How Eco is Your Garden Lighting
We all love to wander round our gardens in the evenings, to admire the fruits of our labours and to smell the sweetness of the roses and orange blossom. For many gardeners this is the best time of the day.
But as the sun sets so does the natural light. Unless you live north of the arctic circle, by 10pm on a summer's evening most of us have to reach for a torch. So if we want something a bit more illuminating which will show off our garden without adding to our carbon footprint what are the options?
A garden candle can create a lovely atmosphere and can add fragrance if your garden doesn’t have enough of its own. But to avoid burning fossil fuels garden candles should be made from natural wax rather than paraffin. Natural wax burns in much the same way as paraffin wax, but without damaging the planet. Ideally the natural wax would be made with palm oil that is certified as sustainable.
For many people though a light summer breeze will put an end to hopes of a candle lit garden. The only way that candles can cope with the wind and still give off the same light is with the help of a garden lantern. If you have plenty of jam jars or small flower pots, these will do fine. If its very breezy or you live somewhere very exposded you may want to buy some hurricane lamps. As the name suggests, these are designed to withstand a storm or hurricane.
If you need something a bit more dramatic then outdoor pine torches are an option. These are logs that have been carefully sawn to make outdoor torches. You light a small wick which sits inside the log then stand back and watch it burn for 2 to 3 hours depending on the wind. They make a wonderful stirring flame, but they do need to be placed on a hard fireproof base such as a brick or tile as they burn down completely and will scorch grass or decking. They make a great dramatic entrance to a party.
For easy maintenance lighting of pathways, solar powered lighting is the best bet. These can be inserted into the ground without any wiring and can be set to automatically switch on at dusk. The downside is that they can make your garden look like a two star hotel with a runway. If you want to enhance the beauty of your garden and not attract local aircraft, a much more attractive option is to line a path with garden party lanterns (if you want height) or paper bag lanterns (if you you need lots)
So how much lighting should you have in the garden? A few years ago we were fortunate to spend some time on Chole Island, an eco retreat off the Tanzanian coast. There is no electricity on the island, so after dark the only light comes from candles, oil lamps and the moon. What it made us realise is that when it comes to outdoor lighting, less is more. A few carefully placed fig candles or flute lanterns will show your garden at its best without destroying the planet. And there is less chance of having a 747 landing on your lawn.