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Tips on Making the Most of Light in Your Outdoor Space

When we think about light in a backyard, most of us picture early morning sunlight peaking through the branches.

For some, it’s all about the starlight because that is when they are in their spaces, after work and in the evenings. Light and how we use it in the garden is definitely dependent on the times that we spend outside. Designing around the morning for a family that doesn’t get outside much before noon makes no sense. Instead, think about when you are in the garden the most. This will help you understand what type of light you want to maximize.

Here are some of my dos and don’ts when trying to make the most of light in your outdoor space:

• DO track the way the sun moves through your garden throughout the day. Are there certain times when it hits spots that you can take advantage of? Maybe a bench in the yard that gets sunlight from 2 o’clock onwards would be the perfect spot to add something reflective. 

• DO allow for shadows. Shadows and dark emphasize the areas with light. If everything were bright, there would be no contrast. Those spots without light are just as important as the ones with. 

• DO add artificial lights for night appeal. A few well placed lights shining up a tree or down on a path can extend your outdoor enjoyment but also create dramatic effects. 

• DO add white blooming flowers to your beds. My favourite garden was done all in white flowers. The homeowners wanted impact in the evening and the white blooms absolutely glowed in the starlight. 

• DON’T cut down trees to get more light. One of the biggest mistakes a homeowner can make is to want something they don’t have and make permanent changes to get it. Instead of removing the tree, have an arbourist lift the canopy, or even thin out the dense branches. This is not only good for the tree; it will give you more light in your space. 

• DON’T light up your yard like an airport runway. Adding artificial light to a yard can be tricky. When in doubt, definitely use less. Fewer lights will draw the eye to the spots you really want to highlight.

Light and shade can change the way colours and shapes look in your garden and how they work together. By understanding the impact of light and by also knowing when you will be spending time in the space, you can make the most of natural and artificial light in your space.