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Teaming Up
Landscape Contractor Relies on Manufacturer to Fine Tune Desertscape Lighting

By Andrew Soto, LC/DBM


The owners of a remote Cave Creek, Ariz., home wanted to create a welcoming and safe nighttime desertscape without sacrificing the location's connection to nature. To achieve their goals, the homeowners hired two local companies, Brilliance LED and Desert Foothills Landscape. Both companies came together to create and define outdoor living spaces using precise fixture placements, the correct lamp wattages, and the right colors of light.

The owners of a home located in Cave Creek, Ariz., decided they needed to shine a light on their home's nighttime desertscape. To get the job done they enlisted the help of Desert Foothills Landscape and Brilliance LED. The lighting team provided the lamps and technical knowhow for the lighting on this project and Desert Foothills Landscape out of Cave Creek, Ariz., installed the landscape including the plants and lighting fixtures. The Desert Foothills install team was faced with many challenges including very hard soil, limited and challenging access for heavy equipment, and the need for a complete drainage system.


This section was installed utilizing an LED low voltage dimmer and LED MR-11s at 2,200 K. The fixtures were installed on adjustable gimbals with 30-degree beam angles intended to serve dual purposes, highlight the stone pillars and provide pathway illumination.

Assessing The Situation
Before getting started on a project like this, Cole Wdowiak of Desert Foothills Landscape, lead contractor on the project, recommends taking the scope of the work involved into account before planning. The lighting on this job, one of the most important aspects of the project, was just one part of the overall work done to achieve the final look. "Access to the project's location was restricted due to small winding roads not designed for heavy equipment," said Wdowiak. "Getting the equipment, materials and the crew to the home's remote location presented a much bigger challenge than we anticipated."


A gimbal is a mechanism on an axis that permits an object to be mounted in or on it. Lighting installed on gimbals allows the installer to freely tilt and direct light in any direction.

Tackling The Job Head-On
Desert Foothills' team had to completely prepare the site for installation. There was nothing there when the build team arrived except a considerable amount of labor and prep work. The installation team worked on the project for over four weeks with a total of 10 men involved throughout the process. Foundation work, strategic boulder placement, and the creation of different textures, colors, and elevations were applied, changing the overall look and feel of the terrain.


For this large native Saguaro cactus, the lighting team used 7-watt MR-16s in a 15-degree beam pattern. A combination green LED and 5,700 K lamp were mixed to achieve a dramatic glow. The smaller cacti utilized MR-8's, and 15-degree beam angles at 2,700 K capped with mercury vapor lenses.

Trees and cacti were carefully placed using a crane and heavy loader. Desert Foothills Landscape owns and operates private growing yards which produce a variety of vegetation and unique cacti, covering a wide spectrum of interest. Desert Foothills grew all of the fully mature Saguaro cacti for this project.


The homeowner wanted to reduce the use of typical path light fixtures wherever possible due to his past experiences with them changing position over time, leaning to one side or the other. Downlights on adjustable gimbals were used to double as path lights in areas where the homeowner specified.

Illuminating The Nighttime Desertscape
The remote location of the home posed more than logistical challenges. The home sits in an area that gets very dark after sunset. The owners wanted to achieve a level of visibility that would provide ample safety without polluting the landscape with obtrusive light.

"The area gets pitch black at night, it is in the middle of nowhere, you can't even see your hand if you held it in front of your face," said Wdowiak. "To get this right, we had to call in people who know lamps, in this particular case we called in a local manufacturer, Brilliance LED. They made all of the lamp selections and adjustments, zeroing in on the homeowner's request for a safe and welcoming nighttime landscape."


Structural lighting for the garage sconces utilized LED lamps at 2,200 K. Having worked with the manufacturer in the past, the contractor relied heavily on the lighting team to make all of the final lighting decisions.

Desert Foothills' installation technicians worked in tandem with the manufacturer's lighting professionals. Desert Foothills' team installed a variety of spotlights, downlights, well lights, path lights and uplights to serve as a starting point for the lighting team to work from.

Working with a complete and professionally installed lighting system; the manufacturer's team decided what lamps to use and how to position them. They created the appropriate viewpoints accenting the vegetation and features of the landscape, without polluting the natural feel of the area with unnecessary light.


The LED manufacturer was chosen because of its large selection of beam angles and colors ranging from 15 through 120 degrees and 2,200K, 2,700 K, 3,000 K, and 5,700 K. Up lighting for the cacti was accomplished using two 7-watt MR-16 lamps with 30-degree beam angles. Silver green mercury vapor lenses were installed to make the cactus stand out.

"Lighting is a skill, something that I unfortunately have not yet mastered," said Wdowiak. "Although I understand the installation process of lighting fixtures, this project would not have been a success without the manufacturer's lighting professionals."


Incandescant Ideas


This Max Spread Brass Path & Area Light by Volt Lighting is an IDA approved fixture ideal for use in applications intended to reduce light pollution. When overhead installation for lighting fixtures is not possible, using a fixture like this shielded path light will reduce light pollution by lighting only the intended area. This fixture is designed to direct light downward. For more information visit

The allure of the nighttime sky is what motivates many people to leave cities and suburbs in search of places untouched by light pollution. Lighting is often at the top of the list for these transplants as they quickly realize living in remote and secluded locations necessitates proper lighting. To that end, the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) has some helpful advice for anyone installing lighting systems with the preservation of the nighttime sky in mind.

• Only be on when needed
• Only light the area that needs it
• Be no brighter than necessary
• Minimize blue light emissions
• Be fully shielded pointing downward
• Look for the IDA's seal of approval on lighting products


The International Dark-Sky Association's (IDA) Fixture Seal of Approval program was designed to provide objective, third-party certification for lighting that minimizes glare, reduces light trespass and doesn't pollute the night sky. Fixtures with this seal were designed with the express purpose of reducing light pollution.

For more information on IDA approved fixtures, visit

As seen in LC/DBM magazine, April 2017.

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February 19, 2019, 4:13 pm PST

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