A dreamy moonlight garden

Imagine coming come from work after a long day. Even though your to-do list isn’t complete, all you want to do is relax. So you wander out to your garden. The moon is high in the sky, and its cool light is illuminating the earth. You come to sit at a bench next to a radiantly white bird bath. The calming sound of the wind rustling through the leaves of the trees above cause you to slowly close your eyes and deeply breathe in and out.

garden with flowers of white and yellow
Candy tuft has almost blinding white petals during the day that reflect the moonlight well in the evenings. Photo by Wendy Hanson Mazet, Cooperative Extension.

As your mind relaxes and the stresses of the day are mere distant memories, your moonlight garden comes to life before your eyes. You savor the various fragrances of the evening flowers and delight in the magnificent hues the moon creates against the various white, blue and lavender blooms. The assorted textures jump from the canvas of your garden as the moonlight deepens the contrast, creating dramatic effects. Leaves of silver mound Artemisia, snow-in-summer and dusty miller become metallic silver in the cool evening light.

Though we tend to think of our landscapes as beautiful during the day, with vibrant colors in the sun, they offer an equally beautiful setting during the evening, with the cool moonlight. By adding some well thought-out additions to your garden, you can have a place to escape every night of the week with a moonlight garden. Only a little planning will be necessary from location to plant and décor selection.

The location should be exposed to the moonlight where you can enjoy its delightful scenery. It doesn’t have to be just one spot of your garden though. Think about integrating elements of a moonlight garden into your existing garden. Play with textures, shapes and sizes to create an interesting and fun masterpiece.

Focus on plants that reflect cool light, such as those with silvery leaves or white, light yellow, soft blue or lavender flowers. When you are out shopping for plants this spring, search for plants like candy tuft, Datura, blue flax, blue mist spiraea, cotton lavender santolina or other plants in similar shades. Also, try plants whose flowers open during the evening hours such as moon flower, pink evening primrose or chocolate daisy.

pink evening primrose flower
If you choose to plant pink evening primrose, be sure to keep the plant contained as they do really well in northern Nevada climate. Photo by Wendy Hanson Mazet, Cooperative Extension.

Flowers that release fragrances in the evening to attract pollinators, such as moths and bats, are also great additions to rejuvenate the senses. Some annual varieties include flowering tobacco, angel’s trumpet, and night jasmine. For perennials, look for yucca, lilac and wisteria.

Don’t just stop with plant selection. Light-colored hardscapes and reflective objects can be creative added features to the moon garden as well. Think about adding two-tone rock spirals in open spaces or a white bird bath to glow against the moonlight. Other décor can include glass balls and decorative garden accents. Remember to choose items that have reflective or light-colored surfaces that the moonlight will bounce off.

If you want to share your moonlight garden with friends and family, you may want to add a dining or fire pit area. Try soft, white Christmas lights, candles or luminaries to offer light for eating and conversing that won’t detract from the magnificence of your garden.

After taking in the majestic colors, tantalizing smells and evening breeze, you’re relaxed and at ease. You can tackle the rest of your to-do list. Or maybe it can wait for tomorrow…

Jenn Fisher is the commercial horticulture program coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Need help with plant selection for your moonlight garden? Ask a Master Gardener at 775-336-0265 or mastergardeners@unce.unr.edu.