Plant a Moon Garden

From left: Gardenia, Century Plant, Moonflower.

Gene Sumi, Homestead’s Educational Coordinator, gave his popular Moon Garden talk this week to the Silver Spring Garden Club, and I’ll go out on a limb and speak for the audience – we were inspired!   Gene told us about Moon Walks he leads in his own garden, with a glass of good Merlot in hand, with visitors first waiting for their eyes to adjust to the low vision.  (Remember to turn off all the lights in the house first.)  The first plant encountered is a low row of Caladiums along the path – like the one he’s holding in the photo.

Plants that really shine in the night-time garden are those with white, silver or gold foliage and flowers – the very details that stand out less under the bright sun of daytime, when they have to compete with bolder colors like red.  Glossy foliage works well, too, like the Aucuba in the collage below.

But it isn’t just eyes that adjust on a moon walk – it’s the sense of sound, too, as visitors tune in to the screeches of owls and crickets and who-knows-what, depending on the time of year.  Then there’s the sense of smell, and fragrance is just as importance as light-reflecting qualities in plants for the moon garden.  Ever smelled a gardenia?  OMG!  Or how about the tiny but fragrant blooms of Alyssum, like the ones below that are growing in my front yard?

Some recommended annuals include: Wax Begonia, Caladium, Night-Blooming Jasmine, Cleome, Datura (which is super-fragrant AND dramatic), white Impatiens, and Lantana.

Great perennials for moon gardens include Yarrow, Artemisia, Astilbe, Pampas grass, White Coneflower,  Hibiscus, white or variegated Hostas, Japanese Anemone, Candytuft, and Summer Phlox.

And these shrubs and trees add a lot to the night-time garden: Camelia, Deutzia, Euonymus ‘Silver Queen’, Gardenia, Hydrangeas, Pieris japonica, Roses with white, yellow or light pink blooms (for white blooms, try the  newer, more fragrant hybrid teas and floribundas), white Crape Myrtle, Viburnum,  Lilac, and Yucca.

Gene also suggested we read his favorite moon garden book:  The Evening Garden: Flowers and Fragrance from Dusk Till Dawn by Peter Loewer.

From left: Aucuba with Hakonechloa Grass, Miscanthus, and Alyssum

Gene mentioned the National Arboretum’s extremely popular Full Moon Walks, which I’ve been meaning to sign up for for decades.  (It takes months of foresight because they fill up sooooo quickly.  Right now the Full Moon Walks are completely booked through the end of the year.)  Sure, walking through the woods at the Arboretum is great, but if you grow your own night garden, you can walk through it any night you want and see and smell these glorious plants along the way.  Sounds good to me!

Photo credits: Gardenia, Century Plant, Moonflower.  All other photos by Susan Harris.

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