STILLWATER – Properly designed outdoor lighting should create an appealing atmosphere rather than the harsh impression of a penal institution. Lighting can make the difference between an average and an outstanding landscape. At one time perceived to be only for the wealthy, lighting in the landscape has become more common as people recognize its versatility.

No longer do the receptacles fall into an uncomely utilitarian category; landscape lighting has grown to become a valuable asset to your home. Lighting a walkway doubles as a safety feature, especially when nights become longer than our days. Positioning a light to shine from the ground straight up a wall can increase perimeter security and create a subtle artsy effect. Rope and string lights add a festive feel to after-dark barbeques.

As with all electrical adventures, safety comes first! Use an electrician who is experienced in landscape lighting for planning and installation. This is not a project for the do-it-yourself crowd. Improperly installed electrical features and water make a deadly combination. Proper placement of underground lines is a job best left to the professionals.

If you have the urge to ignore my advice concerning professional installation, please stick to battery, solar-powered or self-contained units. These choices are easily installed by the homeowner. Hard wiring into existing electrical sources need not be considered. Many attractive selections are available, along with the added versatility of remote placement.

Consider lights used in the landscape as a part of the design. Before purchasing, envision the finished area as it would be viewed during the day and in use at night. Continuity of styles and colors of lights is important for a professional and relaxing effect.

Remember also that after dark, light attracts insects. Position the lamps where flying insects will not detract from an evening outdoors.

Diffused lighting paired with white flowers and gray foliage is the basis of a trend called “moonlight gardens.” Carefully positioned lights reflect off and through the white as if there were a full moon. Branches, tree trunks, and trellises cast distinct shadows, creating a quiet, meditative effect.

Highlight textures, structures and sculptures to generate a romantic ambiance you can enjoy from the patio or spa. For me, a still place to unwind and reflect upon your day is always welcome. Explore the option of landscape lighting.

LeeAnn Barton has worked with nurseries for more than 20 years. She digs in the dirt in Stillwater. Direct any questions to her, especially about tree selections, by emailing leeannbarton-@sbcglobal.net.