Garden Lighting – “Magical” Ground Cover
It’s certainly not unusual to see people using clear Christmas string lights in their yard.
I often see this beautiful photo (among others) on Pinterest:
But I have another way to use these lights that I haven’t seen posted yet:
I light my ground cover.
If you have pachysandra, english ivy, or some other dense, sturdy plant in your landscape, you can light yours, too. Hands down, it’s a favorite thing about our yard.
And–considering how simple it was to do–it’s ironic that it’s the one thing about our yard that generates the most compliments.
You’ve seen our pachysandra berm in the posts about our two-tier stacked stone wall. If you look closely (and you’d have to) you might have seen a clue that we light it at night.
Look closer…there it is!
I know some gardeners consider pachysandra to be an overused ground cover, but it’s sturdy through every season and is the perfect host for this type of garden lighting.
I’ve tried to capture the effect in pictures, but it is SO much prettier in person because the lights work their way down into the plants and as you walk along, new lights pop up and others get obscured by the surrounding leaves.
The effect is magical… at least we think so.
(NOTE: We’ve since switched to LED lights for this area for some very solid reasons…read about it HERE.)
I currently use incandescent string lights for this area. Because I’d like to add more lighting to the yard without overloading the electrical outlet, I expect–at some point– I’ll have to switch to “warm white” LEDs. But I do loooovvvve the glow of the incandescents best. (Wish I could’ve find warm white stake lights for the solar chandeliers…I like all the lights to have the same hue.)
We’ve been using string lights in the pachysandra for about five or six years, and it also looks really pretty when the berm is covered in snow…the whole thing glows (I’ll definitely have to add a photo this winter).
There’s no rocket science to this lighting project, but for safety, we connect our extension cords to GFI outlets.
I ran a multi-outlet outdoor extension cord along the back of the plants. The one I’m currently using has a three plug end, so I leave it in the center of the berm and work out and around from there.
You could also use one of these 25-foot cords (below) with outlets at eight-foot intervals…but mine works so I’m not messing with it 🙂
Winding my way outward from the outlets, I just lay the lights right on top of the plants in a random pattern.
Here’s an edited version to give you a better idea:
When I’m reasonably satisfied, I gently (and sometimes not so gently) brush my hand across the plants, shaking them from side to side until the lights and wires settle down into them and become obscured.
The first couple of weeks they look less random, but as the plants grow and the cords settle more, the effect looks more natural. (Occasionally, they settle in a little too much and you need to lift them back up a little.)
And…of course, anyone who works with “Christmas lights” knows that over time they’ll need to be replaced…sometimes a string at a time…and sometimes I’ll just redo the whole smash.
I usually visit the big box stores to “replenish my stock” from the clearance section a day or two after Christmas, just to have a supply on hand. (Choose the lights with the green wires, not the white, for best camouflage.)
We connected our lights to a photosensitive timer like this one, and set them to light up from dusk to dawn.
It’s probably one of the simplest ways to light the garden, and the one that’s given us most pleasure.
Stay tuned! I have one more garden lighting technique to share that you can enjoy year round, but is especially lovely with fall colors!
I’m clearly more “Clark Griswold” than electrician, and there are undoubtedly better ways to do this…but this is what works for us. One of these days, my non-electrician self will have to read up on low-voltage lighting.
As noted above, I am not an electrician or offering professional advice. I am a hobbyist. Anyone working with lights, plugs and electricity should always use caution and common sense.
Constructive comments are always welcomed below.