Starry, Starry night: in a night-blooming garden, the evening’s real stars are just an arm’s length away

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In a night-blooming garden, the evening’s real stars are just an arm’s length away.

Many flowers strut their stuff during the day while you are at work and unable to enjoy them. The solution? Create a garden that comes to live at night in the moonlight. Don Shor, owner of the Redwood Barn Nursery, Inc., in Davis, California, claims that a Moon garden is easy to create: Make an inviting place to sit. Choose plant varieties with light-color foliage. Select plants with white, pale yellow, pink, or light blue flowers that reflect the moonlight and bloom over a long season. Add flowers with the fragrance that peaks at night. Top it off with muted lighting.

You can also transform an existing bed of colorful flowers. However, before you dig up all of your bright-hue, day-blooming plants and replace them with pale-face night bloomers, consider this: An all-white (or nearly all-white) garden can be boring in the daytime.

One approach is to start by planting a few flowers that show off nicely during dusk or at night. For instance, evening primrose, which begins to open in the late afternoon, and moonflowers can be interspersed among other daytime bloomers.

Here are some more suggestions that will add sparkle to your nights.

Accentuate the entranceway to your garden. Plant white- or pale-flower varieties of climbers, such as clematises or climbing roses, along an arch, fence, pergola or trellis to create a wall of nighttime glitter. Shor recommends moonflowers. These aptly named annual beauties begin to open just as morning glories are calling it a day. Given a structure to climb on, these vines can reach up to 10 feet or more, creating a star-studded canopy. Other choices include climbing hydrangea, honeysuckle, and sweet autumn clematis.

Line a walkway. When planted as edging, low-growing, light-reflecting plants such as white or light pink sweet alyssum, an annual, and perennial candytuft (hardy to about Zone 4) provide a visible boundary between the walkway and the garden. They will keep you and unknowing guests from trampling through flower beds in the dark when deep red and blue blossoms and dark green foliage are barely discernible. For shady areas, try variegated hostas, such as ‘Dancing in the Rain’. Its pure white foliage with bright green edges will light up any dark night or path. When you see them in the Moon’s glow, you may develop a new appreciation for certain annuals, such as white and pale pink petunias and impatiens.

Create a starscape underfoot. Design a crescent- or half-Moon-shape garden bed and plant it with low- to medium-height plants. In colder climates, snow-in-summer is a good choice. This hardy perennial produces small white flowers in early summer atop a mat of silver-gray leaves. In warmer climates, consider the delicate egret flower (hardy to Zone 5, but needs protection from chills). Its fringed white blossoms resemble egrets in flight. For foliage, choose furry lambs’ ears or lacy silver mound. The fuzzy, gray-green foliage of both plants reflects the moonlight better than dark green leaves.

Perfume the air. No evening garden would be complete without the element of scent. Many plants release a stronger aroma during a hot, humid evening than they do during the day. Four-o’clock are a tried-and-true favorite. Their trumpet-shaped blossoms open in late afternoon and give off a jasmine-like scent. Night gladiolus bear creamy yellow blossoms with a spicy fragrance that intensifies at night. Clove-scented dianthus and fragrant columbine, standards in many gardens, become even more intoxicating at night.

For fragrance, the real star of the night garden may be jasmine. Although not all jasmines produce a heady aroma, you won’t be disappointed with the aromatic reliable climbers angelwing, Spanish, and common white.

However, beware of combining all of your favorite scented flowers in one location: When planted too closely together, the blossoms may produce a combination of fragrances that will not be pleasing.

By selecting plants that show off best at night and arranging them around or near your favorite spot to relax in the evening, you’ll create a garden that you can enjoy on your own schedule.


* Choose an area where you like to sit or walk during the evening. Spend a few nights testing the proposed location. Pay attention to the play of light and shadows as well as to the sounds-especially nearby traffic or noisy neighbors.

* Choose plants that are appropriate for your hardiness zone and soil conditions.

* Choose plants whose flowers and foliage come alive in dim light. Silver or gray foliage or white-and-green variegated leaves (certain hosta varieties) stand out in dim light. Also, consider the silver foliage of artemisia, dusty miller, lambs’ ears, and yarrow. While often eclipsed by showier, brighter blooms during the day, these sleepers come to live at night.

* Choose plants with bloom times that guarantee a succession of pleasing blossoms all summer long–even into early fall. Consider snowdrop for early spring and white tuberose for fragrant fall bloom.

* Include shrubs and trees whose texture or leaf shapes add interest. These are the background plants of your garden. At night, when the outline of objects is more clearly seen, you’ll appreciate the varied heights, shapes, and forms.

* Use light color stones for walkways and paths.

* Paint fences, trellises, and other architectural features white so that they, too, show up better at night.


When planting an all-white garden, be aware of the different shades of white that you are placing next to each other. A creamy white blossom next to a stark white flower will look dingy. To break up different shades of white flowers, alternate them with foliage plants.

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