We’re busy people and many of us get home too late to enjoy our gardens. But it needn’t be that way: A moon garden, featuring white night-blooming, sweet-scented plants is the answer, and landscape architects swear you’ll love it even more than your daytime garden.
“A well-designed moon garden feels good and is endlessly fascinating,” explains Jack Carman, landscape director for Spiezle Architecture, Trenton, NJ, and a specialist in therapy gardens. “It engages the senses in ways that daytime gardens cannot. For one thing, it’s quieter and cooler in the evening—just the rustling of leaves in the breeze—so it’s instantly calming. Then you have the moonlight reflected in the flowers, plus the delicious scents that are characteristic of night-blooming plants."
In a moon garden, Carman argues, "it takes very little to amp up the mood. A wind chime and some candles. This is magic, whether you just want to chill by yourself, dine a deux en plein air, or hang out with friends.”
The moon garden might be a separate area, or you could simply include evening elements in the existing landscape, notes Louise Reiling of Auburn Pointe Greenhouse & Garden Center, Chagrin Falls, OH. “Just remember that it should be an open area that’s washed by moonlight and away from trees and structures.”
Another reason to feel good about a moon garden? "Nature designed night-flowering plants to be especially sweet-scented to attract night pollinators like moths and bats," Reiling says. "Let us, by all means, help those bats. They do a wonderful job for us, devouring tons of mosquitos."
What to Plant in a Moon Garden
The vibrant flower colors that look so stunning in daylight —especially the red and the purples—fade to a muddy mix of grays when the sun disappears, so for the night garden you need light-colored flowers that seem to glow in the moonlight. Go for white, yellow, pink and lavender, advises Venelin Dimitrov, horticulturist at W. Atlee Burpee Company.
White-flowering plants readily available at garden centers include Impatiens, Shasta Daisies, Peonies and Hydrangeas, but fragrance is an important factor here, so definitely consider Flowering Tobacco, Cleome, Four-O-Clock, Night Phlox and Viburnum.
And no night garden is complete without the Moon Flower, says Dimitrov. It’s a vigorous vine with white six-inch flowers that snap open as evening comes on, releasing a lovely lemony fragrance to draw large sphinx moths from blocks away. If you have a fence or trellis you want to cover in a hurry, Cobaea scandans or Cup and Saucer Vine is a great choice, and for exotic scent, Night-Blooming Jasmine is perfect, but beware: a little scent goes a long way, so even one plant will be enough.
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Foliage can work its magic, too, in the night garden. For silvery and variegated foliage, which shines in the moonlight, try Artimisia, Lamb’s Ears, Dusty Miller Hosta, Russian Sage , Yarrow, Thyme and Santolina.
How to Light Your Moon Garden
But what about other ways to light up the yard when the moon is on the wane? Absolutely no floodlights, warns Reiling. “Go with soft lighting, such as tiny white string lights, candles and luminaries. Light-colored landscaping elements, such as pavers, fences, arbors, benches and garden ornaments work, too. And include reflective surfaces, such as glass objects or water in a bird bath or fountain. They will rev up ambient light and make the landscape sparkle."
Reiling is such a believer in moon gardens that she hosts a Midsummer’s Night Garden Event every year, with guests wandering through evening garden vignettes and even do a luna moth release. She is not alone: Increasingly, garden centers across the land host moon garden events and workshops. There are lots of us, it seems, who want our gardens to shine at night.
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