Artful Landscape Lighting

Decorative Lighting Options for Your Yard and Garden

There are many great decorative outdoor lighting options to choose from these days.  As a certified lighting specialist with the American Lighting Association, I frequently advise people on the various kind of landscape lighting available and what kinds of lighting would best suit their needs and budget.

Solar Lighting is the most economical and easiest to install. Solar lights have staked ends and can be inserted into soil or mulch. Once the battery inside the light is activated (often by just pulling a tape that prevents contact with the photo cell) it takes about ten or twelve hours of exposure to sunlight to charge the battery and your solar light will be ready to illuminate your sidewalk, driveway, shrubs or flowers at night.

Solar lights come in a variety of styles: two or three tiered lamps, lanterns that hang from an ornamental rod, bollards (small, dome-shaped lights,) tiki torches, fence lights, post lights, small reflector-type flood lights and walk lights with star-patterned down lights. The average cost of a solar light can range from $2.50 to $5.00 depending on the size and whether it is metal or plastic. Most solar lights are LED’s today and give a crisp white light that lasts longer than an ordinary incandescent bulb. Solar lights can last for two, three and sometimes four years—the rechargeable battery can easily be replaced when the light grows dim.

Solar light provides an attractive accent light that can be used in any area of a yard or garden. Place them where they can be exposed to sunlight all day to get the best and longest illumination at night (usually eight to ten hours.) Solar lights can be purchased singly or in packs of six and ten.

Rope Lighting is ideal for accent lighting covered decks, porches, patios and gazebos. They come in a range of lengths (3 ft. to 25 ft.) and can be linked by plugging them together end to end. They are available in many colors including clear white, yellow, red, blue and green. The tiny bulbs used in rope lights can be incandescent or LED’s. The bulbs are a bright white, color variation is produced by the tubing around the light rather than the bulb itself.

Rope Lighting consist of heavy vinyl tubing which houses the string of tiny bulbs. The tubing stands up fairly well to weather, although, rope lights last longer when protected from the elements and used only during milder spring, summer and fall weather. Small hooks can be purchased to screw into material and anchor the rope light strings. The advantage to rope lighting is that it is flexible and can be wound or wrapped around deck and porch railings and strung along eaves. They require regular 120 voltage and can be plugged in wherever there is an exterior GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlet. Rope lights can illuminate for years as long as the vinyl tubing jacket is not compromised by severe weather and temperature. The tiny bulbs produce very little heat and the rope lighting can be handled easily, even when lit. Rope lighting can cost from $4.00 to $40.00 depending on the length.

Landscape Lighting, although more expensive, has some definite advantages over solar and rope lighting. It is much brighter than solar or rope lighting and can be placed anywhere (lamps do not have to be exposed to the sun to illuminate.) Landscape lighting lamps are typically made of metal to withstand harsh weather although lamps are also available in more economical plastic. Wattages for landscape lamps can range from two to fifty watt bulbs. Lamp styles come in a variety of shapes and styles including small floodlights, spotlights, two and three tier lamps, bollards, lanterns, coach lights, step lights, deck lights, fence and post lights.

Landscape lamps are attached to special landscape wire by a simple contact that pierces the jacket of the wire. The wire is attached to a transformer that is designed to be installed outside and plugged into an exterior GFCI outlet. The transformer, or power pack as it is also called, reduces the landscape lighting from 120 volts to 12 volts, making the run of lamps and the wire safe for dogs, children and the occasional errant lawnmower or gardener digging with a shovel. There is not shock if for any reason, the landscape wire is exposed, cut or compromised.

Transformers come in a range of wattages, usually ranging from 100 to 500 watts. The wattage of the transformer determines the length of landscape wire and the number of lamps attached to the wire. Usually it is best to keep the total wattages of the lighting lamps just under the wattage of the transformer. Also, a very long run of wire, even with an accepted number of lamps attached to it, it might cause the lamps to dim, especially at the end of the run of wire. Typically, transformers come with a timer which can be set to turn the lights on and off at given times. Unlike solar, which will not charge and illuminate if days have been cloudy, landscape lighting provides bright, reliable light anytime.

Some applications for landscape lighting include the use of small floodlights whose beams can be adjusted to showcase shrubs and trees or the side of a house. Walkway lamps provide downlight for safe passage to a house along a sidewalk or path. Blooming flowers, shrubs, fountains and pools can be showcased with landscape lighting and there are low wattage bulbs available in a variety of colors as well, for dramatic effects.

Each lamp is attached by contacts to the wire and has a staked end which can be pushed into the ground to keep the lamp anchored and secure. Wire can be buried under two or three inches of soil or mulch. Today, a new line of LED landscape lighting lamps are available. LED’s last longer, provide bright, white light and are more energy efficient. Transformers, wire and lamp heads can be purchased separately or in a kit which includes wire, transformer, contacts and lamps. Kits come in a variety of watts and lamp styles and range in cost from $20.00 to $150.00, depending on the size of the transformer, length of wire and number of lamps.

Consider these lighting options when seeking to enhance your house, front or backyard at night. Solar lights can be easily placed and provide excellent accent lighting. Landscape lights provide brighter light for secure access along a sidewalk or path, while floods and spot showcase shrubs, trees and trellises. Rope lights provide additional colorful accent lighting for your deck or patio. All are inexpensive, easy to install and will brighten your nights with a variety of welcoming lights.

You can view these exciting new landscape lighting products by clicking on the Amazon logos below!

Real Feedback

Hello Lois -

Thank you for your gracious site. I will have to save up for some of the supplies needed so, I won't be able to start right away.

I live in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I have wanted to take art lessons and here in Sioux Falls, they don't have any for those of us who aren't college educated. And mainly the community only caters to families. So, others like me get left out. I greatly appreciate your sincere love for art and willingness to work closely with those who partake of your classes.

Much sincere thanks - Gina Elberger



Came across your site while browsing and was really impressed. Can you please send me "BEGINNING ACRYLIC PAINTING LESSONS" link.

Thanks in advance,

May God Bless You. Nidhi Jaju


Hi there Lois, I've just found your web site, and am intrigued. I am very familiar with colour as an interior decorator..but have always talked about having my own studio to paint, do woodworking, sewing and pottery. Right now, I'm hoping to develop my skills as an artist. I have done several pieces in oil, and have branched out to acrylic.

I've taken only one lesson (abstract with acrylics) and would like to hone my skills with oils.

Looking forward to your Intermediate- Lesson one Refresher. I found your article on Launching a successful career as an Artist- very helpful

Thanks Penny


Hi again Lois,

So sorrry, I neglected to answer your questions. How I found your site was googling for 'free art lessons'. I am not in a situation where I can afford classes right now but hopefully when we sell our house I will be able to make a donation to you. The why is obvious ; )

Thanks again, I really do appreciate it and you will have good Karma!

Kindest regards, M in Michigan


Hi I live in spain, and i saw your website while I was browsing free instruction sites. thank you for giving free lessons

x janet


My name is Paul Merrills. Thank you for your help and your suggestions to make my painting more real looking. If you need to see some of my paintings, I am willing to send you some pictures via email that you will possibly be able to determine if there is any hope left.

Thank you so much for your interest in helping me. I live in Indiana south of Fort Wayne, about 20 miles in a town of Decatur. I have been desperate to learn, but not being given the information I needed in my mind, I have kept searching and found your website. I think it is a blessing, but what confuses me is why would you do this for free. The old adage is, if it is free it cannot be worth much, but that does not seem to be the case here. You are welcome to use me or my name or what ever you need and I am also, as I mentioned before would pay you to answer my questions. I have looked into what you have sent and there are several lessons. Detailed so this part should help me. I want to do right, I have been interested in learning the right way, as I see you have a degree in Art and have been teaching for a number of years, so I know that you are able, but am I. What happens when I pick a canvas, I am lost. Others show me their work and I am happy to see it, but cannot see the big picture and then when I do, It usually is so complicated that it makes it difficult to paint. My starting point in a photo or outdoors leaves me looking at many different things and cannot pick out what is needed, even though the picture I see is captured my eye, running water, stones in water, winter scene. I have even gone to Bob Ross method, but does not allow creativity and that is what I want. I want the feeling of walking into the picture and going back, I hope that I have not bored you and will start on using your method to try and then I will send you some examples of that, plus some others that I have done. you are so kind to do this and I am sure you must be busy, Are you retired now or do you work still. As I have read this, the (I) seems to be dominating the conversation, but hope that you will understand that I am not that way, but fearful right now. I got all the brushes, many sets of pastels, acrylics, canvases by the boxes, many of the most expensive brushes you could buy and John Sanders brushes I thought were expensive, but only the best. Everyone in my past family, my grandfather, dad, sister and others have all done pictures, but I always look at them with a critical eye and wondering who am I to be so critical of their work. I have been in the sign business since age 15 and have done very well with it. I do still enjoy helping my children who are runnign the business. I do the bending of their neon glass and find that enjoyable. I do wood carvings, as mentioned portraits, and use to do stain glass, but sold all that recently. and I still do wood working building furniture, etc. Thank you so much Lois and look forward to working with you.

Paul Merrills