Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
August, 2007
Regional Report

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The sweet fragrance of this angel's trumpet is a highlight of the evening garden.

The Evening Garden

This is a time when gardens are setting the stage to put on a final display before the onset of autumn. Despite the heat of summer, the roses in my garden are setting buds for another glorious display of color and fragrance. Night temperatures are cooling down a bit and it's the cool breeze that makes it a pleasure to enjoy the sights and sounds of the evening garden.

Hopefully you've planned your garden to include plants that take over during the night shift. With the setting of the sun, it's the nocturnal garden that awakens the senses.

There are many plants that put on their show exclusively in the evening or the coolest part of the day. Many more will wait to release a distinctive scent only in the evening to attract nectar-feeding hawkmoths and other creatures to pollinate the flowers. White blossoms and variegated foliage seem to make the garden glow as the plants and flowers reflect the moonlight. For those of us who work all day, a well-planted landscape provides a peaceful retreat in the evening.

The following are some suggestions that will make your garden come alive in the evening hours.

One of my favorites that returns without fail from seed every spring is the annual angel's trumpet (Datura innoxia). It blooms reliably until a hard frost, growing 2 to 3 feet tall and wide with handsome bluish green foliage. The huge white blossoms are around 6 inches long. They emit a sweet fragrance only at dusk and early morning. (Warning: this plant is toxic and should be kept away from small children.)

Four-o'clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) are also easy to grow from seed. Their colorful trumpet flowers produce a sweet jasmine-like fragrance. Bushy plants can reach 2 feet or more in height. They will self-sow to produce a mix of unique colors.

The lance-shaped leaves of evening stock (Matthiola incana) may not be the showiest in the garden, but the flowers will be noticed. Small pink-to-lavender-toned blooms emit an intoxicating fragrance at night.

Evening primroses (Oenothera spp.) have sweetly scented blooms in bright yellow, white, and pink. They make wonderful ground covers that spread relatively fast. The plants are hardy and drought-enduring.

Don't forget to include evening-fragrant vines for attractive coverage of walls, fences, trellises, and gazebos. Some of the hardy types include climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris), the sweet autumn clematis (Clematis paniculata), and honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica).

With the right planning, plant selection, and site placement, you can make your garden inviting at night with color and fragrance.

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