Night Garden at RHS Flower Show

Garden lit at nightTransform your garden at night with mood lighting

Forget the silver bells and cockle shells of the popular nursery rhyme … on second thoughts hold the silver. It’s a very useful colour when daylight fades when a sort of alchemy occurs with colours, shapes and textures transforming into something very different from their daytime forms. Silver is one of the colours which offer good performance value in the evening with the bark of the silver birch becoming almost ethereal at dusk. Variegated foliage works well too however it is white which really ‘glows’ at this time of day, white spires of foxgloves, stars of Nicotiana, trumpets of Ipomoea alba (the night blooming morning glory) and the spidery Michauxia campanuloides all come into their own in this garden with any available light clinging to their blooms.

Conversely deep reds which ‘glow’ in the sunshine, recede as daylight fades to eventually become shadows as night falls but can also become a dramatic focal point when uplit, seen in the stunning example of the Acer palmatum ‘Skeeters’. The garden shows that shadow is just as important as light in the subtlety of the night garden. Also plants releasing their intoxicating scent after dark to attract night insects for pollination are used, such as night scented stock, nicotiana and honeysuckle, with Ipomoea alba which only opens at night, all giving visitors an unexpected surprise as they explore the garden.

Lighting the Way

Through the clever use of innovative eco-friendly lighting, a sequenced light show delivers a narrative of creative lighting effects from high drama to the soft and intimate. Trees become theatrical focal points, complex shadow patterns take on a life of their own, ordinary hedges become dramatic, textured backdrops and illuminated reflections in the pool change subtly as you move around the garden. Developments in lighting technology now allow a much more versatile approach, for example the very low heat levels of the latest LEDs do not scorch and so allow light to shine through foliage. Some of the lighting features have been designed and manufactured exclusively for the show such as the illuminated pavers used as stepping stones over the pond, created from recycled crushed glass. Large and small glass sculptures sparkle in the garden, intensified by glittering mineral elements in polished sandstone.

Award-winning garden designer Kari Beardsell explains, “The exciting new developments in lighting open up fantastic possibilities for gardens and I want to show how planting and features can be enjoyed after natural light has faded. All gardens can be transformed into something magical so there’ll be no need to retreat indoors and close your curtains at the end of the day.”

A key message that the garden also brings is that of sustainability as now enjoying your garden after dark no longer needs to dramatically increase your carbon footprint. The lights are mainly LED and so are both economical to use and very low maintenance. All materials are recyclable and with the option of powering by solar, wind and stored electricity, this makes them even more eco-friendly. The very low voltage of LED fittings means that cables are smaller and quicker to install and in fact this whole garden with 65 lights, is being lit at a cost of approximately 5p per hour.


Article posted on 08 Jul 2011.

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