If you don't want to lift a finger, go with a pro. (Find one through the website of the Association of Outdoor Lighting Professionals
.) But homeowners willing to invest a little of their own time and energy can save a bundle by following the advice of Mark Piantedosi, owner of Commonwealth Landscape Lighting
in Acton, Massachusetts. Here are his top design tips:Trees
(well, bullet, or flood, and downlight). When aiming ground lights straight up into foliage, be sure to also bathe the trunk in light. If you don't, the uplit crown will look like a hovering UFO. When illuminating foliage from above, place two 20-watt downlights as high in a tree as possible and point them so that their beams do not cross. Planting Beds
(garden). Place fixtures no closer than 20 feet apart. "You want pools of light to guide your eye from one plant to the next, not continuous illumination." Home Facade
(bullet and wash).Fit bullet lights with bulbs that have 12-degree beam spreads, and aim them at the corners of your house or architectural details; softer wash lights can fill in the space between them. Garden Walls
(well, bullet, or flood).Position fixtures close to the base so that the beams bring textures into sharp relief.Focal Points
(flood, bullet, or wash). Highlight an element that deserves attention—such as a fountain, a tree swing, or an arbor—by aiming two or more lights at it. The crossing beams reduce the harsh shadows that form when only one shines on an object.
For more outdoor-lighting design ideas, visit FX Luminaire's "Learning Center" at fxl.com
or consult the classic guide The Landscape Lighting Book, by Janet Lennox Moyer.