Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
February, 2004
Regional Report

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This Japanese anemone takes on a whole new personality as it basks in the glow of a moonbeam.

Moonlight Gardens

If work keeps you away from home during the day, evening might be the best time to enjoy your garden. If so, you can plan a garden area specifically for savoring flowers at twilight. Plants that bloom in colors of white, butter yellow, and the palest of pinks and lavenders stay bright after dusk and are the best choices for your twilight garden. Variegated and silvery-gray foliage also reflect the dwindling light and remain softly luminous long after green leaves have faded to black.

If you prefer to walk rather than sit, gray lamb's ears edging the flower beds, or pale stepping stones in the lawn can guide your nighttime strolls.

Fragrance in the Evening
Scent in the evening somehow carries further than in daytime. I like to line paths with trumpet lilies, alyssum, and white impatiens to create beautiful snowy mounds of brightness with a delightfully sweet scent.

Many plants have flowers that open during the day but do not release their scent until the evening. You can achieve a balance between beauty and fragrance by planting 'French Vanilla' marigolds, 'Crystal White' zinnias, 'Armour White' verbena, 'Purity' cosmos, and evening primrose (Oenothera casepitosa) in your twilight garden bed.

Popular Moonlight Performers
The two bedding plants most renown for their evening fragrance and night colors are the old-fashioned four o'clocks (Mirabilis) and jasmine tobacco (Nicotiana alata), both with flowers that open in late afternoon or at dusk to emit a potent moth attractant throughout the night. Another favorite in my garden is Matilija poppy (Romneya coulteri), a big, bushy perennial with white petaled crape paper-like flowers. Each flower has a huge bundle of orange stamens protruding from the center. Snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum) is my recommendation for an excellent ground cover that really glows at dusk.

Some of the most fragrant plants for night gardens are vines, and because they are so versatile in the landscape, they fit into even the most limited spaces. Plants can grow large but will submit to creative pruning to concentrate their blossoms into a small space, which intensifies the scent.

Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) is one of the most fragrant of all vines and is easy to grow. Its fragrance increases in the morning and again in the evening when moths seem to be drawn to the nectar-filled white and yellow flowers.

Winter jasmine (Jasminum polyanthum) is a lacy, evergreen vine with delicate clusters of white, lightly scented flowers. Its thin runners and slow growth makes it perfect for weaving into lattice or chain-link fencing, where it can become a wall of fragrance.

Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is also called "Confederate jasmine" and has a true jasmine form and scent. The small, white flowers are fragrant, and plants bloom intermittently all summer after a strong showing in spring.

Planning the Ultimate Evening Garden
In the softer light of evening, my garden becomes still and serene. I think that's the best time to pull up a comfortable chair and soak in the sensations that twilight brings.

As you consider the best location for your evening garden, think about where you plan to sit to enjoy your garden. Whether it's outdoors on a deck or patio, or from your favorite armchair indoors, the garden will take on a new dimension if it's flooded with indirect light from a house window or from the porch. Or you can, as I have, install night lighting to illuminate your yard on cloudy nights.

Whichever plants you choose for your evening garden, don't miss the chance to create an enchanting outdoor spot where you can enjoy the cool of a summer's evening spent among the flowers and under the stars.

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