DIY Uplighting — Adding Year-round, Low-cost Magic to your Yard and Garden

I’m still outside playing with lights…and I have a $10 tip to share that can make magic in your yard.

A few years ago, we received a holiday card from friends.  It included a picture of their kids in front of a tree in their yard.  The photo was taken in the evening during late autumn and although I did look at the kids…I was totally struck by the incredible beauty of that illuminated, golden-leafed tree…

It was lit from below by a spotlight which created a spectacular golden glow…and that was probably when I first began to appreciate the simple magic of uplighting.

I love the look of uplighting…lights, bark, leaves, shadows….the whole effect makes me want to light up every tree and plant in our yard.  It even makes this scrubby willow bush look lovely:

scrub willow uplighting

I especially like how it revives an autumn landscape or showcases a front door wreath or architectural feature.

Uplighting is not only beautiful when the trees are full with greenery…

but is especially lovely as the seasons change…illuminating red and golden leaves in the fall…

 

 

or the bark of leafless trees in winter.

True landscape lighting artists paint with light…they have vision, create landscapes for light and don’t necessarily light everything…they create night time features and focal points.

They also charge a-plenty for their skill, time and expertise…for which I have NO dispute. Or budget (with four young adults always in my wallet).

At our house, this calls for a DIY.

I’ve been researching lighting fixtures…they can get pretty pricey PER light. Brass, copper, aluminum…shielded/not shielded….

And although next summer I’d like to solve the mystery of low-voltage and down lighting, I don’t have time for those lessons this year, so I want something I can plug in with an extension cord, attach to a timer (or daylight sensor), and enjoy.

Up to now, I had been using $10 stake receptacles and paired them with 45-watt incandescent bulbs (an additional $7) . Even though they’re meant for outdoor use, I’ve had to replace each of them—both bulb and/or fixture—at least once per year. So, that would not be practical for the back yard.

I know they’re meant to protect me from electrocuting myself but our GFIs tend to pop with a wayward glance…so…….

I’ve been looking at lower wattage LED options.

For now, I’ve found a terrific, inexpensive solution and I’m happy to share.

(Before I do, I just want to clarify that this is NOT a sponsored post, it’s a tip share. I discovered these on my own and took a chance. We love the result. For your convenience, I am including affiliate links below.  Please know, I don’t care where/if you purchase them. The links are provided because it would be easy to mistakenly order the wrong versions of these. Bright light, cool light, plugs, low-voltage w/o plugs, single packs, double packs…yikes…very confusing!  That said…back to our regularly scheduled program…)

I came across these little workhorses which are available from both Walmart and Amazon for ~ $10 each. Most of the reviews I found about these 6 watt lights (yep, only 6) were positive, so I took a chance. I’ve been using them for several months and I am hooked! I’m no mathlete, but I can light eight of these little buggers using about the same amount of electricity for EACH of the incandescents I used before!

I ran my multi-outlet extension cords, hooked them up to light-sensor timers, selected a few trees to light and WOW! These tiny fixtures really do the trick! (See more about this in the post about my lighted groundcover.)

I was so excited I ordered another 10 and started trying them all over the yard..  Aren’t they lovely on eastern pines?

 

I also used one to light our river birch:

garden uplighting river birch lemon bestand a few on our two-tier garden wall:

 

We have a LOT of trees, so it’s hard to pick and choose.  But you could light even a single tree and appreciate how lovely it is year round.  For now…I think we’re off to a great start with relatively minimal investment.

My mom liked the result, so I bought four more and uplit the arborvitae in her yard as well.

uplighting arborvitae lemonbest

I ended up purchasing the lights from Amazon because—with all our college textbook orders—we have a “Prime” membership and therefore free and fast shipping. The lights were about $10 each and come in both warm or cool light. Warm lights are better for the environment than bright lights.  (If you already have a low voltage system, they have versions for that as well…I chose the warm lights since they are similar in hue to the string lights I have hidden in the pachysandra). Here are the links for the “warm light” version WITH plug, in a single pack

 

or double packs.

Find lights anywhere YOU like, but give it a try.  You may find a favorite view this winter is in your back yard: an ethereal, illuminated leafless tree frosted in snow against a dark blue sky.

Simple, lovely…winter’s garden!

 

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POST UPDATE:

Since first writing this, I’ve done a little more research and discovered that “light pollution” is a thing….

SO….Okay…I will endeavor NOT to light my ENTIRE yard (even thought it looks so pretty). I will also double check the lights I DO use, to make sure they are not annoying to any neighbors (which I’ve always done from the start). AND…I will make sure they “time off” at a reasonable hour so that children, animals and nature can enjoy their dark skies.

That said, we do like to walk the yard in the evening, even in the winter…and it’s otherwise pitch black out there. With frequent visits from skunks, etc, we humans need a little protection, too.

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As noted, 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.

When in doubt, consult with a professional.

Undertaking this or similar projects is AT YOUR OWN RISK. The lights I used do not carry the UL seal.

Constructive comments are always welcomed below.

6 comments

  • sheinbuch

    Love this post and the info on the lights. I have a fairly large yard, and with my kids getting older(9 and 8) I can now do more than just house toys. My front yard could use an overhaul and adding these lights to the mix would be magical! Thanks so much for the info, can not wait till spring to get started!

    • EmDirr

      Hello, Sheinbuch!
      Thank you so much for your nice comment…

      My kids are much older than yours and they STILL want toys (they’re currently talking their dad into outdoor ping pong….yeesh)!

      Your yard sounds like a perfect candidate to play with lights 🙂
      I haven’t had to replace one yet! If you try them/like them, perhaps share a photo via Facebook (if you have time). Would love to see 🙂

  • robjodiefilogomo

    First Em…I have to laugh when you say to use caution & common sense—oh my how that makes me laugh because it seems so obvious!!
    But it is so amazing how uplighting makes such a difference.
    I remember learning about it in my interior design classes, but do you think I’ve even tried it? (and I’m talking on the inside of the house—you realize I’m an indoor girl, right? Both my husband and I hate yardwork, so thankfully we just downsized to a townhouse a year ago!!) But after seeing these photos, I’m going to have to go get creative. It’s such a beautiful result!!
    jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com

    • EmDirr

      Inside uplighting! That is undiscovered country for me…but I can already think of a few spots where it would be of help in our house. I think I did know you live in a townhouse… as for us, we had to take the house if we wanted the yard 🙂 But looking a decade down the road, I doubt we’ll still be hauling rocks 🙂

Anything you'd like to add? I'd love to know what YOU think!!