How to Create a Moonlight Garden

While many gardeners have ample time to enjoy their gardens during the day, there are others who get home from work after sundown. Then there are also those who enjoy hosting evening soirees, bringing family and friends for little get-togethers in the evenings.

Whatever your daily schedule, cultivating a moonlight garden is an excellent way to provide a beautiful and fragrant setting for your evenings this summer. If you create a moonlight garden close to your house, you might even dwell on the scent of evening blossoms before you drift to sleep.

Cultivating a moonlight garden is an excellent way to provide a beautiful and fragrant setting for your evenings this summer.
Cultivating a moonlight garden is an excellent way to provide a beautiful and fragrant setting for your evenings this summer.

Tips for Creating a Moonlight Garden

Moonlight gardens are primarily about landscapes that intimate their colors, fragrances, and textures from dusk into the moonlight hours. Flowers in a moonlight garden can be open during the day, too, but they are best appreciated after darkness falls.

For your late-evening entertaining, nighttime strolls, or outdoor suppers, try these tips for a spectacular moonlight garden.

Moonlight gardens are primarily about landscapes that intimate their colors, fragrances, and textures from dusk into the moonlight hours.
Moonlight gardens are primarily about landscapes that intimate their colors, fragrances, and textures from dusk into the moonlight hours.

Selecting an Area for Evening Blooms

Pick an open location that is drenched in moonbeam when the moon is out. The area should be clear of deep shadows from big trees or structures like the house or garage. This can be a separate corner devoted entirely to an evening garden, or you might simply include evening elements in your existing landscape. 

Many popular flowers come in white or pale-hued varieties, including tulips, geraniums, zinnias, roses, and hydrangeas.
Many popular flowers come in white or pale-hued varieties, including tulips, geraniums, zinnias, roses, and hydrangeas.

Choose light-colored flowers with silvery, gray, and multicolored foliage. White flowers reflect light well, so they will be visible in dim light and stand out in bright moonlight or the last rays of twilight. The same goes for paler shades of yellow, blue, or purple. Many popular flowers come in white or pale-hued varieties, including tulips, geraniums, zinnias, roses, and hydrangeas.

Clematis, a climbing plant, blooms with masses of star-shaped, wide, white flowers late in spring through early summer. In summer, honeysuckle and jasmine vines produce slender, fragrant white flowers. Lilies, too, blossom in the summer – with tall, straight stems and big, bright blooms.

Clematis, a climbing plant, blooms with masses of star-shaped, wide, white flowers late in spring through early summer.
Clematis, a climbing plant, blooms with masses of star-shaped, wide, white flowers late in spring through early summer.

Using Foliage for Effect

White or pale flowers stand out more prominently against a dark background of foliage. This is why low-lying flowers such as night phlox are an excellent complement to taller-stemmed flowers like lilies or climbing flowers like jasmine.  Both show up well against a dark hedge or shrubbery.

Lamb's ears, also called silver carpet, has thick silvery leaves that are soft to the touch.
Lamb’s ears, also called silver carpet, has thick silvery leaves that are soft to the touch.

Of course, your moonlight garden’s foliage doesn’t have to be dim and dusky. Some leafy plants and grasses appear silvered with frost by day and shine in the moonlight. The silvery patina is brought on by thousands of tiny hairs on the surface of the leaves. These reflect sunlight and keep plants cool in the hot climates where they evolved.

Pale flowers and light-colored hardscaping stand out more prominently against a dark background of foliage.
Pale flowers and light-colored hardscaping stand out more prominently against a dark background of foliage.

Silver feather grass has feathery leaves with a frosted appearance. The big grass makes for good ground cover but also thrives in pots or hanging baskets. You can grow silver feather with flowering plants, allowing the bright blooms to stand out on moonlit evenings. Lamb’s ears, also called silver carpet, has thick silvery leaves that are soft to the touch. They make good border plants and ground cover, as well, says Kiona Smith-Strickland for Popular Mechanics.

Attracting Pollinators with Fragrance

Because flowers that bloom at night depend on nocturnal insects for pollination, they become more fragrant as dusk sets in. Some flowers, like four o’ clocks, bloom only at night.

These flowers open in the cool of the early evening, issuing a fragrance much like that of orange blossoms. The blooms will wane in the morning, but the plants will yield a fresh crop of flowers each evening throughout the summer. The colors are often brilliant variations of purple, yellow, pink, and white.

The night phlox blooms in the evening, as well. The blossoms are red on the outside, bright white on the inside. Evening primrose produces tall stalks of cup-shaped yellow flowers that open in the early evening, exuding a sweet scent. White campion and night-scented stock are also night-time bloomers.

There are plants that bloom around the clock but get more fragrant at night. The summersweet is a tall shrub that produces white flowers that are more fragrant in the evening. Petunias – a mainstay in spring and summer flowerbeds and hanging baskets – smell best at around midnight. The same is true of Japanese wisteria, a climbing plant with elegant hanging flowers; and jasmine, lilies, and honeysuckle.

Ornaments, Arbors, and Lighting

You can highlight your moonlit landscape with light-colored hardscaping elements like paving, fencing, arbors, benches, and garden ornaments. Use outdoor lighting to enhance the nocturnal ambiance. We suggest that you avoid excessively bright lights in favor of soft lighting.

Use outdoor lighting to enhance the nocturnal ambiance.
Use outdoor lighting to enhance the nocturnal ambiance.

A Night and Day Garden

Even if you plan to enjoy your garden mostly in the evenings, you can design the area to look good by day, too. A garden full of pale flowers might look uninteresting in the daytime, so consider adding gurgles of deeper, richer daytime colors to enjoy when the sun is up. You could also consider mingling your evening flowers and day blooms.

For a sleeker, more organized look, use white flowers or silver-leafed foliage to edge a flowerbed. You can also arrange shorter plants like petunias or phlox in front of taller flowers like lilies, or use a trellis brimming with jasmine to frame a colorful daytime flowerbed. The result will be striking in any light – but will look even better after dark.

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