Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
New England
March, 2006
Regional Report

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White flowers alongside steps and walkways can almost guide you with their nighttime glow.

The Moonlight Garden

I've always loved being in the garden at night. It may have started when I was young and would spend summer nights chasing fireflies in the yard. Then when my son was young and I had precious little leisure time to lose myself in the garden, I'd go out after he was asleep and tend my plants by the light of my headlamp. Now that I don't have to "work" in the garden after dark, I'm free to simply enjoy it. And the allure of the garden at night is enhanced by growing flowers that glow alongside my front walkway and nearby where we sit outside in the evenings.

Plants That Shine at Night
Reds and oranges may claim dominance during the day, but at night the pale colors come into their own. White flowers, of course, are the stars of the night garden. Moonflowers (Ipomoea alba) are a traditional favorite; as they vine upwards, the large, shimmering flowers seem to reach to the sky.

Other delights are Angel's trumpet (Datura spp.), flowering tobacco (Nicotiana alata), and white-flowered varieties of cleome, lavatera, impatiens, alyssum, and phlox, to name only a few. Start all of these indoors in our region or buy transplants, or you'll have to wait too long for the blooms.

Plant white lilies, such as the gorgeous ' Regale' trumpet lily, in large containers on your deck or patio so they tower over you as you sit under their glowing flowers and take in their heady fragrance.

Pale pinks and blues also glow, such as the low mounds of perennial Campanula carpatica 'Blue Clips' and annual Phlox drummondii 'Phlox of Sheep', which almost provide floor lighting along the edges of a walkway.

The silver or white variegation of flowers and foliage can be as striking at night as during the day. Lamium maculatum 'Beacon Silver' is a standout ground cover; so is lamb's ears (Stachys byzantina), dusty miller (Senecio cineraria), and silver mound artemisia (Artemisia schmidtiana).

Heavy Scents
Many flowers that depend on night-flying moths for pollination emit strong fragrances to entice them. We're also the beneficiaries. Heliotrope has both white flowers and fragrance to recommend it (yes, there's a purple heliotrope, too), as do alyssum and moonflowers, four o'clocks (Mirabilis jalapa), and many lilies. Evening-scented stocks (Matthiola bicornis) are nothing special by day, but they earn their keep after dark.

As for fragrant shrubs, there are dwarf lilacs to please us night "strollers" and "sitters" in late spring, summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) to emit its vanilla-like aroma in late summer, and roses to keep us happy in between. How about a white climbing rose on a trellis near your doorway?

Hardscaping and Decorations
I interspersed my bluestone patio with some light-colored rocks that show up at night, and I'd like to add some white cobbles as edging stones. White lattice, statues, birdbaths, and other garden features are also fun to place near a nighttime sitting spot. If you have an outdoor fountain on the deck or patio, place white pebbles at the base to catch both light and water.

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