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As the lines between the indoors and out become increasingly blurred, our gardens are echoing our home interiors now more than ever. Sofas, cushions, rugs – even ovens – are almost garden staples. But lighting, particularly when solar powered, trumps all of the above. Garden solar lighting ideas deliver on so many levels – from being versatile and practical to being free to run and allowing you to enjoy (and see!) your garden when the sun has long gone.
Garden solar lighting ideas
When it comes to garden lighting ideas, not only will solar lights raise your garden credentials, they also offer ‘an ultra low maintenance solution to luxury lighting in any outdoor space’, according to the lighting experts at thesolarcentre.co.uk. ‘With gas and electricity prices soaring, they have zero running costs and straightforward DIY installation, better for you and the environment too’.
Thalia Shower, Owner of sparkle.lighting offers some practical advice: ‘Leave them switched off for a few days to begin with so that they have a few days of sunshine to get charged up.’ While the gurus at gardenesque.co.uk advise, ‘clean solar panels are more efficient at converting light energy into electrical energy, so wipe them regularly with soapy water and a non-abrasive cloth’.
1. Elevate an outdoor lounge
A solar powered floor lamp is the missing piece of the outdoor lounge puzzle. You may think you can’t improve on your sofa + cushions + coffee table + rug set up. But introduce a substantial piece that’s strongly associated with the indoors – such as a floor lamp – and voila! Now you have an outdoor living room idea that’s as convincing as your one indoors. The commanding and statuesque nature of floor lamps is exactly what makes them so visually impactful. And the light they emit from high above makes the area directly beneath a great spot for reading.
Garden Designer, Kate Gould, is a big fan of outdoor feature lights, ‘There are now many exterior floor lamps that can add a true indoor-outdoor feeling to a garden space. These are the kind of lights that you want to showcase in their own right and they work well around seating and dining areas.’
2. Create an enchanting nook
Coiling tiny fairy lights around tree trunks for an outdoor tree light idea will always look pretty. Adding some different, but just as whimsical, pixie-sixed solar lights nearby will create megawatt magic, with no ugly electrical cables in sight!
Consider scale when pimping up your trees – mini solar fairy lights are fine for trunks and semi-barren branches, but they have a tendency to disappear if the trees are too high or leafy. Large, festoon solar bulbs are the solution – and they look extra effective casually strung from tree to tree. The experts at gardenesque.co.uk say, ‘festoon lights can be strung up in trees to add height, depth and atmosphere. Team string solar lights with wood to enhance the natural beauty of your garden.’
Quantity is another consideration – too many lights can veer into the realms of Santa’s grotto. ,‘Err on the side of caution,’ says Garden Designer, Kate Gould. ‘You can always add more lights but taking them away is more difficult.’
If you’re lighting up the treetops, ensure equilibrium by utilising the grass, too. Gluts of mini toadstool solar lights arranged among tree roots looks beyond charming.
3. Hide solar panels – beautifully!
An emerging trend when it comes to garden solar lighting ideas, is for the solar charging panel (which is usually unattractive and set on a stake) to be disguised within a decorative object. Large, flat structures, such as the surface of an outdoor mirror or a decorative, metal wall art panel, work a treat. They make beautiful statement pieces during the day. Then they have the added benefit of emitting elegant accent outdoor wall lighting ideas come dusk, and all without an ugly panel in sight.
‘Use walls and fence panels just like you would the walls of the inside of your home, helping to make the space feel like an extra room,’ says Wayfair’s Resident Style Advisor, Nadia McCowan Hill.
Just be mindful of where you hang them. The more the sun is on them during the day, the stronger and longer lasting the light will be at night.
Gardening Expert, Annabel James, points out that weather conditions and the time of year will affect your solar lighting. ‘In spring and autumn, the lights will be illuminated for two to five hours and in winter, expect up to two hours. But during the summer period, the lights should remain on for six hours,’ she says.
4. Define a dining area with an overhead display
When planning an alfresco feast, use garden solar lighting ideas to eschew a traditional table centrepiece for an eye-catching overhead display. Similar to the way that a grand chandelier over a table in a dining room adds a sense of occasion, glamour and drama, a solar pendant display suspended above a garden table has the same effect.
Plus, as Dani Taylor, Creative and Product Director at coxandcox.co.uk says: ‘Solar pendants hung above your outdoor table will zone your entertaining space beautifully. They’re also easily transportable and can hang from any tree for a magical effect.’
Choose ones in different shapes and sizes and arrange at varying heights for extra style. Combine with outdoor string light ideas to up the atmosphere. A pastel palette will look pretty and romantic, while rich, jewelled shades will feel intimate and alluring. Lightweight ones are more practical for hanging on branches, while damask or Moroccan-style ones will emit pretty patterns when the lights shine.
5. Cheat atmospheric candlelight
‘Candlelight is generally deemed to be the most attractive type of light and also the most atmospheric,’ says Garden Designer, Kate Gould. We’re inclined to agree, but the problem with candlelight outside, is, of course, that the flame often doesn’t stay flickering for long.
Cue solar tea lights and pillar candles. There’ll be no dripping wax nor black smoke, but there will be a ‘flame’ that won’t be snuffed out by the elements. Ones that flicker and look semi-melted are available as are pristine pillars with a static flame. Either way, they’ll radiate as much charm as a real candle would. Cluster them together on a tray for an intimate patio lighting idea.
6. Ditch the dark for solar silhouettes
Gardens are at their most glorious during the day when characterful trees, colourful blooms and lush foliage is on full display. All that disappears once it’s dark – and that’s when it’s time to fake it!
Solar powered trees, climbing branches and flower stakes can bridge the gap beautifully between the dusk and dawn, adding personality, light and bewitching silhouettes. Think of them as the understudies that step in (and almost do as good a job as the real stars!) until the garden is swathed in sunlight again.
‘Solar stake lights are great for illuminating garden path ideas and work well nestled in borders to add drama, depth and interest to the garden view,’ says Dani Taylor, Creative and Product Director at coxandcox.co.uk.
On a practical note, bigger is better here, so choose the largest solar silhouettes that your budget allows.
7. Double the light with a water trick
Hanging huge solar globes high in a tree will look stunning, but doing so above a garden pond will achieve extra style points. Once aglow, their reflections in the water will duplicate the display above, creating a super-sized, show-stopping scene.
Deserted garden pond ideas – as well as water features and rockeries – can be given a new lease of life by submerging marine-grade solar lights to shine from the water out.
8. Opt for cool, calm and contemporary
Solar powered cubes, pebbles, eggs and globes offer a modern twist on traditional garden solar light ideas. Invariably super-sized but simply designed, these Japandi-style solar lights emit an ambient glow for a sense of calm and tranquility for a great deck lighting idea.
Arrange large solar eggs and pebbles on the floor by low furniture, or dotted along the edge of a pathway. Smaller orbs can serve as outdoor lamps or table centrepieces. While large cubes can double-up as side tables or foot rests.
Plump for versions that have a colour-changing feature and you can shift the poised scene to a party one with the click of a switch.
9. Introduce a playful element
The market is awash with solar lights, from the plain and practical to the cosy and ambient. There are kitsch and characterful offerings vying for attention too. Be it a climbing monkey, a zen frog or a giant snail, they’re a great way to add a playful edge – and some humour – to an area of your garden.
Think of it in the same way that a loud wallpaper in a downstairs loo or an eclectic display of retro prints in a nursery creates an element of surprise and joy in an otherwise neutral space. They make great conversation starters, too!
10. Think smart for small spaces
Owners of pocket-sized plots or those in need of balcony garden ideas need to make smarter and savvier choices when it comes to solar lighting. Plumping for ones that moonlight as something else is a wise idea that’s easily accessible. New offerings from the solar market include lights that double up as planters, insect houses, mirrors, fence panels, screening trellises and Bluetooth speakers, to name a few.
Where you position these double duty marvels is key. You’ll want to keep the floor as clear as possible for a clutter-free feel, so opt for ones that can be attached to walls or railings. Hang high and they’ll trick eyes into thinking the space is wider and higher than it actual is. Better still, they’ll provide an opportunity for you to devise a creative display on a bare wall.
How can I light my garden without electricity?
‘Solar lights are the perfect choice for lighting up your garden if you haven’t got a power socket nearby’, explains Lights4fun.co.uk’s Director of Product, Amy Mason. ‘During the summer months they will soak up all the sunshine during the day and automatically illuminate once dusk falls. So they’ll keep your garden aglow all evening long’.
Dani Taylor, Creative and Product Director at coxandcox.co.uk adds, ‘Outdoor lights are essential garden décor for adding ambience when the light fades. They create an inviting space that you’ll be more likely to use all year round. With advancements in outdoor lighting, it is even easier to enjoy your garden lit up at night without the need for electricity’.
Will solar lights be OK in the rain?
‘Yes, absolutely!’ say the experts at solarcentre.co.uk. ‘They are designed to withstand the British weather all year round, rain included! They all come with an IP waterproofing rating that is rigorously tested for outdoor use.’
‘Choose a product with a minimum rating of IP44 or higher,’ says Danny Crouchman, Lighting Category Manager at B&Q. ‘IP ratings are in place to rank the light source on how effectively it is protected from elements such as liquids or solid objects. Factoring this into your decision will mean that you don’t have to worry about sheltering your solar lights from any rain’.
How do you decorate a garden with solar lights?
‘Our golden rule when it comes to illuminating your outdoor space is to layer your lighting at three levels.,’ says Lights4fun.co.uk’s Director of Product, Amy Mason. ‘Start overhead with solar festoon lights adorning trees, the roof of your pergola or the side of your house to complement the stars in the night sky. Place small solar lanterns on table tops and side tables for a soft twinkle at eye-level. Complement with larger lanterns positioned at the foot of your decking, pergola or porch area. Finally, position solar stake lights in flowerbeds or along a pathway to lead you home as dusk begins to fall, creating an even glow throughout your space’.
‘For many, our gardens have become a retreat from our busy, everyday lives,’ says thesolarcentre.co.uk. ‘So the importance of creating your own corner of calm is even more necessary for our mental wellbeing. Twinkly fairy lights in warm white create the perfect ambience to relax and unwind at the end of the day. Solar spotlights are also a perfect way to highlight your favourite garden feature, whether that’s a tree, hedging, seating area or decorative fence panels. We say to light up what makes you happy!’