Once again I find that the Germinatrix and I are on the same wavelength. It must be the Texas connection. Ivette, whose agave fascination is more fully realized than mine, just posted about stringing party lights in her garden as a permanent fixture. Some of her more tasteful (pretentious?) friends discouraged her, saying party lights are “downscale.” Thinking of beergartens and of fiesta nights in her former hometown of San Antonio, she put them up anyway, creating liveliness and mood in her garden.
As coincidence would have it, last weekend I strung party lights as a permanent fixture in my garden. (OK, actually I just directed my talented husband in the stringing of more party lights; we already had one string up.) We were preparing to have a number of guests over, and knowing that our small rooms couldn’t comfortably accommodate everyone indoors, we set about making the back-yard garden as welcoming as possible. Aside from a well-stocked bar and some food, that meant lights, and plenty of them.
Up went 50-foot lengths of commercial-style string lights, the same ones used to festively illuminate popular restaurant patios in Austin. After much searching and finally asking a local electrician, we found them at the Light Bulb Shop on Burnet Road—the place with the can’t-miss-it light-bulb-man sign. We learned that commercial-quality light strings don’t come cheap, but they are built to last.
The strings are heavy, so we used plastic ties to clip them to flexible wire cable that we strung from eave to tree to eave and then along the side of the garage to the greenhouse/shed.
The bulbs, also from the Lightbulb Shop, are only 11 watts, each one not much brighter than a nightlight, and the result is a pleasant glow. We certainly didn’t want a prison-yard effect that comes from using overhead bulbs that are too bright. We wired a plug to the end of the strand, plugged it into an outdoor receptacle on our porch eave (an electrician installed one for us), and voila. Let there be light!
As you can see, the strings are visible but unobtrusive in the daytime. Anyway, I enjoy the roof-like feeling they provide in an outdoor seating area. Not only do they make our garden inviting and fun for a party, they also entice the kids to play in the back yard after the sun goes down. Austin is embarking on several months of lovely outdoor weather, so even though the days are shorter it’s nice to be out in the garden after dark, especially with the firepit.
In the front garden, after years of getting by with two inadequate front-porch lights, we finally installed low-voltage path lights and uplights last spring. It made a huge difference. They come on with a timer, so now we can get the paper before sunrise without a flashlight. Guests can see the path clearly, and they also get glimpses of the garden’s architecture. The nighttime garden has a little drama now, with two uplights on trees playing up their structure.
So after years of procrastinating about garden lighting, I’m totally sold on it. It adds a whole new dimension to the enjoyment of my garden. And if, like me, you sometimes find yourself weeding or planting after dark, lighting allows you to drop that flashlight and get both hands dirty.
All material © 2006-2011 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.