When lighting your garden, less is definitely more. Flood lighting is fine for a traffic intersection, but at home it is energy inefficient, expensive and creates light pollution. You and your garden deserve better.
Outdoor lighting is most effective when used sparingly and in specific spots. Your garden is the transition space between the outside world and your own home. The right lighting can make your garden into another room of your house as well as providing an attractive outlook from inside. And your garden can look surprisingly different at night-time. Just a few lights in appropriate places will create interesting pools of light and shadow.
The newer LED landscape lights provide inexpensive alternatives to traditional lighting. As well, solar lights have gained in popularity and provide lighting solutions where wiring is unfeasible or undesired.
Directional lighting will highlight features that may go unnoticed during the day, like the bark of a silver birch or a eucalypt, or a tinkling fountain. Even sheets of falling rain and swirling shrouds of mist can become dramatic features of your landscape with the right lighting.
Do check that your directional lighting shines onto the feature you intend it to and not into your neighbor's bedroom window. And consider that a tree you want to highlight may be home to birds and other wild-life. You can minimize disruption to their habitat by using an automatic time-clock on your lighting.
For driveways, paths and steps, use lights that are directed to your feet to create pools of light to guide you. A light that is too high will shine into your face and leave the path and steps in shadow. A lamp next to your front door may look attractive, but a pool of light directed onto the door knocker, the keyhole and the step will provide a safer and warmer welcome for you and your visitors.
Choose color temperatures to suit what you are trying to light and the mood you are trying to create. The color temperature of a light is measured in Kelvins (K). The higher the color temperature, the cooler the light will look. For example, metal halide lamps have a high, cool color temperature that makes the greens and blues of the foliage in your garden look fresh and bright. Lamps with low, warm color temperatures bring out the warmth of reds and oranges, like candlelight. An example of cool and warm color temperature lighting complementing each other in your garden design would be to create a cool, fresh garden with warm pools of light around the paved areas where people gather and sit or linger over a candle-lit dinner.
The Color Rendering Index (CRI) indicates how a light reacts under different parts of the color spectrum. This applies particularly to metal halide and fluorescent lights, affecting the appearance of flowers and shrubs and also skin tones. And low-pressure sodium lights give out a huge amount of light but suppress both greens and reds, so that everything looks yellow and grey. Which brings us back to that traffic intersection.
A catalog will give you the specifications and features of the lighting you are considering, but if you are still in the dark, your lighting showroom will have a consultant who can shed some light on the subject for you.