Adding lighting to a pond can transform the evening garden – particularly if there is a fountain or water fall – and instantly double its impact with two distinctly different looks. Extending the appeal of the garden pond into the hours of twilight and darkness is not a difficult thing to do and though like all things it is an option best considered at the outset, before the pond is first built, with modern systems any pond can benefit from some lighting. Strategically placed units can bring out the landscape artist in all of us and there are systems available to suit every pond and every pocket. In some ways, the hardest part is deciding which one to pick.
Combining lighting within the pond with garden lights set around the pond is often the recipe for the best results, enabling architectural features in the rockery or specimen plants to be highlighted and extending the scope of the night-time display. Creative use of coloured filters and gels too can be used imaginatively to enhance the overall look – and some lighting units even include automatic colour changes for extra impact.
Pick The Look
Pond lights come in a variety of types and produce different effects, so it is worth giving some careful thought to what sort of overall look you are aiming to achieve. For gentle, subtle illumination, “mood” lights – either submerged or floating – are probably the best bet. Often sold in sets of two or four, they are far less intense than traditional spotlights and they will usually take filters to change colour, making them ideal for anyone looking for a little understated highlighting.
If a more “punchy” lighting effect is called for, spotlights fit the bill – typically available either singly, or in sets of three or four, often with a set of coloured gels included in the kit. They can be used for dramatic lighting of individual features – cascades, fountains or ornaments – or to illuminate the body of the pond itself with a shaft of intense light.
Finally, for ponds with fountains, the aptly named fountainhead lights can be attached to the water spout to illuminate the water spray in a particularly spectacular way – making an ideal choice if the aim is to provide just one single stand-alone centre-piece in the pond.
Choice of Power
Having settled on the overall effect you are trying to achieve, the only thing which remains is to decide whether to opt for mains, low voltage or solar units. In general, the low voltage systems seem to be the most popular type – principally because they are both quick and easy to install and safe to use. Many different manufacturers offer low voltage lighting appliances – designed to be connected to the mains via the supplied transformer unit, which steps the 240 volt mains down to the 12 or 24 volts needed by the bulbs. With most of the cheaper systems, the transformer will need to be kept indoors, but some of the more expensive ones are weatherproof and can be safely located outside and there is even one model which has a waterproof transformer, allowing it to be concealed in the pond itself.
Although straightforward mains lighting does exist for water features, it is highly unlikely to find its way into the average garden pond – not least because few manufacturers make them and those that do tend to produce units that are designed to suit ponds in municipal parks. There is an obvious and very real danger if submerged mains lighting is not properly installed – and current legislation demands that a qualified electrician should carry out this kind of work – so on balance, mains-powered pond lighting is not really well suited to home use.
In today’s eco-friendly world, solar lights have an obvious appeal and various models are available. The principle is very simple – a photovoltaic panel collects light energy during the day, charging up a set of batteries and when night falls, the batteries drive the lights, typically for around six or eight hours. Although their light is quite muted, the effect can be very atmospheric – and they have the great advantage of being the easiest of all lighting systems to install as well as the cheapest to run.
It should go without saying that whenever water and electricity are going to come into close proximity with each other, if you are in any doubt, consult a qualified electrician; this is definitely one time to be safe rather than sorry! Well chosen lighting can do more to alter a pond than almost anything else – and certainly more quickly. With a little bit of imagination and a willingness to experiment, even the most mundane of daytime ponds can become a dramatic night-time spectacle.