Garden lighting in the summer can make the difference between a nice-looking garden and a dramatic one. It is after the utilitarian, low-key lighting of paths, walks, steps, doors or gates that the magic takes place. The sources of the lights should be invisible--up in trees, behind boulders or shrubs--because they tend to distract the eye. Lights might face upward to illuminate a canopy of branches and tree foliage or face down to highlight a lawn or a flower bed. The more subtle the use of light the better: A Christmas-tree effect with different-
colored lights is not a good idea. Generally, the best color to use is standard white light. Green light on green foliage makes plants look like plastic, and the color is unflattering when reflected on the human face. To enhance the blue of blue flowers, use blue lights; under regular artificial light the blues are muted. Blue lights also give a moonlight effect.
The University of California Cooperative Extension offers information written by experts on almost all aspects of home gardening through its University of California Agricultural Publications Catalog. Useful to both beginning and experienced gardeners, it lists more than 1,000 agricultural publications, many of which are inexpensive. For a free copy of the catalogue, telephone (213) 744-4851.
Avoid planting prickly and thorny plants--such as junipers, holly, roses and pyracantha--near pools. Some palms and some citrus have thorns, too. The long leaves of pampas grass can cut like a knife.
Black plastic mulch used around cucumbers, melons and vining squash prevents the fruit from rotting, keeps the fruit from soil contact, conserves soil moisture and prevents weed growth. It is available at most nurseries and garden centers. Before planting, lay the plastic over the bed, and then cut holes large enough to allow young plants their growing room and to accommodate water and fertilizer. Anchor the plastic with pegs or with stones.
Citrus trees planted this month will do especially well, because the trees thrive when the weather is mild and overcast. Protect the young trees from the sunburn they might get in the summer months by painting the trunks with a white latex paint or by wrapping the trunks with citrus wrap, which is available at many nurseries.
Vine-ripened cantaloupes are fragrant and sweet--and totally unlike the cantaloupes you find at markets. Plant seeds in an area of your garden that receives full sun and where the vines have room to sprawl; cantaloupes also need lots of water and nutrients. Excellent home-garden varieties include: 'Burpee,' 'Ambrosia,' 'Luscious' and 'Sweet 'n Early.'