Wide and shine

Features - Equipment

Broaden your landscape lighting pattern and see how happy your customer will be.

April 8, 2013
Jim Calhoun

Less is more. We’ve all heard this statement addressing many aspects of our lives and for the most part, I think it resonates with me and is very appropriate for the majority of the areas of my life.

As background, I thought I’d run a quick internet search, and I found that the first documented use of this phrase was in 1855 in a poem by Robert Browning. The last documented use was a week ago in an article at “NationalReview.com.” Quite a span of appropriate use and application, I’d say. However, when it comes to landscape lighting, I’m sorry but I think it’s used inappropriately.

As a landscape lighting designer/installer, I take issue with the appropriateness of the statement as it is typically applied to that area. I believe it is usually used to explain why there is so little lighting in a specific garden and to justify the use of a very small number of fixtures.

My belief is that using this phrase is just a way to cover up the fact that the lighting professional doesn’t really feel comfortable when designing landscape lighting. They minimize the number of fixtures to minimize the possibility of mistakes.

Less is more for many people means that less fixtures provides more effective results. Even though it’s a simple concept, I think this is a much too simplistic interpretation. In contrast, I’m offering for your consideration the following application of the phrase “less is more.”

Less amount of light emanating from more locations is the most effective approach to lighting landscapes. Consider an average San Francisco Peninsula backyard garden. That typical landscape will contain a focal point, several supportive elements, a path or two and a place to sit and relax. Many of today’s lighting professionals will put a fixture or two on the focal point and one on every other supportive element.

They will proceed to begrudgingly place two or three path lights at the edge of the path making sure not to place them all on the same side of the path and proudly staying away from the dreaded runway effect. The relaxation place will often have three to five down-lights “throwing” light onto the sitting area. By my calculation, this would add up to about 10 fixtures and by their estimate, a job well done having made sure it doesn’t look like Disneyland.

I never sell one more or one less fixture than the client wants, and my designs are always characterized as “subtle” by the homeowner.

Using the appropriate fixtures with lower wattages, lower voltages and proper lenses, scrims and shrouds, proceed as follows: Take the focal point and create a scene by placing five fixtures there: one fixture on the trunk, two under the canopy (one on either side of the trunk) and two area lights at opposite sides of the scene.

Note that this creates a triangular effect where the area lights anchor the scene right and left and then rises tall in the center. Area lights are what I call path lights that are placed well inside the planting pockets or beds and not at the edges.

For the supportive elements, I would choose two of these, one on either side and at a distance from the focal point and create a sub-scene by lighting each with three fixtures. I would then use a fill light as transition between each of the sub-scenes and the focal point.


The author is the owner in Northern Lights Mountain View, Calif.

Turn on your footlight

Forget Neil Diamond and his heartlight. Gather insight on some landscape lighting products on the market.

G-Lux LED Landscape Lighting
The pitch: Super Bright LEDs introduces G-Lux, a professional-grade line of LED plug n’ play landscape lighting.

  • The series features include fixture housings made from solid brass, stainless steel, and cast aluminum, with plug n’ play connectors.
  • The fixtures are enhanced with a sleek design style and advanced optics for even greater energy efficiency.
  • Each light is IP68 rated with fully-potted and sealed fixtures featuring a range of color temperature choices and a variety of beam pattern options.

For more information:www.superbrightleds.com.

i-lighting Easy Plug Installation System
The pitch:
i-lighting has upgraded its Easy Plug Installation System with new wiring that is designed to make installation easier.

  • Designed with the proprietary “Lighting Simplified” harness technology, each Stair, Deck and Landscape Lighting kit can be installed separately or in conjunction through a series of connections that plug together using either end of the i-lighting extension cables.
  • The new generation wiring system eliminates the A and B connectors and plugs together.
  • Users need to do little more than plug the system together to create customized solutions for lighting deck rails, stairs, posts and landscapes.

For more information: www.i-lightingonline.com

Kichler Design Pro LED
The pitch:
Kichler has added a deeper and broader offering of accent and in-ground lights to its Design Pro LED line.

  • Kichler’s new Design Pro LED systems are available in a range of Kelvin (K) temperatures – 2,700 K warm white, 3,000 K pure white and 4,250 K cool white.
  • The new Design Pro LED Accent Lights feature an integrated cowl for glare-control.
  • Come in three sizes: small (12V), medium (12V and 120V), and (pictured) large (12V and 120V), as well as a cast brass in-ground (12V) light fixture.

For more information: www.landscapelighting.com.

FX Luminaire Luxor
The pitch:
The Luxor ZD is a new landscape lighting controller for LED systems that provides zoning and dimming capabilities from a single controller with a full color digital interface.

  • Zoning allows lights to be programmed into preset vignettes.
  • Dimming allows LED lights to automatically emit any desired illumination percentage.
  • ZDT technology allows the controller to talk to the LED lights and alerts them to adjust their illumination based on events scheduled in the controller.

For more information: fxl.com/luxor