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Why Hire a Pro Landscape Lighting Designer?

When planning an outdoor landscape lighting project there’s a great deal of online information to sort through. Planners should consider current technologies, overall site aesthetics and things like recent design trends. Landscape lighting design and installation is still somewhat of an emerging market and there’s a significant degree of esoteric knowledge possessed by a smaller group of seasoned design professionals. The question becomes whether to seek out the expertise of a professional and also, how to evaluate truly qualified lighting design experts We suggest asking the following questions before you hire a landscape lighting service:

Do the individuals or services understand BOTH landscape architecture AND the technologies that will bring the most aesthetic value to your landscape architecture and real estate?

It is the designer’s job to not only understand the technological requirements for each lighting job but to have a specific vision for how the final lighting effect will enhance the outdoor space. Over the years we have encountered service providers from varying professional backgrounds that attempt to install landscape lighting systems but with vastly differing results. The general categories of service providers include:

landscape architects

While each of these professions may have a basic working knowledge of landscape lighting it is important to qualify each individual based on three things:

horticultural knowledge
an understanding of design principles
technical proficiency in the field of outdoor lighting.

Many landscape lighting installers may have one or two of these three proficiency areas but typically lack the second and third. Let’s discuss the importance of these three knowledge bases.

Landscape Uplighting Maple Leaf


Horticulture is the understanding of plants and trees. It includes the growth habits of plants as well as the cultural characteristics of plants throughout the various seasons. It includes proper planting and pruning techniques to ensure a healthy and aesthetically balanced plant or tree. Understanding how plants and trees grow, their natural shapes and even growth rate will allow properly installed lighting systems that enhance a property without being overtaken by plantings. As part of an annual lighting maintenance program it is imperative that trees and shrubs be pruned properly and pruned in the correct season to maximize the health and aesthetics of the tree or shrub. When installing a path light at the edge of a perennial flower garden, consider the height and shape of the perennials around the light fixture to determine proper fixture height and light output. When installing tree lights in a birch, for example, consider the very fast growth rate of the tree and adjust the attachment points yearly to minimize damage to tree and fixture. Invasive plants must be recognized and removed as they will not only damage specimen trees but shade out the landscape lighting effect. Without a knowledge of plants, a lighting design will fail to perform in short time.


Design principles include an objective understanding of spatial design, color, texture, symmetry, asymmetry, balance, tension, blending and contrast. All of these principles come into play and can be manipulated when either architecture, an outdoor space or specimen plant is lit within the nighttime environment. It’s unfair to assume that the typical landscaper or electrician has been trained in these principles but it is these principles that result in an artfully crafted composition of light.

Technical proficiency

This includes an understanding of electrical voltage and amperage, lighting temperatures, LED vs. incandescent qualities, light saturation levels, bulb focus angles, digital timers, programmable transformers, home automation system integration, etc. Just like everything else in our lives, outdoor lighting systems are more efficient and reliable but far more complex in terms of integration and programming. This is an area where the home automation electrician has knowledge which the landscaper or architect may be lacking.

In conclusion, it’s best to work with those who are trained in the field of horticulture and have years of planting, pruning and understanding of the cultural aspects of New England perennials, shrubs and trees. A trained as landscape lighting design professional will understand the design principles of architecture and lighting the outdoor space. Pros understand and train in the latest of today’s lighting technologies. The use of programmable transformers and lighting fixtures can allow for customized settings, colors and can be connected to home automation systems. The real experts will bring this knowledge to the client’s projects in the analysis, design, installation and maintenance of their outdoor lighting systems.