Choose flowers and plants that make your moonlight garden as beautiful at night as it is during the day.
By Ann Wied
Waukesha County, Wisconsin
Most people love to linger in gardens during daytime, sunlight splashing across blooms in a rainbow of hues. But if you work long hours by day or simply want to relax in your peaceful spot in the cool of evening, your garden can be just as inviting by moonlight.
A night-blooming garden is designed to be enjoyed without a flood of artificial light. You’ll want to choose white or pale benches, stepping-stones and accessories—not just for aesthetics, but also for safety.
Just as with daytime gardens, plants are the primary draw. Factors to consider: whether the flowers bloom only at night or both day and night; what the foliage will look like by moonlight; and when the flowers will release their fragrance.
Moonlight Garden Blooms
White flowers offer classic beauty and become especially important when the sun goes down. A single white blossom here or there is easily lost in the dark; a mass of them will light up your garden. Stagger bloom times to enjoy a full season of showy white flowers. Plants to consider: white flowering lilacs, azaleas, magnolia trees, tulips, Shasta daisies, mums and sweet autumn clematis.
But don’t overlook the possibilities of pastel flowers. Blooms in pale pink, yellow or lavender often appear to shimmer at twilight. Good choices include silver sage, lavender and passionflower.
Look for plants that are described as flowering at dusk, opening in late afternoon, blooming in the evening or night blooming. They’ll all provide open flowers well into the evening, and some will go throughout the night. Plants might include evening primrose, moonflower, four o’clocks, yucca, and Moon Frolic and Toltec Sundial daylilies.
Many of these night-loving plants release fragrance that’s most spicy, intoxicating or intense in early evening or at night. Consider lilac, mock orange, fragrant columbine, flowering tobacco and night phlox.
Bright leaves show up well at night. Among those that especially seem to glow in the pale moonlight are plants with variegated or gold- or silver-tinged leaves. Try Russian sage, Hosta fortunei ‘Albo-Marginata’, lamb’s ear, white archangel, Caladium x hortulanum ‘White Christmas’ and variegated cannas.
With just a little extra thought and planning, you may find the garden you love by day shining magically after dark, too.
Ann Wied is consumer horticulture educator for the UW-Extension in Waukesha County, Wisconsin.