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Hardscaping 101: Outdoor Wall Lights

Wall-mounted outdoor fixtures are the chameleons of landscape lighting. They can be used virtually anywhere in your garden that offers a flat vertical surface.

N.B.: This is the fourth in our series of landscape lighting primers; scroll to the end for links to our posts on uplighting, pathway, and stairway lighting. Sources for landscape lighting are also below.

What are the benefits of wall-mounted outdoor lights?

Able to mount on virtually any vertical surface, outdoor wall lights are one of the most versatile types of landscape lighting, perfect for use on decks, patios, stairways, and pathways (with walls). Specifically, wall-mounted lights:

  • Shine light sideways or downwards, illuminating your way without blinding your eyes.
  • Won’t trip people who are walking in the garden.
  • Add depth to garden and house walls.
  • Mark path and garden boundaries.
  • Provide ambient lighting for garden entertaining, safety, and security.
  • Offer gentle lighting to brighten featured areas of your garden.
  • Highlight your home’s architecture.


Above: Demure during the day, recessed wall lights turn a Greenwich Village patio by Robin Key Landscape Architecture (a member of our Architects and Designer Directory) into a nighttime entertaining space. Photograph by Francine Fleischer.

What are the different types of outdoor wall lights?

Wall Mount Sconces

Wall-mounted outdoor sconces mount on top of a flat vertical surface. They are available with different lighting configurations, including downlight, down/uplight combinations, spotlight, 180-degree, and 360-degree light spread.


Above: A sconce from Tekna’s Nautic Collection spreads light downward.  For information and prices, see Tekna.


Above: A dual (up and down) lighting sconce from Delta Light highlights both a wall and a walkway.


Above: A wall spot light from Belgian lighting company Nyche.

Recessed Wall Lights

Installed flush against a wall, recessed lights cast a glow sideways and downward.


Above:  Flush recessed wall lights frame the stairs in a project by Gunn Landscape Architecture, a member of our Architects and Designer Directory.

Any tips for wall lighting placement and selection?

  • For pathway and stairway lighting, select fixtures that direct light downward or sideways at foot level.
  • Dual down/uplight sconces are a good choice to simultaneously illuminate a walkway and to highlight the side of a home.
  • Use wall lights as task lighting for outdoor activities, such as grilling or if you are entertaining outdoors.
  • Place lighting at or near tripping hazards such as stair risers or low walls.
  • As with all landscape lighting, be careful not to overlight. Use low-wattage bulbs for subtlety (it is easy to overdo it).
  • Use wall lights on deck, stair, or fence posts to create ambient lighting as well as to signal the location of a railing.



Above: Well-placed outdoor wall lights add interest and functionality. Photograph via Royal Botania.

How much voltage do outdoor wall lights have?

Unless they are solar-powered, outdoor lights need an electric power source. You can plug them into an outdoor power socket, hard wire them to a full 120V electric source, or install a low-voltage transformer. From the perspective of safety, cost, and easy installation, low voltage is the best option. Low-voltage transformers change the electric current from 120V to 12V, ideal for outdoor gardens where conditions can be wet. (Electricity and water are a bad combination.) If you use regular electrical power, you must bury wiring at least 18 inches deep or encase it in a conduit.

Low-voltage systems can plug into an outdoor socket. Then bury the wire beneath the surface of the soil or gravel to take them to their destination.

Installing lights into outdoor walls requires an extra dimension of work beyond the standard garden pole light. Take extra care to keep water from getting past the fixture and into wall material or underneath the siding (if on your home). Consult with an electrician, contractor, or outdoor lighting professional for guidance.

Where can I buy outdoor wall lighting?


Above: We love nautical lighting in the garden. For some of our favorite fixtures, see 10 Easy Pieces: Outdoor Nautical Bulkhead Lights

For more landscape light sources, see our earlier features:



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8 ways plants inject new life into your home

Living with plants not only has health benefits and purify the air inside a home, they also add vitality and life to a dull interior. And it doesn’t stop there—they also soak up extra moisture in your home, eliminating damp and mold. They reduce the chances of dry skin, colds, sore throats, dry coughs and in general aid recovery from illnesses. Certain plants even help you sleep better (the Gerbera daisy), lower blood pressure and boost moods.

Being around plants even help your concentration, memory and productivity—so don’t limit having potted plants only at home. Buy some for the office and your work life will be better for it. Today we take a look at simple ways for you to start having more greens in your life.

1. Larger than life teranium

If you have the space, then why not designate a whole area to an indoor garden? Using stones as a base, and having plants in pots means less maintenance. An important thing to include in your indoor garden is plenty of light—try to have plants growing under a skylight, or next to large sunny windows. And of course, think about access for watering!

2. Pots vs vases

Potted plants are probably the easiest way to grow plants at home. They are easily transportable, colorful and able to be moved into sunnier spots if the plants are struggling to survive. Alternatively, freshly cut stems in vases are also a great way to add color and life to any room. Don’t be afraid to go big with pots and vases if resting them on the floor or standing them in corners.

3. Plants for health and medicine

Having herbs close at hand in the kitchen is great for any cooking enthusiast, and having a vertical garden like this is the perfect addition to any modern kitchen. But don’t limit your garden to only edible plants—there are many other plants to grow for medicinal purposes.

Aloe Vera for example works wonders on burns, while Comfrey and Arnica can help with bruises and sprains. Calendula heals wounds and soothes skin, and Chamomile soothes an upset stomach. All great to have growing in the home (or on the balcony or terrace if your kitchen doesn’t have the space).

4. Think about drainage

Gardening isn’t always messy work. By keeping plants in designated containers, you can still have a tidy and clean house. Just make sure the pots, boxes or bowls you use have adequate drainage so you can water the plants without worrying about overflow or any mess to clean up afterwards.

5. Miniature gardens have benefits too

A big metal bowl like this one is great for creating your own miniature garden in, or for holding succulents, or for growing herbs in for easy cutting. You don’t necessarily have to have huge palm trees or bushes of flowers growing to benefit from plants. Even something as small as this will help cleanse your air and enhance your mood.

6. Cheer up with cacti

Cacti are great for those who can’t commit much time to caring for plants. They require little water, light and maintenance in general, so if you have a busy schedule, these are the plants for you. And despite their tough appearance, most cacti have incredible, brightly colored flowers that bloom frequently from their tips or from the top—an easy way to brighten your home!

7. Unconventional gardening

Lately we have seen the rise in popularity of unusual gardening techniques. Hanging gardens, Kokedamas, air plants and terrariums are becoming commonplace in a lot of homes where space, and light is limited.

These Kokedamas (which roughly translates to moss ball) are a favorite of professional gardeners, and are a great way to grow plants without needing pots. They are pretty easy to maintain, don’t need a lot of sunlight, but still require regular watering (about once or twice a week). Something new for the experimental gardener to try.

8. The proper care

With their brightly colored flowers, orchids are a classic plant for interiors. They also require little care: watering needs to only be done at the most, once a week, or every 10 days. Palms are also relatively easy to grow at home.

Most house plants require fertilizing every now and again, and will need re-potting every few years (depending on the plant). Look out for leaves that are turning brown, roots that could be compacted, or water that sits in the leaves.

For more tips on how to create an impressive garden at home, check these out.


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14 Ways Your Garden Can Stay Private From Prying Neighbors

Privacy is a concern for most people living in urban centers. Whether you are unfortunate enough to live next door to the neighbors from hell or if your neighbors are the types to bring you home baked treats regularly, we all value our privacy. Nothing beats the feeling of being truly comfortable at home, and to get that feeling, we often have to erect fences, or grow wild hedges to shut out the outside world.

We have found 14 excellent ideas that you can use to make sure your private backyard stays exactly that—private. From traditional stone walls, to wooden fences, to unconventional metal barriers, the choices are unlimited.

Take a look, be inspired, put one up and you will never have to worry about your neighbors again… unless they use a leaf blower on a Sunday!

1. Natural hedges are a beautiful boundary between properties, but will require constant maintenance.

2. Staggered wooden fences work well for gardens on split levels.

3. Embrace textures and build a stone wall made from different size rocks.

4. Or try enclosing stones in wire cages for an industrial feel.

5. Use dense gardens and colorful flowers to build up natural barriers.

Have a quick look here if you want more garden ideas. Or if you are struggling to imagine what your garden could look like, consult a landscape architect for quality advice.

6. For a modern look, try metal partitions. Copper ages especially well in the weather.

7. Instead of a manicured hedge, you could grow your garden wild. They provide great coverage and require less gardening!

8. Thin strips of wood are good for weaving together for a stunning effect.

9. Or try mixing materials in a concertina formation for a fence that is more like an art installation.

10. Fences are perfect for painting—try dark colors if you like subtle boundaries, or why not paint a colorful mural to make a statement?

11. Your boundary can be themed, or inspired by other cultures. Stone gardens work well with wire fences for an Asian twist.

12. Or if you have an existing brick boundary, extend it into other features in your garden—like this grilling area.

13. High walls are the perfect backdrop for stairs leading to other parts of the house, and a nice excuse to install great lighting.

14. Or for a partition that is slightly less foreboding, use a low wall. Sometimes this is all you need to get a feeling of privacy.

If you are still looking for inspiration for your very own fence, then take a look at these 16 other great ideasthat will make your neighbors jealous!



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The boiling hot days of summer are upon us meaning plenty of outdoor time. Hopefully some of that time includes a bit of relaxing and reflecting as you try to stay cool. There’s no better way to spend summertime downtime than sitting in a swing and letting the breeze gently sway you back and forth. Here are ten spaces we wish were ours because we’d love to relax there and swing all summer long.

  1. Designer Jonathan Adler and his partner Simon Doonan, an author and creative in his own right, own a getaway house on New York’s Shelter Island. The colorful abode, a one-story house and pool pavilion designed by Gray Organschi Architecture, has a seventies California feel that was created by the homeowners themselves, including this relaxing poolside retreat with a chair swing. Photo courtesy of Allan Maldonado
  2. This minimalist home outside of Antwerp was designed by AIDarchitecten with a simple black swing hanging underneath its covered patio. Photo courtesy of AIDarchitecten
  3. Kube Architecture’s Casa Abierta is designed around a courtyard, which allowed for open, light-filled spaces that expand to the outdoors. A deck off the kitchen provides an additional eating place and plenty of room to relax, especially in the casual hanging chair. Photo courtesy of Paul Burk
  4. AssemblageSTUDIO designed the tresARCA house in Las Vegas, Nevada with plenty of outdoor space, some of which is covered to beat the heat. One of those sections is an outdoor living room that has a swinging sofa and embedded strips of fire for chilly nights. Photo courtesy of Bill Timmerman and Zack Hussain
  5. Studio 19, a student program at Auckland’s Unitec Institute of Technology, designed the Onemana Holiday Home in a coastal town on New Zealand’s North Island on a sloped plot of land. Working with the students allowed the couple to afford a custom-built home, which was built on-campus over the course of 12 months. The outdoor deck, which includes a wicker chair swing, is level to the home’s floor making it a natural extension of the interior. Photo courtesy of Simon Devitt
  6. Located in São Paulo, Brazil, this serene outdoor space is part of the Aigai Spa, which was designed by figueroa.arq, but it could just as easily be someone’s home. The elongated pool runs the length of the patio and at one end hangs a multicolored swinging chair. Photo courtesy of Leonardo Finotti
  7. CP Harbour House is a vacation home outside of Toronto designed by MJ | Architecture with a large, bed-like swing hanging on the tree-surrounded deck. Photo courtesy of Lorne Bridgman
  8. Nicole Hollis designed this contemporary home in Hawaii for a couple who were Southern California natives that fell for the coast of Kona long ago. The home boasts indoor/outdoor living that’s complete with a relaxing bench swing to enjoy the Hawaiian breeze. Photo courtesy of Laure Joliet
  9. This duplex in Tel Aviv was designed by Toledano + architects and it proves that even though it’s not a house on the ground floor, you can still have an outdoor space. This one has a roof deck with a wooden pergola holding the simple swing. Photo courtesy of Oded Smadar
  10. Famed producer and writer of hit TV show Girls, Jenni Konner and her partner Richard Shepard, hired architect Barbara Bestor, of Bestor Architecture, to reimagine their 1963, 2,500 square foot residence in the Hollywood Hills. Michelle Frier was in charge of the landscape, which includes native plants and an Egg swing by Patricia Urquila for Kettal to sit back and enjoy the nature surrounding it. Photo courtesy of Matthew Williams


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How to Water Orchids to Inspire Beautiful Blooms

Most orchids live in or on a potting medium made of bark instead of soil, so they must be watered differently than most houseplants. Learn how to water orchids for maximum results.

How to Water Orchids Grown in Bark

When watering orchids, the goal is to saturate the bark pieces, not the roots themselves. Always use room temperature water — not cold, not hot. Avoid letting water stay inside the places where leaves meet the stems of an orchid; this promotes rot.

The best way to water orchids is to place the entire pot into a bowl that’s at least as deep as the bark line. Pour room temperature water over the bark to just below the lip of the pot and let the bark soak for 10 to 15 minutes. If you put water in the bowl first, you’re apt to push the bark out of the pot when you sink it into the water!

Then, lift the pot out of the water, let all of the excess water drain out, and place the orchid back in bright but indirect light.

Clay pots are great vessels for orchid plants because the terra-cotta also absorbs moisture, offering the orchid a little more humidity and water when the bark dries out.

How to Water Orchids Grown in Sphagnum Moss

Some orchids are grown in sphagnum moss. You can water these from the top, the way you water other plants. But be aware that sometimes moss can feel dry on top but it’s still wet inside. Insert your finger up to the first knuckle inside the moss to determine if it’s actually dry.

Sphagnum moss holds water pretty efficiently, so beware, especially if the orchid is also in a water-retaining plastic or glass pot. Orchid roots need air to grow. Too much water displaces all the air, thus rotting your orchid’s roots.

How Often Should You Water Orchids?

Watering orchids is more of an art than a science. How often to water depends on a number of factors, including how warm it is, how much light the orchid gets, what type of orchid you have, and what type of potting medium the orchid is growing in.

A general rule of thumb is to water once a week for drought-tolerant types of orchids such as cattleyas, oncidiums, dendrobiums, and once every four or five days for others such as phalaenopsis.

All orchid mixes should be moistened thoroughly each time you water, then allowed to dry out before watering again.

Misting Orchids

Misting by hand does not need to be part of your orchid care. The idea is to raise the humidity, but you can do this more efficiently by placing orchid pots on top of a layer of rocks that are sitting in water. You don’t want the water constantly touching the bottom of the pot; you just want the evaporation of the water to humidify the plant. You also can help your orchids by running a humidifier in the room where they live.

Using Ice Cubes to Water Orchids

Ice cubes are not the best solution for watering orchids. Placing ice cubes on any part of an orchid can kill the plant. If you must use ice for convenience, be sure the cubes sit only atop the bark.

Adding Fertilizer to Water

Many orchids bloom with no fertilizer. If you choose a liquid fertilizer, use it at half strength every other time you water. More fertilizer is not better. It’s best to stop fertilizing when the plant is dormant, usually during the winter. Give plants a month or two without fertilizer. When temperatures rise and day length gets longer, begin fertilizing again.

Orchids perform well with a balanced formula of fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) or a fertilizer especially formulated to stimulate blooms, with a high middle number such as 11-35-15.

Always use a water-soluble fertilizer. Granular or stick types of fertilizers don’t work well because, unlike how they perform in soil, they can wash out before getting a chance to interact with the bark mix.

Get more tips for growing orchids indoors.

See 10 of the easiest orchids to grow.