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Theatre by night

 Many of us have friends to dinner in the summer, perhaps lighting candles for ambience and heating up the overworked barbecue for alfresco dining. So what do you do when the nights draw in and winter drags the late sun beneath a cold horizon?

Flick a switch! Just like you would for an indoor room, if the garden is thoughtfully prepared, you can enjoy a different garden by night. It isn’t just the feel of the garden that changes but also the wildlife. Plants take on different forms, dancing light and shadows giving a sense of theatre. Nocturnal creatures venture out after dark, replacing their day-living neighbours.

Sounds good, but where do you start? Safety first and always. For those with a limited budget there are low wattage kits from many of the local garden centres that will provide a low cost and safe solution to lighting paths or edges of a terrace. With a bit more spending power, the garden really does become a playground for night owls.

Use a relatively low cost 50W spotlight close to the base of a tree and suddenly the trunk and branches come alive with myriad shadows and textures. The key thing to remember is, try to hide the source of the light away from the eye. It’s better to see the effect, not the light itself. Next time you see a stage production at the theatre, you’ll see how true this is.

The other benefit of adding lighting to a garden is of course security. Many homes have glaring halogen lamps flooding the garden. Place a few carefully selected lights near entrances and boundaries and you’ll have the enhanced benefit of lighting the grounds around the house rather than the house itself.

Safety again as always. Higher wattage lighting should always be linked with armoured cable and run under patios or along walls out of the way of spades and forks. If in doubt, call an electrician.

Then flick a switch, sit back and enjoy the show.