The week before last I was lucky enough to attend Custom House’s Grand Designs convention, wherein over a thousand different exhibitors displayed a range of new products, techniques and disciplines, applicable not only to interior design and decoration but also (on a smaller scale) to horticulture and outdoor decoration.
In this regard, the overall focus largely fell to the advertisement of commercial ventures such outdoor furniture (which will be covered in our next segment) or ecological building alternatives, but there was one exhibit that struck me as particularly unique - that of a night based garden.
The impetus of the design lay in the philosophy that due to the hectic lifestyle required to support a grand outdoor space, many of us don’t get the choice to enjoy our garden during the daytime-ironic no? So, ‘The 24 Hour Garden’, as it was so aptly named, was built with not only its lit aesthetic in mind, but also the applications it might promise after hours, particularly those of hosting and catering.
It seemed a topic not oft discussed in conventional garden design, so I wanted to set aside some column inches to suggest how one might go about building your own space whose usefulness is complete, regardless of whether the clock reads lunchtime or late-o-clock.
Despite the night garden being traditionally a dimmed place, lighting is an essential component to make the space both useable in the summer months, and visually accessible in the winter, however, like the palette you choose for your planting, lighting is, at best, a subtle art, meaning that although it is a characteristic of the day time there is no need for yours to be reminiscent of blazing sunshine. Indeed, as any photographer will tell you, the nightscape provides lighting opportunities not available when sunlight is abundant - hence the attraction of black and white celluloid where the light becomes a means of punctuation rather than the prose itself. The beauty of modern lighting is the variety of different forms it comes in: stairway lighting, underwater illumination, overhead down-lighters or vertical up-lighters, not to mention those concealed within the plants themselves. This latter is a popular option as it helps negate the tone of artificiality that the plastics and metals of a lighting system evoke. The underwater light is also a marvellous addition to the night garden which, while not particularly functional, gives an access to view any wildlife inhabiting your ponds you might not otherwise be privy to.
However, the likely motivation for building or adapting a night garden is so you have the means and the place to entertain and to relax afterhours and to this end I would also recommend, either recessed walkover floor lighting, or focal point spot lighting rather than harsh floodlighting as is so often seen in gardens. Floor lighting is a softer option and will not threaten any trip hazard in the twilight, particularly with the use of frosted lenses, while spotlighting will lend a glamorous red-carpet feel to not only the garden but to any tree canopies above it too.
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