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Lighting gives a warm welcome
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
The time change is one of the few times of the year I always dread. I don't mind getting up to sunshine, but I really dislike coming home to dark.
If you are like me, probably we both could use a little landscape lighting to welcome us home as we pull in the drive. After mulch, lighting is the perfect finishing touch to landscaping. Lighting can really make a dramatic impact in the landscape, especially when featuring the old oak, water pond or flower garden.
Lighting accents what we deem to be the most important features in the landscape. On the other hand, we can keep in the dark those things we wish weren't there or that happen to be less attractive.
When we use lighting to accent special features, we don't want to light it up like Yankee Stadium. Lighting should merely call attention to the object.
In addition to being a welcome-home beacon, lights also serve a safety and security purpose for visitors and homeowners. They give definition to the sidewalk and steps so people won't stumble. By illuminating your landscape, you deter prowlers and other undesirable visitors. Automatic clocks allow you to set the lighting to come on at any time, even when you are away.
If daylight-savings time does not do enough for your outdoor activities, lighting can. You would never dream what the light by the basketball goal does at our home. It allows us to play until the neighbors get annoyed.
You can lengthen those few days that are warm this time of the year, allowing for playing or cookouts. In the summertime heat, lighting can let you enjoy the outdoors at night when the weather cools.
I guess the thing I like most about landscape lighting is that it creates different moods. Lighting around the pool or patio can create that tropical feeling of being at the Hyatt in Waikiki.
Today's landscape lamps themselves can be an attractive garden feature during the daytime. These lamps may be made of brass, copper or glass.
If you are using a do-it-yourself kit, by all means follow the directions explicitly. You will have done little good at lighting an area if you also give someone a shock in wet weather.
Put the electrical line in PVC pipe underneath the ground. You will be surprised what rodents find delectable.
Experiment with the lights and their intensities before making a permanent decision. If you have large trees in the back or at the side of the house, you can create some very interesting effects.
Try to make your system look natural. I'm sure that many low-flying planes look down on landscapes that look like miniature versions of the Atlanta airport. In other words, try to avoid straight lines, instead lighting hidden coves or pockets.
I have had great luck with do-it-yourself kits, although indulging in the luxury of having professionals do the job is really nice. I have used solar-powered lights and gotten much better performance than I had expected, so let your pocketbook dictate your lighting project.
When you pull in the driveway that first night, you'll have a new attitude.