P80425Color in the garden is nice as long as we can see it. There is not so much to see after the sun goes down. That is why some gardens that get used at night are illuminated.

Sometimes it is important to illuminate walkways, driveways and stairways for safety, even if exhibiting the landscape is not important. For such applications, the quality of the light is not as important. Sodium vapor light that works so well for street lamps can make plants look rather sickly. Mercury vapor lamps can make them seem rather pale and bland. Modern LED lamps just look creepy.

So, what happens when foliage that already looks sickly get illuminated by light that enhances the sickly appearance? Well, like many styles of contemporary art, it is a matter of taste . . . or perception . . . or some other big word that a horticulturist neither knows the meaning of, nor has any business using in a sentence.

Golden honeylocusts, as they mature, are not really sufficiently golden to be as pretty as they might look in gardening magazines. Young specimens look good with contrasting purple leaf plums, particularly where warm weather enhances the yellow color. By the time they grow into nice shade trees, and growth is not quite as vigorous as it used to be, the foliage is just rather light yellowish green. They are still very pretty trees, with lacy foliage and light shade that lawn or other plants can grow under. They are just neither here nor there; not bright yellow enough to be flashy, but not green enough to look lush. By that time, their only advantages are that they cast a lighter shade and stay somewhat smaller than those with richer green foliage.

Then the sun goes down. Honeylocusts with richer green foliage are just as bland as any other tree obscured by darkness. If illuminated, they might show off handsome trunks and branch structure, outfitted with distinguished furrowed bark, but not much more.P80425+

This is where the golden honeylocust shines. The paleness of the foliage, enhanced by efficient but aesthetically insensitive light, contrasts with the darkness. It can look spooky. It can look striking. It can look ethereal. I would not know, since I do not even know what that last word means. Regardless, these golden honeylocusts illuminated by common streetlamps in a parking lot at a strip mall really look sharp. It is doubtful that whomever designed the landscape planned it like this. It is just as doubtful than any reputable designer would ever recommend planting a specific cultivar of a long term tree to exploit bad lighting that could change as soon as something more efficient becomes available, but it happens to work in this particular application.P80425++

5 thoughts on “The Late Show

  1. I confess I’ve never thought about how specific lighting might interact with plantings, but I’m neither a property owner nor a landscaper. What I do know is this was an interesting post — another glimpse into a world I know almost nothing about. Enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I do not give it much thought either because I do not like landscape lighting. My colleague down south does a lot of it. Many years ago, we used incandescent light bulbs, sometimes with colored lenses; quite tacky by modern standards. There are so many different types of light nowadays, but not the variety of colors.


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