Landscape Lighting

Landscape Lighting

Part of Ep. 1805 Basil and Landscape Lighting

Director of Horticulture, Jeff Epping, shows how landscape lighting is used at Olbrich Gardens in Madison.

Premiere date: Jul 21, 2010

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley Ryan:
We've spent a lot of time talking about how to make the garden beautiful during the growing season. Now we're going to talk about making the garden beautiful year round even during a Wisconsin winter. I'm at Olbrich Gardens in Madison with the director of horticulture, Jeff Epping. And Jeff, we're focusing on landscape lighting as a way of kind of extending the growing season.

Jeff Epping:
Absolutely. We put so much time and effort into our gardens why not try to view it as long as possible?

Shelley Ryan:
So even in January.

Jeff Epping:
Year-round, and every day we can enjoy it for a little longer.

Shelley Ryan:
And if you look at it during the summer the sun sets at 9:00, so we might not be tuned into it so much. But as the days shorten the idea of using lighting to make the garden beautiful at night, that's exciting.

Jeff Epping:
Absolutely. It's dark by 5:00, you're coming home in the dark. It brightens your spirits a little bit at the end of the day via your garden.

Shelley Ryan:
Especially if you've been away from home working all day, too. But the first thing I think about is, are we polluting the night sky with our landscape lighting?

Jeff Epping:
That's a good question. Actually, there's a program called the Dark Skies program. And they actually consider low-voltage lighting as one of the best means of providing light for your home.

Shelley Ryan:
Oh good, okay.

Jeff Epping:
So it's the best.

Shelley Ryan:
When I grew up in Middleton, our idea of landscape lighting was one spotlight sitting out under a big tree so that we could watch the snow fall down. And that was awesome, even, but we've really taken it to another level now. Technology's gone a long way from that spotlight.

Jeff Epping:
Absolutely. And you don't use as much light to do the job, as that light probably was very bright. And there's all different types of lighting and different uses. Safety is one of those.

Shelley Ryan:
Let's start with that one, then.

Jeff Epping:
So in our home or here at the garden we have pathways to get people around in the garden and enjoy the lighting. So path lights like this one is what we're after. It's only a little 10-watt lamp in here that illuminates all around the fixture.

Shelley Ryan:
So you put it near a step at home or near the front door where somebody's walking.

Jeff Epping:
Absolutely. At an entryway, a deck, a patio. If people are moving around you want them to see where they're traveling so they don't get hurt.

Shelley Ryan:
But you also use it especially here at Olbrich to actually highlight the beauty of the garden.

Jeff Epping:
Absolutely. It's all about gardening, isn't it?

Shelley Ryan:
Of course, that's what life is about.

Jeff Epping:
So this is what is considered an up-light. It's an MR-16, lots of different manufacturers and styles. But when you take off the housing here, you have a small lamp in it that's very easily replaced. You want to do it when they're cold because they get extremely hot.

Shelley Ryan:
Okay, good to know.

Jeff Epping:
Just put a new one in, and boom, back on, and it's good to go. The great thing about these lamps is some last, there's different ranges, but 3,000 to 5,000, even 10,000 hours with some of the different lamps. So you're not replacing them very often.

Shelley Ryan:
Now, is this staying outside in the ground all year round?

Jeff Epping:
It is. It's best to leave them on just a couple hours a day to draw off the moisture, condensation any rain, that sort of thing.

Shelley Ryan:
Year round, then?

Jeff Epping:
Year round. And of course, you might want to leave them on longer when you're viewing them. But this is all that connects these fixtures together. It just looks a lot like a lamp cord but it's made to be buried underground.

Shelley Ryan:
And you've got another one. These are basically the cables that are coming out from the light.

Jeff Epping:
Right, and they're all connected with watertight connections to make them safe. And when you have stuff like this buried in the ground, you might imagine that being a gardener you'd stick a shovel through them once in a while. And we've done that more than once out here.

Shelley Ryan:
We're going to talk about the safety issues of that, too, aren't we?

Jeff Epping:
Right. Being low voltage, 12 volts you can stick a shovel through it, it won't hurt you. And that's the beauty of it. We try to keep cables close to pathways. If you're going right through a bed you might want to put it in a conduit. That's what I've done at home, to keep it safe.

Shelley Ryan:
Put it through a pipe or something.

Jeff Epping:
Keep the maintenance down that way.

Shelley Ryan:
When you're using them around a tree like this you're trying to do what I did with the spotlight. In the nighttime, you're highlighting the shape of the tree snow falling through it, something like that.

Jeff Epping:
And there's all different plants. You can highlight ornamental grasses during the season, when it's appropriate. Shrubs, trees of all different shapes and sizes and forms.

Shelley Ryan:
The structure.

Jeff Epping:
Absolutely, and that's what you see in the winter more than you would during the growing season.

Shelley Ryan:
That's sometimes our longest, darkest season, too.

Shelley Ryan:
Absolutely.

Jeff Epping:
How many lights do you need really to kind of highlight this?

Jeff Epping:
Well, there's two large honey locusts here that are 50 feet or so in height. So we have about eight up-lights and we also have about five down-lights that give you this moonlighting effect.

Shelley Ryan:
I noticed the down-lights. So those are shooting down here.

Jeff Epping:
Correct.

Shelley Ryan:
So you've got the wires hidden around the back here?

Jeff Epping:
Right, and that's something to think about when this is designed. We have the wires all hidden from the pathway where most people would see. And they go up into the tree. But we have to think about maintenance. Whenever you put lights up in a tree they have to be maintained on a yearly basis. So that'll add a little more maintenance cost.

Shelley Ryan:
Somebody has to go up there every year?

Jeff Epping:
Absolutely. The fixtures have to be loosened on their mounts and such. The cables may have to be refastened. The plants are getting bigger every year.

Shelley Ryan:
You don't want to girdle the branches of the trees.

Jeff Epping:
That would be the last thing you want to do. To highlight the garden you don't want to damage the plants in the process.

Shelley Ryan:
This leads to a really big question. Is this something I should be doing myself or should I get a kit? Should I hire a professional?

Jeff Epping:
That's a good question. I think it's tricky enough to seek a little help. A professional who can do a nice electrical plan for you would certainly be in order. If you're really handy and you can take it from there it's possible. I've done it at home myself, but I've been doing a lot of it around here so I got my hands in it. But there's kits you can buy in stores. Some are good, some are not so good, so you have to be careful on what you buy. You get what you pay for. If it's the cheapest thing out there, there's a reason. And then there's solar lighting.

Shelley Ryan:
I see a lot about solar lighting. Is that going to work to highlight a tree in the darkness?

Jeff Epping:
Unfortunately, no. It doesn't have the intensity that you need to really do a good job.

Shelley Ryan:
It's not strong enough. And you're using what? These are halogen.

Jeff Epping:
Most of the bulbs in here are halogen. Some will be incandescent. With the halogen, you get a lot more light for the amount of energy that's put into them. And now the technology is all going to LED lighting, which is still in its infancy, so it's pretty expensive, but I can see in the next five or ten years that's probably where everything will go.

Shelley Ryan:
And do a little research, maybe start with the plan. Maybe come here to Olbrich and see what you guys have done first.

Jeff Epping:
Absolutely.

Shelley Ryan:
Okay, thanks, Jeff.

Jeff Epping:
You’re welcome.

Shelley Ryan:
When the days grow shorter, landscape lighting becomes even more important for those of us who work during the day. We can enjoy our gardens even after the sun has set. We might even be able to adjust the lights so we can't see the weeds. For basil recipes and more please check out our Web site at: wpt.org/garden. I'm Shelley Ryan. Thanks for watching the Wisconsin Gardener.

Announcer:
Funding for the Wisconsin Gardener is provided by the Wisconsin Master Gardener Association.

EPISODE SEGMENTS+
EPISODE RESOURCES+

Download Podcast »

Buy DVD »

Funding for The Wisconsin Gardener is provided, in part, by The Wisconsin Master Gardener Association.