The Lure of the Moon Garden

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Add Romance to Your Landscape with a Moon Garden

READY TO ADD SOME ROMANCE AND MYSTERY TO YOUR LANDSCAPE? DON’T HAVE TIME TO ENJOY YOUR GARDEN DURING THE DAY? A MOON GARDEN COULD BE YOUR ANSWER!

Moon Gardening Basics

Also called a “night garden,” a moon garden is a landscape which is designed to be enjoyed after sundown, illuminated only by the light of the moon. In fact, some of the best designs will be enjoyable even in the absence of moonlight, due to the fragrant plants they contain.

Most moon gardens utilize four types of plants (with some overlap):

Plants with white blossoms

Plants with bright foliage

Night bloomers

Plants with fragrant blooms

White-Flowered Plants

When planting a moon garden, think in mass. A single white blossom here and there will not generate much of an impact, but a mass of white flowers is another story. Remember, you want your plantings to be visible at night, not be swallowed up by the darkness.

Here are some plants to consider:

White Peonies (Paeonia lactiflora)

Unlike most plants with huge, beautiful flowers, peonies do not hail from the tropics. In fact, they’re cold hardy to Zone 2 and thrive in high elevations.

They prefer a well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Their massive double blooms are also highly fragrant — making them especially suitable for a moon garden.

White Swan River Daisies (Brachycome iberidifolia)

This lovely bloom originates from the land down under and functions as an annual in northern climates. (Note: Swan River daisy does not flower well in very hot weather.) It’s drought-tolerant can be massed as a striking ground cover.

The plant’s one-inch fragrant flowers are profuse, and should be deadheaded often.

White Pansies (Viola x wittrockiana)

While many annuals have a tough time in the colder Wyoming climate, pansies are not one of them. In fact, they make excellent as fall-planted ornamentals. As they are quite cold tolerant, they’ll sometimes bloom throughout the winter months. The spreading variety is perfect for hanging baskets.

Bright-Leaved Plants

Plants whose foliage is variegated or silver-colored really stand out at night, making them perfect choices for your moon garden. These include:

Silvermound Wormwood (Artemisia schmidtiana)

Despite the common name, this wormwood is a lovely plant with aromatic, silver leaves. It’s a dwarf plant that grows in a mounded form, and stands no more than a foot tall. Cold-tolerant to zone 3, it needs dry, well-drained soil to thrive. Makes a great ground cover.

Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina;)

This popular ground cover plant is known for the velvety texture and silver color of its leaves. It’s a tough little plant, thriving in poor, well-drained soil that slightly acidic. Flower spikes are typically light purple.

Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea)

This shrub is primarily grown for its bright red branches displayed during the winter months. But its variegated leaves during the summer also make it perfect for a moon garden. The foliage is greenish-gray with a white edge, and small white flowers form in flat clusters. Well-drained, acidic soil is preferred.

Evening/Night Bloomers

Plants which bloom or release their fragrances only at night belong to a “noctiflora” group. The following night bloomers are also some of the most fragrant:

White Evening Primrose (Oenothera pallida)

This particular species of evening primrose produces large, white crepe-textured flowers that open on summer evenings to emit a sweet fragrance. Blooms then fade the next day to a soft pink. Especially suited to dry sites with well-drained soil, it’s a good choice for a rock garden or as edging. Once established, this primrose is very drought tolerant.

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Four O’Clock Flower (Mirabilis jalapa)

The flowers of this plant open in late afternoon or at dusk (between 4 and 8 o’clock). Blooms produce a strong, sweet-smelling fragrance throughout the night, then close for good in the morning. New flowers open the following day.

Four o’clock flower does well in high elevations and prefers dry, sandy, or gravelly soils. This annual is available in a variety of colors, but white is natural choice for a moon garden.

Night-Blooming Cereus (Cereus greggii)

Although it prefers warmer climates, such as Arizona, the night-blooming cereus is worth mention here because it only blooms one night each year— en masse. Take a look:

Fragrant Bloomers

As you can see, most of the previously mentioned flowering plants also emit sweet fragrances. Here are some others:

Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana alata)

Also called “jasmine tobacco” because of its sweet fragrance, this tobacco plant blooms in the late afternoon and early evening. The plant produces tall, graceful stems of pale, nodding flowers with starry faces. Its sweet perfume peaks at dusk, attracting pollinators (and  gardeners) to its calming presence. Blooms emerge in July and continue into fall in a protected spot. Flowering tobacco is not fussy about soil, as long as it’s well-drained, and requires only a half day of sun.

Angel Trumpet (Brugmansia)

Angel trumpet is typically considered a tropical plant, but there’s one species—Brugmansia arborea—which prefers cooler, dryer climates. This showy flowering plant actually originates from the Andes region of South America, and prefers altitudes of at least 6,000 feet.

The white trumpet-shaped, pendulous blooms are four and six inches long. They’re are often pollinated by moths, which are attracted both by the white color of the flowers and the perfume that becomes stronger in the early hours of the evening. Its bold white flowers and intoxicating scent make this flowering plant a splendid addition to your moon garden.

Sister Justina Lilac (Syringa x hyacinthiflora )

Who doesn’t love the fragrance of lilacs? This particular species is particularly suited as an early season bloomer for your moon garden and is cold hardy to Zone 2. Blanketed in upright clusters of fragrant snow-white flowers, the flowers are also excellent for cutting. The Sister Justine requires a site with full sun and well-drained soil.


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