Landscape

Gardens

Image of symmetrical garden and tree planting in anciient Egypt
Ancient funerary garden in Egypt

To say gardening is an old hobby would be a glaring understatement. Creating a garden or some protected spaces for growing select plants began about the same time man began to grow his own food. Paintings found in Egyptian tombs depict trees and plants laid out in evenly placed rows.

Today landscape is, as it has always been, an individual expression of the home owner’s connection with nature, beauty and art. I am always impressed when walking up to a home where the yard and gardens are obviously a reflection of good taste and care and more than just a burdensome afterthought.

Sections include:

SoilPlantsIrrigationDrainageLightingLawnsXeriscape.
Image of stone walled terraced garden
Contemporary garden landscape

Lighting

Landscape lighting is highly recommended for safety and it is also a really nice touch to highlight beautiful hardscape and plantings. A well-designed, professionally installed, landscape lighting system can best be described in a single word, sexy!

Image of garden tiki torches with flames at night sky
Garden tiki torches
For as long as man has had fire, he’s been lighting up the outdoors. Torches, candles and flickering gas lights were all used for outdoor and street lighting leading up to electricity around the turn of the century. For a long time after that, landscape lighting was only available in 110v (high voltage) formats making the systems both expensive and technically challenging to install and operate safely. Because of this, landscape lighting was for decades primarily a feature of commercial properties and very large estates only. The recent proliferation of low voltage equipment has changed all that so now almost any homeowner can have lighting for their yard.

A complete low-voltage landscape lighting system will include: 1) a 110v electrical source, 2) a low-voltage transformer, 3) outdoor wiring, and 4) various outdoor fixtures. Landscape lighting fixtures come in many forms including post-mounted lanterns, bollards, driveway or path illumination lights, ground-level spots for trees, ground-level floods for walls or plantings, trunk-mounted lights for tree canopies and simple corner flood lights mounted on the side of the home for turning night into day if needed for work, play or security. Once installed, the landscape lighting can be switched on and off manually or it can be programmed to automatically turn on and off with a timer, motion sensor, or a photo cell or all.

Garden and landscape lighting creates a safer and more beautiful outdoor setting.

To-Do

  • Do illuminate beautiful specimen trees.
  • If you have steps around your entry sidewalks, you definitely need landscape lighting just to keep the Halloween trick or treaters safe.
  • Almost all landscape lighting systems are now based on low-voltage transformers with LED bulbs, but many systems still use low-voltage incandescent MR-16 type bulbs. I have even come across a few old 110v light bulb systems still out there in use. These should be replaced with low-voltage systems.
  • Just a few years ago it became quite fashionable to suspend strings of bare bulbs overhead to highlight patios and backyards. Early on, these were all 110v lights which was pretty scary to think about having that overhead at some outdoor party. It was even scarier to see outdoor fashion magazines touting how gorgeous these were with nice evening photos of string lights over pools! I hope everyone has come to their senses about these string lights now and converted to low-voltage versions with LED bulbs?
  • Take a look at your sidewalks, patios, plantings and trees and see if they might be safer or more attractive by adding some nighttime illumination?
  • Make a list of the locations of your transformers and all the various fixtures on your outdoor system and assemble an inventory of the proper replacement bulbs for service when needed.

Maintenance

  • 2x per year: Inspect all the outdoor fixtures and replace any burned-out bulbs as needed.
  • 1x per year: Clean all the lenses, straighten and repair the aim of any damaged fixtures.
  • 4x per year: Make sure the timer is set properly. Power outages can mess them up. If you don’t have a timer on your system, get one!

Also see the section: Landscape Lighting Blunders to Avoid

Lawns

Because they require enormous amounts of water, large lawns, especially in the drought stricken west have fallen out of favor in recent years for new landscape installations. Instead, new landscapes are offering lawn as attractive accents and ground covers. Nevertheless, there are many lawns still out there and they all need proper care. Frequency and length of watering will depend on how warm and windy it is and how rapidly the lawn dries out following each watering.

Xeriscape

Is a landscape methodology that recommends the careful consideration of landscape design and selection of planting materials to minimize the demands on water supplies. Detailed information about Xeriscape is available online and from reputable nurseries. Xeriscape has the triple benefit of helping the environment, saving on water bills, and reducing the amount of moisture that can reach your foundation.

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