What a glorious evening it is when a full-moon lights up our garden or our outdoor living space. These times are enchanting and memorable and often give us enough light to be able to see easily. But what happens if you want to have guest for an outside dinner and the moon is not out? With more and more people wanting to entertain out of doors, and with Covid-19 encouraging people to be outside, thinking of ways to light up your garden, patio or deck is a good place to start.
This job can be expensive or you can do it on a shoestring budget. There are many creative ways to accomplish making your yard, the ideal place to entertain and not spend a fortune.
We have a wonderful patio but it has always been dark in the evening. Over the years, I tried many things to make the area more usable. I first hung stars in a tree that were made of grapevines and that were filled with Christmas lights. They looked festive but they did not give off much light. I have always used lots of short votives and tall candles, but here too, this was not quite enough. As people age, more light is needed to see and I knew I needed more light if I was going to have guest to dine outside comfortably.
I visited a friend’s house this past winter and was thrilled to see what they had done to light up their deck. They had taken PVC pipe as a support and put a cap on top of the pole and hooks at the top and installed LED string lights from pole to pole. They had painted the poles dark brown and at night, they were hardly visible. This gave a soft light and expanded their living area to outside and had done this with very little effort or cost.
I decided to try this and since my lights had to be higher in the air because of the hillside, I had to use metal poles but both worked great. I put a 2-inch PVC pipe in the ground 1 1/2 feet deep and put the metal pole in the sleeve in the ground. Then we put a hook at the top and strung the lights from pole to pole.
String lights have become the most popular way to light up the outdoors. You can take these decorative strings or ropes of light and drape them around a patio, trees, shrubs or a pergola with little effort. You can find them in different sizes and even shapes.
You can also take strings of Christmas lights and drape them over shrubs to give you a little soft glow. I have them on some oakleaf hydrangeas that line my patio in one area and in another place, I have them to warn people of a stone edging around a tree in the patio so that no one will trip on the edging.
Another way to have light outside is to have solar lamps or rechargeable dinner table lamps. A few years ago, I was given 2 solar lamps that give more light than the use of many candles. I leave them outside and as the day becomes evening, the solar lamps come on and give us the light we needed to dinner outside. When I was telling my son how much I loved these lights and how one had broken, he found another type of light for me to try. These are rechargeable dinner table lamps that would also give us the light we needed to dine outside comfortably. These have a cord that plugs into the wall and charges the lamp up to 20 hours before we have to bring inside and recharge them.
There are many technological options available to enhance outdoor lightning. First think about what you want to accomplish and how much you want to spend. Do you want light to dine with another couple or have a larger group over for drinks? You need to know how much light you want.
If you want to light up your backyard without having to install outside electricity, solar-powered lighting is an option. During the day, solar light batteries draw enough energy from the sun’s rays so that the light fixtures can provide wireless illumination at night. Solar garden lights are an innovative and cost-effective way to add a glow to your outdoor living space.
Now as the days get shorter and the nights get cooler, do not let this deter you from enjoying dining outside with friends. We dine outside often in the spring, summer and fall and you too can expand your living space with a little creativity. At times like these, outdoor spaces can serve as an extension of the living or dining room and provide a great ambiance that’s enhanced by soothing and effective lighting. Staying well is critical, and being safe with friends is important.
Betty Montgomery is a master gardener and author of “Hydrangeas: How To Grow, Cultivate & Enjoy,” and “A Four-Season Southern Garden.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.