Like a Christmas tree, except with only two lights
October 31, 2011 8:47 AM   Subscribe

Do any MeFis have any tips/experience as to installing accent lighting in trees? We have a tall and lovely pecan tree in our backyard, and would like to install lights shining up into the canopy both to highlight the tree (an effect that I've always loved) and to provide soft lighting for our yard. I'm interesting in hearing about any tips/warnings from those who've done the same. The tree is a Pecan, about 50 years old, ~60 feet tall, diameter ~ 2 1/2 feet. We'd be using a electrician to add the circuit.
posted by seventyfour to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Back in the late 80's/early 90's there was a lighting system called "Moonlighting" which was very popular and incredibly expensive. It involved directing light through metal tubes into tree branches and against buildings so that the light came out in a very diffused and "moonlit" way while providing plenty of navigational visibility. I feel certain that these have been updated to utilize filtered LED's to achieve the same results.

Having been a lifelong steward of pecan trees, I strongly advise you to have an arborist examine your tree and prune/trim any branches that need removing before you do the lighting work. Older pecan trees are widow-makers for both climbers as well as guests below, and I'm sure you've had plenty of practice picking up stray limbs every time the wind blows.

That said, there's nothing prettier with the right lighting. Good luck.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 9:04 AM on October 31, 2011

And a link to their site for inspiration:

I am not affiliated with this company other than having seen some of their installations in person.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 9:35 AM on October 31, 2011

Best answer: Moonlighting is what you're looking for; I'd definitely recommend a professional to install & specify your system. LED landscape lighting is definitely the way to go; it's made great strides in the last few years. Almost all residential landscape lighting is low voltage, so you'll also need a transformer.

When I specify lights for residential projects, a company I love to use (provided the budget is there) is CAST Lighting. Their fixtures are solid, gorgeous, and have some neat installation features. Their tree light is great, and they have the LED version coming in February of 2012.

Call a local landscape architect and ask them for some help finding the right local professional. Lighting design of this quality should not be left to the crap on the shelf at your local big box store!

(open rant) I know that the recent advent of HGTV and all those DIY shows makes everyone think that they have the skills to do anything in the landscape, but believe me, this is not the job for an amateur. You could end up with horrible glare, outrageous electricity bills, a ruined tree, fires, not enough light to even see the moonlighting...the list goes on. Lighting design is complicated & best left to those who are trained professionals.(close rant)
posted by Kronur at 9:36 AM on October 31, 2011

Response by poster: Moonlighting! Got it, thanks for the term. I love the idea of using LEDs, too. And, yes, having lived with pecan trees for many years, I'm well aware of their "self-pruning" feature...
posted by seventyfour at 9:55 AM on October 31, 2011

In addition to the technical solutions already covered....Try and make sure the light is focused on the tree and avoid light scatter if at all possible to prevent light pollution. (Dark sky concept)
posted by mightshould at 12:58 PM on October 31, 2011

We have this sort of system in our garden lighting up a huge Eucalyptus. It is beautiful, but the one downside is that random strangers are constantly leaning over the fence or even climbing into the bloody garden in order to take photos. The first few times it happened, I thought we had burglars.
posted by lollusc at 5:57 PM on October 31, 2011

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