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Enchanted Evenings

by Katie Jackson

A moonlit garden is enchanting, but sometimes the moon needs a little help shedding light on a garden’s nighttime beauty. That’s when it’s time to turn to technology.

One of the most helpful developments in the outdoor lighting realm is the increased availability of LED (light-emitting diode) bulb, a technology that has been used for decades in appliances and electronic devices but only recently has become more affordable for the average consumer. While LED lights still cost more than traditional bulbs, they are safer, sturdier, more energy efficient, and longer lasting than halogen and incandescent bulbs, so they easily pay for themselves over time.

LED lights also now come in a broad palette of colors and styles, from basic spotlights to handsome pendants and lanterns and even sparkling party lights.

Those party lights, which typically are decorative strings or ropes that can be draped around patios, pergolas, and in trees and shrubs to charming effect, are among the hottest trends in outdoor lighting. No wonder, since they come in a variety of colors and a plethora of styles such as tiny winking lights, warmly glowing globes, and even novelty bulbs in the shapes of animals, fruits, stars, and the like. Because party lights are usually plug-in systems, they are especially well suited for temporarily lighting outdoor events or holiday decorating, but they can also be used year round.

For those who don’t want to spend hours stringing and linking strands of lights, there’s another technology that has burgeoned in popularity during the last two or three years – laser lights, which use a single plug-in projection device to create a big-picture light show.

These systems offer both static and moving displays of white or colored lights in beams and patterns that range from firefly-like twinkles to full-fledged extravaganzas complete with music. Though they may not be as elegant as traditional lights, laser lights offer an easy and entertaining option for holiday and special event decorating or to fill large outdoor spaces with light. These can also be left up year round, though using them judiciously is important: Your neighbors may not appreciate a year-long light show and you don’t want to contribute to excessive light pollution!

As wonderful as it is to have all these options, it’s also important to manage them, and technology is helping with that, too. In addition to the hardwired, battery, and solar-powered timers and motion and light sensing devices, you can also find remote-controlled lighting and systems that can be controlled with smartphone or tablet applications to dim, turn lights on and off, change colors and patterns, and even sync lighting to music.

It’s not as easy as downloading an app, though. You have to invest in a hub system that can connect your lights to a remote or cellular device, but the options are plentiful and prices range from affordable to extravagant.

Before you invest in any of these, spend some time exploring your options. You may want to ask a landscape or outdoor lighting specialist for guidance. But whatever you do, find a way to enjoy your enchanted evenings.

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