Moon gardens: Designed to shine when bathed in moonlight

By JESSICA DAMIANO

Associated Press

Published: 03-06-2023 4:41 PM

Planning this year’s garden? My guess is you’re envisioning plants bathed in daylight.

But the problem is that by nightfall, when the sun has set and you’re ready to kick back at home, you won’t be able to see and fully enjoy the fruits of your gardening labor without flooding the yard with artificial lighting. And that’s not relaxing at all.

Instead, consider planting a moon garden specifically designed to be enjoyed by the light of the moon.

Plants with silver, variegated or bright foliage, white or light-colored flowers, or blooms that open only at night are ideal choices for a moon garden, as are highly fragrant plants. Plant them along a walkway or near your deck or patio, where you can enjoy them up close, or within view of a window.

My favorite white, moon-reflecting blooms include the aptly named moonflower (Ipomoea alba), Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum superbum), four o’clock (Mirabilis jalapa), sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima), yarrow (Achillea millefolium), snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum), evening primrose (Oenothera biennis), foxglove (Digitalis), petunias, New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri), and geranium (Pelargonium).

Night pollinators such as the sphinx moth love them, too.

Spring bloomers, like lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis), daffodil (Narcissus) and azalea (Rhododendron spp.), and late-blooming species like chrysanthemum and autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora) extend the season.

Plants with standout foliage include spotted dead nettle (Lamium), Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum), Jack Frost Siberian bugloss (Brunnera microphylla), variegated hostas, silver lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantine), dusty miller (Jacobaea maritima), Russian sage (Salvia yangii or Perovskia atriplicifolia), silver mound wormwood (Artemisia schmidtiana’ Silver mound’) and variegated euonymus varieties.

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They remain visible after sundown and especially seem to glow under a full moon.

Highly fragrant plants like mock orange (Philadelphus pubescens), gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides), lilac (Syringa vulgaris), summersweet (Clethra alnifolia), jasmine (Jasminum officinale) and, in the warmest climates, ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata) and frangipani (Plumeria rubra), will lend aromatic delight to your evenings.

Include a backdrop of shrubs like the sweetly scented Korean spice viburnum (Viburnum carlesii), or white-blooming hydrangea varieties such as “Annabelle,” “Incrediball,” “Snow Queen,” “Little Lamb,” “Polar Ball” or “Wedding Gown.”

Trees like paper birch (Betula papyrifera), white or silver poplar (Populus alba), acacia and eucalyptus light up the night. Research those that are best-suited to your climate.

For maximum impact, plant in drifts, or groups of three, five or seven, of the same variety. That’s a good gardening practice in general because it avoids creating a jumble of disconnected individual plants. But it’s particularly important in the moon garden to ensure single plants aren’t lost in the darkness.

Think about hardscaping, too. There are no rules against supplementing moonlight with plant-facing landscape lighting. The glow will enhance the magical flair of your moon garden, as will the addition of white fencing, trellises, paving stones, pebbles, rocks, fountains and gazing balls.

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