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Hints and tips for creating more eco-friendly and sustainable garden designs

From Alice Bowe

When considering a new lighting scheme for your garden, water is one of the most inviting elements of any garden design. Placing a light in water can produce some wonderful effects – especially if the water is moving - refracting the light and dancing it across nearby walls. 

Lighting Moving Water

One of the easiest ways to light water, is to light movement. If the surface of the water is moving, the light beam will be bent at random, and the light will appear to shimmer. When lighting a waterfall or water chute, an underwater spotlight is best located immediately below the entry point of the cascade. This will hide the fitting amongst the froth of water whilst capturing the shimmering effects of refracted light. When you are lighting a smooth sheet of water, be especially careful not to position the light too far forward to prevent the light bouncing off the smooth surface and producing glare.

Lighting Still Water

Still water is much harder to light effectively because not only is it harder to disguise the light source, but it also shows up the clarity of the water (and perhaps even the creases in your butyl liner!).

A much more effective way of using still water in lighting schemes is to exploit mirroring techniques.


lighting around outside water features
Stefan Trenker,


When an object is illuminated on the far side of a body of water, the inverted image will appear reflected (or mirrored) on the dark, still water surface from the other side of the water. This can be used effectively to create a dramatic view from the garden terrace or from inside the house. This technique is particularly effective for situations where the water is too murky to use underwater lighting but remember that mirroring only works on a still, dark expanse of water so any underwater lighting or pumped features must be switched off.

Lighting Garden Fountains

fountain in lake
?? Piotr Adamczyk

The simplest way to light a fountain is to position an underwater light immediately next to the source of the water. This will ensure that the spouting water is well lit whilst concealing the light source within the distraction of the lit foaming water. 

Where a fountain is more complex, perhaps including statues or a number of tiers, the lighting will also have to be more elaborate. In this case, lighting the fall of the water will need to be combined with a second light either at the edge of the lower pool, or in the upper basin itself – to ensure that both the origin and the destination of the water are lit adequately.

Lighting a Wall Fountain

Positioning the light at the front edge of the pool will provide good shadows on the features of the lion mask while avoiding a bulging shadow above the mask. Mount your light just below the water surface (so that the pump and cabling are hidden by the darkness below) and the sparkle of the falling water is highlighted. Be careful not to position your light too deep as the beam will struggle to emerge from the depths and appear cloudy.

Alice Bowe is an award winning garden designer, writer and columnist for the Saturday Times.

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