Night Lights II - Ambient Light

The deck, in blinding daylight, too harsh for serious drinking.

Today's lesson? Ambient light. My rule of thumb here is that you should see the light, but not the bulb. That should be the mantra of any lighting design, interior or exterior, I think. This is my favorite part of lighting in our garden/deck/yard/patio. And how to achieve this? Rope lights, rope lights, rope lights. I love rope lights. They're God's second best invention, after the dishwasher.

Rope lights are attached to the backs of all structural beams. I see the glow, the neighbors, unfortunately, see the entire rope lights.

I ask my family for rope lights every year for Christmas. They're affordable, easy to find, and sold year-round. There is one hitch though. The size of plug can differ from size to size, length to length and brand to brand. If you'll be buying multiple ropes to string around, make sure the male and female connectors are compatible. I would suggest the same for newly-engaged couples as well.

The patio in harsh daylight. I guess that's good for the plants.

I have rope lights BEHIND all the uprights on my arbors/trellises. They are UNDERNEATH the eaves of the garage and BELOW the lip of the deck, around the outside of the deck. From nearly any vantage point, you cannot see the rope lights, but you can enjoy the soft glow they throw.

The patio at night. Those are tiki torches in front of the mirrors. They look great lit, with their reflections.

This light glow permeates almost all of the deck & patio area and provides more than enough light for walking around and in many cases, still see the plantings, or create dramatic silhouettes from them. I like it most where they are hidden above and below the fruit tree espalier – it highlights the espalier nicely. And the lighting at the base of the Rocket Junipers really makes them look like they're going to take off.

Where the rope lights sit on top of the rose trellis above the garage, it provides a glow that makes people wonder where the source of light is. To me, that's a sign of success.

The rope lights above & below the diamond-shaped espalier. Makes the sculptural trees look even more so.

There's also some solar lights, the kind you'd put along a path that provide some glow amongst the plantings. In most cases, they're behind feature plants, such as a grass or other plants that look good in silhouette.

The other ambient light I would like to add to the yard would be some soft spotlights positioned in the tops of my few small trees, shining downward to provide dappled lighting on the ground. I've always thought that looked like moon light.

The espalier during the day. impressive but not awesome.

We only turn the lights on when we're out there for dinners, have guests or are having a party. They do not automatically turn on with a timer. That seemed like a great waste of electricity, and, in an urban setting, we try to be aware of light pollution for neighbors. We have one neighbor that has their white Christmas lights hanging off their fence on a timer and the lights are on year round. They don't even use their back yard except for a couple times in the summer. Their dogs do though, barking and crapping. I want to snip the cord on these lights. I refrain though. I try to be good. It's difficult.

The rope lights resting atop the rose arbor/trellis above the garage. Makes great shadows on the ground. It'll look even better if those roses ever cover the arbor.

Any other ambient lighting tricks you've got to share?

Yesterday–Safety Dance. The rest of this week? Tomorrow is Tub Lights, Thursday is Fire and Friday is Fun Lights.


  1. Love the rope light idea! Never would've thought of that!

  2. Love that espalier!
    Good writing, smiled several times, thanks Jim!

  3. Catherine,
    Rope is dope!

    If I gave you the names of all my professional writer friends, could you email all of them and tell that to them?


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