It’s easy to imagine a landscape only by the light of the sun. After all, that’s when we can best see it! But what about the experience of the landscape at night, and the many experiences that are unique to those special hours after the sun has set? We believe that in order for a landscape to be complete, it must also be enjoyable by the light of the stars. Here are the elements that we add to our designs to create great night landscapes, sure to make you want to stay up late and enjoy.
We aren’t afraid of the dark, but when it comes to navigating the landscape by night, it’s important to be able to get around safely! Landscape lighting is a must if you’re going to be entertaining in the evening, night-swimming in the pool, or just relaxing alone on your patio. Lighting can make the night landscape more accessible, and many of our clients find themselves wanting to spend more time there once lighting has been installed. Depending on your style of night activity, you may want only some small path lights leading to your favorite stargazing spot, or you may wish for underwater lighting in the fountain or spa. If you plan to entertain at night, some elegant lighting around an outdoor bar or sitting area will charm your guests late into the evening. Good luck getting them to leave!
If you live in some areas of the East Bay, particularly near open space, there may be some limits to your landscape lighting in the form of Dark Sky Laws. These laws protect nocturnal wildlife that are aversely affected by light, and also benefit humans by preserving our view of the stars from the light pollution of urban areas. If you’re in a Dark Sky zone, you can still light your landscape beautifully with approved lighting fixtures. And when you’re not using them, turn the lights off to save power and keep the night naturally dark.
We are endlessly charmed by the beauty of fire, and in the night landscape it brings incredible ambiance. The recent popularity of gas fire features is particularly appealing. Not only can the world’s least outdoorsy person have a fire started within seconds, the design and functionality of fire features has expanded enormously! Depending on the space, you can opt for anything from a tiny mobile firebowl to a permanent fireplace or firepit in innumerable styles. If you do love the crackle and smell of a wood-burning fire, though, we understand. We design a lot of those too. When you have gatherings, guests are sure to gather instinctively around the fire, and you may find that sitting fire-side after a long day of work is just the ticket for instant relaxation.
Among the senses that sharpen when we are in a dark environment is our sense of smell. The exquisite smell of freshly watered earth, the aroma of grill smoke still lingering from a BBQ, and of course, night-blooming flowers. Occasionally we design a garden just for the night experience- the concept of the Moon Garden, designed specifically for its evening blooms, is a lovely one, and these flowers often have one thing in common- they attract pollinators not through their flashy colors, but through their sweet scent. Often, we will include just one or two scented plants in our designs where we know they will be enjoyed by night. Some of our favorites include Gardenia, many varieties of Jasmine and false Jasmines, Brugmansia (also known as Angel’s Trumpet), and citrus blossoms, such as Tangerine or Lemon (above). While many of these flowers are open during the day, they really show off their scent at night! If you love strong fragrance, you’ll want one of these right next to your sitting area or open window, and if not you may want them planted some distance away to keep them from being overpowering!
Here at J. Montgomery Designs, we like to work the night elements into all of our landscapes as we create them. However, we find that even an existing landscape can become a night landscape by incorporating some of these elements. If you’d like to transform your home landscape for the night experience or create something new from the ground up, contact our studio and let’s talk!