Down To Earth: Planting a Moonlight Garden

Watch your garden transform at night with pink and white flowers and light-reflecting walkways.


| April/May 2011



moonlight garden 1


I sometimes stroll through my garden enjoying how different it is at night. Not only do the white flowers glow with unexpected light, the pinks and lighter yellows seem to have a vibrancy absent in daylight. When my friend, the late educator and herbalist Betty Wold, visited my garden one summer morning years ago, she asked me why there were no pink and white flowers in my garden. I replied that I really didn’t like those colors.
“But if you have only darker colors, none of those show up in the moonlight,” she chided me with a laugh.

Night Scents

Over the years, I have come to appreciate the more subtle floral colors, not for their daytime hues, but for how magical they become after sunset, even in simple starlight. A moonlit garden has a different set of fragrances—some subtle, some pronounced. In the heat of the day, many essences are lost to our senses because the heat evaporates them so quickly. At night, they are considerably more noticeable. Dianthus, which has a lovely, clove-scented fragrance by day, is absolutely delicious at night.

A moonlight garden should have lots of fragrant things to smell, including plants to walk on along the pathways. Creeping thymes, such as caraway and lemon thyme, are good additions. You might not even notice their scents in the daylight, but at night, when your senses are more attuned, you will be aware of the fragrances as you walk.

Seeing By Night

I have light-colored gravel pathways in my garden—unremarkable by day; lighted walks by moonlight. In the background, I have a little fish-pond fountain, and the trickling water adds a peaceful backdrop to the allure of the garden.

Plants such as the often-overlooked yucca even change shape after dark. In the daytime, the waxy, cream-colored blossoms hang down like bells. But at night, when the air has cooled, the flowers turn somewhat upward, releasing their scent to attract the moths that pollinate them.

Simpler elements of my garden, such as a light-gray limestone bench, look most inviting by the full moon. During the day, there are often so many interruptions, noises and responsibilities that I seldom get to sit and enjoy my garden. But at night, when the world is quiet and others’ demands on my time have ceased, I like to retreat to my nighttime garden. Many times I’ve sat on the bench with a midnight snack, enjoying the serenity.





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