Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Lighting in the Garden

Almost any garden, if you see it at just the right moment, can be confused with paradise.
~ Henry Mitchell, 1924-1993, American garden writer and humanist

Night lighting in the garden adds another dimension of beauty.  Ground lights aimed up tree trunks add elegance.  Strings of lights and Tiki torches add a party spirit.  Walkway lights entice you to look for what’s around the next bend in the path without stubbing your toe or trampling a treasured plant.  Do you think adding lights to your garden would be too costly both in fixture and continual energy usage?  I may have a solution for you.

I can find these solar path lights at big box hardware stores occasionally on sale for $2 each.  Make sure the stake is removable.  And know the smaller the light is often the dimmer the glow.

On just about any given day at a large chain thrift store I can find replacement glass shades for $1-$3 dollars each.  The trick is to find enough of the same style that will fit your solar light.  Finding 3 or 4 matching shades in one visit is easy, though finding 12 will probably require multiple visits.  But we’re talking about affordability today, not a quick finish to a project.  And they don’t need to be matching if that is your style.  They can be all different, making it easier to find the quantity you want in one visit.  Take your solar light with you to try out in the glass shades you find to get a good fit and look.  Make sure the store management knows your bringing it in with you.  Or you could buy the glass shades first then take one into the hardware store to find a solar light that will fit in it.  If cost is not an issue for you, the hardware store has several styles of these replacement glass shades and you can buy them new in the quantity you need and the solar lights in the same store. 

I’ve used these jelly jar style glass shades for several years in the garden with votive candles.  I have put them on ledges or hung them from tree limbs and hung them on my front porch.  Lovely but you can go through a lot of votives over the years.

By putting the top of a solar path light (stake removed) into the jar I now have much longer and brighter lighting when the sun goes down.  I think I’d prefer a glass shade that will allow the solar light to be completely hidden below the top rim; the jelly jars seem a tad too small for the solar lights I’ve chosen.  And since I live in a rainy climate I’ll be looking for 6 shades with a hole in the top and bottom that will allow the rain to pass through and drip out.  The bottom hole will need to be small so as to hold the solar light in.  The only problem I can foresee in the rain is if your solar light fits in snugly below the glass rim with no way for rain to pass over and off, water could pool on top and short out the solar panel electrical components.  While they are made to be used in the rain, they are not designed to sit in water.  If the inside of your glass shade is ribbed vertically or bumpy, that would allow water to pass. 

With that in mind I’ve got a new search ahead of me but sometimes that’s half the fun isn’t it?  Though for now it’s sunny, warm and fairly dry and these jelly jar garden lights are just great.  When we get a brief passing shower no water is getting in so they may be fine in the rainy season too.  Alternatively, I could try ‘sealing’ the rim with a canning jar rubber seal or a bead of silicone. 

If you want to hang them you need to make a wire ring around the rim of the shade, and then fit on a handle.

Here’s two other ways I use these solar lights. 

They can be tucked anywhere.

You could even simply drop one into an opaque vase on your patio table at your next dinner party. Once the sun goes down your table and guests will be lit with a warm glow. 

They work by solar recharging of a battery inside the top of the light.  Over the years the battery will weaken and the glow dims a little.  I think the batteries are replaceable but it will probably cost less to replace the whole solar path light when you next find them on sale.  I’ve had one on my fence for 3 or 4 years so far and it still works well albeit a little dimmer than the newest ones.

The jelly jar glass shades cost me .99 each so my total cost for each solar/shade combo light is $3 (plus tax) plus a little wire so I can hang them. Not bad if you are on a tight budget or just penny-pinching love a bargain like me.  The uses for these lights are limited only by your imagination…and some sun for recharging.

In Bloom in My Garden Today: Agastache foeniculum (anise hyssop), Alpine Strawberries, Alyssum, Astlbe,Begonia ‘bonfire’, Bletilla pink, Borage, Clematis alpina ‘frankie’, Coreopsis ‘moonbeam’, Crocosmia ‘george davidson’, Daphne caucasica, Digitalis grandiflora, Echinacea Fuchsia, Gaillardia (blanket flower), Geum, Hardy Geranium, Heuchera, Hosta, Lavender, Lilium tigrinum ‘splendens’, Lobelia, Mullen chaixii ‘Album’, Nepeta ‘six hills giant’ (catmint), Peas, Perovskia ‘little spire’, Phygelius ‘new sensation’ (cape fushia), Primrose (double English), Purple poppies, Rose, Schizostylis ‘watermelon’, Star Jasmine (trachelospermum jasminoides), Thyme, Tomato, Veronica ‘royal candles’, Zucchini,

Authors photos