Saturday, May 30, 2009

Plant a Moon Garden

There is something magical about a garden at night, especially when it means you get to stay up past your bedtime. Summer evenings are great times to spend in the garden with children. There are so many wonderful things going on at night. You can catch fireflies, learn the constellations, make wishes on stars, watch the moths and bats, listen for owls and frogs, and enjoy a moon garden.

Moon gardens are designed to feature plants that hold your interest at night: white flowers, plants with silver or green and white variegated foliage, night-blooming flowers, and fragrant plants. You can plant it in a container on the patio or somewhere in the garden. Night-blooming flowers such as moonflower (Ipomoea ), four-o'clocks, and angels' trumpets add their own unique qualities to the garden for children though because their fragrances attract night pollinators to the garden.

After your eyes adjust to the dark, the light colors and white nearly glow and many blooms appear to be almost floating because the green stems and leaves have faded into the darkness. Make sure to create a comfortable place to sit by your moon garden so you can enjoy the fragrance and be able to see all the visitors that come to see your new garden.

Here's how to get started:

For a three season moon garden, choose a variety of shrubs and perennials that flower at different times of the year. Fragrant shrubs like Judd or Korean Spice Viburnums or Carol Mackie Daphne brighten a moon garden in the spring. Clethra alternifolia (Summersweet) flower in July and August. Sweet Autumn Clematis and Cimicifuga 'Hillside Black Beauty' bloom from late summer to fall. Add some white annuals, white flowering or fragrant perennials, and night-blooming flowers and you've got yourself a Moon Garden.

For a smaller space or in a container, try to choose several white, fragrant plants and at least one night-blooming variety.
  1. Night Blooming Favorites. Night bloomers include evening primrose, four o'clocks (Mirabilis jalapa), tropical night-blooming water lilies such as 'Texas Shell Pink' and 'Trudy Slocum', Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia arborea) and nightscented stock (Matthiola bicomis or M. incana).

  2. Fragrant Plants. The sweet, heavy scent of flowering tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris or N. alata) is most evident at night; look for ones with white or lime green flowers. The late-summer flowers of night jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum) have a wonderful fragrance. There are great fragrant hostas too like Fried Green Tomatoes, Guacamole, Summer Breeze, or Fragrant Bouquet. Try to limit the number of fragrant plants in one area of the garden though to avoid competing scents or try to plant ones with different bloom times.

  3. White flowers. Spider flower (Cleome hassleriana), Phlox p. 'David', 'Casa Blanca' Oriental Lily, bellflower (Campanula sp), Baby's Breath (Gypsophylla sp), or 'Gentle Shephard' Daylily.

  4. Variegated foliage. Look for plants with bright white variegation and great texture. You can create unusual effects with different types of variegation--whether it be a hosta or caladium in the shade garden or an ornamental grass in a sunny spot.

  5. Moon garden climbers. Climbing roses, moonflower (Ipomoea alba), or clematis varieties such as Henrii, Duchess of Edinburg, or Sweet Autumn (Clematis paniculata) add both fragrance and white blooms when trained to climb a trellis or pergola.

In April, we planted our moon garden in a couple of pots on the deck. At the time, I didn't think I wanted to make a big commitment to it this season, but since then I've kind of fallen in love with the subded hues and fragrance so I'm going to continue the color theme and concept into my other containers that I usually put up on the deck. Although for those containers, the flowering tobacco and variegated ivy will be the only repeats. The woodland phlox and leucojum are done blooming and will be transplanted into the garden and replaced. This time I'm probably going to plant jasmine or gardenias at the back, then some other fragrant herbs and annuals around the edges.

Here's our Moon Garden Plant List (shown above):

  • Viola 'Sorbet Coconut Swirl'
  • Phlox divaricata ‘Blue Moon’
  • Ipomoea sylvestris (planted as seeds)
  • Flowering tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris)
  • Lavender 'Goodwin Creek'
  • Summer Snowflakes (Leucojum aestivum)
  • Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost'
  • Pineapple Sage
  • variegated ivy

I found a fun project for glow-in-the-dark garden signs in a book called Night Science for Kids by Terry Krautwurst that I hope to try soon. I'll include a description and directions in my next post.

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