrounding landscape is the backdrop to the pool. You can employ some of the landscape lighting ideas for trees that we mentioned in order to showcase some of the beautiful trees that surround your pool.Pool patio pavilion lighting PA

7. Light Up Your Water Features

Lighting can also highlight water features in a spectacular way. If you’ve added a waterfall or some other type of water feature to your poolscape, or even nearby, it takes on a whole new look when lit at night. We’ve even had homeowners add colored lighting to water features for a truly unique look. It’s like having a light show in your own backyard!
Outdoor lighting water wall

Landscape Lighting Ideas for Walls

Retaining walls often double as sitting walls and lighting them up is important to let people know where they can sit. It’s also functionally important to light your walls so that nobody runs into them. But walls can also be aesthetically appealing with the right landscape lighting ideas for walls.


8. Use Under Cap Lights

If you have any sitting walls incorporated into your landscape, under cap lighting can highlight the beauty of the wall’s material. Whether it’s natural stone or even a paver, it takes on a whole new look when lit up in the evening hours.

flagstone patio and wall with lighting and fire pit

9. Wall Wash with Light

Using a soft spotlight to wash a wall with light is an aesthetically pleasing technique that can show off the natural stone or pavers you’ve used on a border wall around your property—or even the wall of your home. If you have a beautiful stone home, you might uplight some of its stonework with a wash of soft light.Boulder wall landscape lighting in PA

Landscape Lighting Ideas for Walkways

A well-lit walkway in your front or backyard adds an element of beauty while also making the path safer to traverse. But the key to making walkways aesthetically pleasing is to keep your lighting efforts subtle.

10. Forgo Path Lights Entirely

There is no rule that says you must light up a walkway with path lights. In order to avoid that landing strip look that we keep mentioning, you could forgo path lights and use strategic uplighting, downlighting, or cross lighting to ensure your path is lit. If you do use path lights, just be careful that they are not placed too close together. Most people assume they need a lot more light than they really do.Flagstone walkway landscape lighting

11. Light up Your Steps

For steps, built-in lights are an aesthetically pleasing option that will also serve the functional purpose of making them safer to navigate. You could also use strategically placed spotlights or path lights to light up your steps. There’s no question that steps should be well-lit as they are both a danger and a liability.Outdoor lighting walkway steps

Using a Landscape Lighting Professional

There is a big difference between sticking a few spotlights around your property and working with a professional. Besides the artistic eye for design, a professional will also have access to much higher end product than anything a do-it-yourselfer could buy.

A landscape lighting professional is going to install LED lighting, have superior warranties on their products, and also work with much higher quality finishes like copper and brass (never plastic, as you’d see in a box store).Pool patio pavilion fire bowl lighting

Plus, a professional is going to understand the technical aspects of landscape lighting, such as photometrics (the science of the measurement of light in terms of its brightness). There are so many nuances that come into play when getting landscape lighting just right. It could be the difference between a landscape that is elegantly lit and one that is made less attractive with poor lighting.

In the end, the choice is yours.

You can either choose to work with a landscape lighting professional who is going to have a wealth of landscape lighting design pictures from past jobs to look through, as well as work with any ideas that you have gathered. Or, you can work with an average contractor giving you limited options that result in a poorly-executed design.

By choosing to work with a landscape lighting expert, you can light up your landscape in a way that makes it truly spectacular, while also serving all the functional purposes you need it to.

Check out some of our past projects for more pictures of landscape lighting and get ideas on how to illuminate your Reading, York, Hershey, Lebanon, or Lancaster, PA property. You can also schedule a free consultation or get in touch by calling (717) 276-9447.

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Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

Written by Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

Mary Hatch Dresser is a Registered Landscape Architect with a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Georgia School of Environmental Design. Mary has designed landscapes for 32 years and joined ETW exclusively in 2009. Mary is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA); and also serves on the Shade Tree Committee in Strasburg Borough where she resides. Mary prides herself in carefully listening to her clients to professionally meld their ideas and personal criteria with sound, experienced design practice.

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