The Art of Darkness

Plant a Moon Garden

April 14th, 2011 by Cobwebs

Spring is slowly sidling into view here in Northern VA,* which means that soon it will be possible to stay out after dark without risking frostbite. Now’s the time to start thinking about creating a garden to enjoy when the sun goes down.

Even if you don’t have the space (or ambition) to devote a large garden to midnight strolls, many of these plants do well in pots. Choose a few for their color or fragrance and use them to turn the corner of a balcony into a moonlight retreat. Some of the smaller ones would also be lovely in a window box.

White flowers and silvery foliage are good choices for an evening garden, since they stand out in low light. There are also many plants which bloom at night, adding wonderful fragrance. Depending upon your region and light availability, consider some of these:

Angel’s Trumpet Datura metel Flowers, Fragrance
Asiatic Lily Lilium, many species Flowers
Azalea Rhododendron pentanthera Flowers
Calla Lily Zantedeschia aethiopica Flowers
Camellia Camellia sasanqua ‘Setsugekka’ Flowers, Fragrance
Candytuft Iberis Sempervirens Flowers
Cleveland Pear Pyrus Calleryana Flowers
Climbing Hydrangea Hydrangea anomala petiolaris Flowers
Columbine Aquilegia alpina Flowers
Coneflower Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ Flowers
Cosmos Cosmos bipinnatus Flowers
Crape Myrtle Lagerstroemia indica Flowers
Dame’s Rocket Hesperis matronalis Flowers
Dusty Miller Senecio cineraria Foliage
Elijah Blue Fescue Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ Foliage
Evening Primrose Oenothera pallida ‘Innocence’ Flowers, Fragrance
Evening Scented Stock Matthiola bicornis Fragrance
Fairy Lily Zephyranthes candida Flowers, Fragrance
Flowering Crabapple Malus ‘White Angel’ Flowers
Flowering Tobacco Nicotiana alata Flowers, Fragrance
Forsythia Abeliophyllum distichum Flowers
Four o’Clock Mirabilis jalapa Flowers, Fragrance
Foxglove Digitalis alba Flowers
Gardenia Gardenia jasminoides Flowers, Fragrance
Honeysuckle Lonicera flava Flowers, Fragrance
Hosta ‘Aphrodite’ Hosta plantagenia ‘Aphrodite’ Flowers
Hosta ‘August Lily’ Hosta plantagenia ‘August Lily’ Flowers, Fragrance
Impatiens Impatiens walleriana Flowers
Japanese Anemones Anemone hupehensis var. japonica Flowers
Jasmine Jasminum officinale Flowers, Fragrance
Lavender Lavandula angustifolia, many varieties Foliage, Fragrance
Lilac Syringa vulgaris ‘Alba’ Flowers, Fragrance
Lily of the Valley Convallaria majalis Flowers
Mock Orange Philadelphus coronarius Flowers, Fragrance
Moonflower Ipomoea alba Flowers, Fragrance
Mullein Verbascum spp Foliage
Night-Blooming Jessamine Cestrum nocturnum Flowers, Fragrance
Oriental Poppy Papaver orientale Flowers
Paperwhite Narcissus papyraceus Flowers, Fragrance
Phlox Phlox drummondii ‘Promise White’ Flowers
Silver Sagebrush Artemisia cana Foliage
Silver Thyme Thymus argenteus Foliage, Fragrance
Snowdrops Galanthus nivalis Flowers
Snow-on-the-Mountain Euphorbia marginata Flowers
Soapwort Saponaria ocymoides ‘Alba’ Flowers
Swedish Ivy Plectranthus coleoides ‘Variegata’ Foliage
Sweetbay Magnolia Magnolia virginiana Flowers
Tuberose Polianthes tuberosa Flowers, Fragrance
Variegated Ribbon Grass Phalaris arundinacea ‘Dwarf Garters’, which is the best variety name ever Foliage
Verbena Verbena x hybida ‘Vertis’ Flowers
Virgin’s Bower Clematis virginiana (not Clematis paniculata, which is invasive) Flowers, Fragrance
Western Mugwort Artemisia ludoviciana Foliage
White Bleeding Heart Dicentra spectabilis Flowers
Woolly Lamb’s Ear Stachys byzantina Foliage
Woolly Yarrow Achillea tomentosa Foliage
Wormwood Artemisia absinthium Foliage

Be sure to ask your local agricultural extension office about pollinators for night-blooming plants. Depending upon where you live, adding local flora to your garden might help encourage visits by moths or bats. (Also be sure to ask about toxicity and invasive species, to make sure you don’t wind up planting something you’ll regret.)

There are also several books on the subject of night gardens, such as The Evening Garden, The Moonlit Garden, and Evening Gardens.

With a little time and effort you can create a lovely, fragrant place for wandering without having to worry about that pesky daystar. It’s always nice to be able to get some fresh air and maintain a healthy pallor.


*Which, more than any other season, makes me nostalgic for my childhood in Southern CA. It’s hot! It’s cold! Thunderstorms! Hailstorms! Back to hot! Freezing overnight! For god’s sake, make up your mind.

Posted in Unhallowed Ground | 4 Comments »

4 Responses

  1. Cat Says:

    Mmm. I have always wanted to do this. Makes me wish I had planting space.

  2. Laurie Brown Says:

    I dearly miss the night blooming jasmines that were under my bedroom windows where I grew up. I tried them up here as houseplants, but they did so poorly I finally put them out of their misery.

  3. xJane Says:

    Oh! This is such a wonderful idea! I dream of having a house/apt where each window has its own flower box (fed, of course, by a complex system of self-watering hoses because I am, if nothing else, lazy and I’d love for the rooms I use primarily at night to have night-blooming flowers!

    Also: that is the perfect description of LA weather.

  4. Linking Horn: Linking round the May pole Says:

    […] totally the wrong time of year for me (brrrr) but over on Art of Darkness, Cobwebs shows you how to plant a moon garden. Also, if the economic crisis has prevented you from buying dinner, here’s a guide to Edible […]

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