Create a Magical Moon GardenExtend your time outdoors with a nighttime white garden oasis
The famed White Garden at Sissinghurst Castle, designed by Vita Sackville-West in the 1950’s, is one of the finest examples of a white garden that exists today. Designer: Philip Thornburg, Winterbloom Landscaping. Photo: Image Professionals GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo.
The long days of summer are made for relaxing and lounging in the garden. After the sun sets, the ensuing darkness transforms the garden into a place of magic. The sound of crickets chirping, the sight of a rising moon, floral scents wafting in a gentle evening breeze, are moments to savor. Moon or white gardens were popularized years ago as a way to enhance sublime evening experiences.
WHAT IS A MOON GARDEN?
Moon gardens include plants with white flowers and silver or variegated foliage that can be seen in the reflected light of the moon, creating a sense of mystery and romance. Moon gardens also include flowers with pronounced evening fragrance that heighten the experience. Light-colored hardscape and accessories further accentuate the nighttime ambience.
In the dark, our eyes can only see a limited color spectrum and contrast. White flowers take on a glow, appearing to float in the air as the contrasting green foliage disappears into the darkness, creating a magical effect. As night falls, our senses are heightened and we become more attuned to the sights, sounds, and smells of nature. Outdoor surroundings become a multi-sensory experience.
MOON GARDEN DESIGN
This Adirondack-style moon garden was sited to be seen from the home’s second-story sleeping porch. Designers: Charles Atwood King and Karen Lamitie-King. Photo: Janet Loughrey.
You don’t need to adorn your entire yard in moon garden plants. Even a small section of a patio or a secluded corner of the yard can be transformed into a nighttime sanctuary, an intimate destination for quiet reflection, or a place to share a glass of wine with friends.
Choose a site.
- Site the moon garden where it’s easily accessible, or pick a spot that can be viewed from a patio, porch, or inside the home.
- Choose an open area which will allow for stargazing and moonlight illumination.
- Pay attention to the play of light and shadow, which can enhance the mystique and intrigue.
Include different components.
Include a mix of plants, hardscaping, and accessories. It can be as simple or elaborate as you want, depending on budget and space.
Use light-colored stone materials such as pebbles, flagstone, or white marble chips to accentuate garden areas. Paint a background wall white, or incorporate a white lattice trellis or other screening, which can also provide support for vines.
Make sure paths can be easily navigated at night for safety. Use white gravel to outline paths or install light-colored flagstone to walk on. Add soft solar lights or other artificial lighting.
Site a comfortable chair or bench where you can immerse yourself in the garden. Include a small table to set a cup of tea or glass of wine. A votive candle or solar lantern placed on the table will add subtle illumination and ambience.
Adorn the space with decorative accents such as a reflective gazing ball, metallic wall art, or light-colored statuary such as a cherub, buddha, or stone lantern.
Add supplemental lighting for illumination on overcast or moonless nights. Keep it subdued so it won’t overpower the natural light of the moon. Hang string lights above a patio or along a fence. Add candles, lanterns, or uplight trees.
Engage the senses.Include elements that engage the senses of sight, smell, and sound.
- A small fountain or waterfall provides the soothing sound of moving water while also reflecting the moonlight.
- Attract night-sounding creatures such as crickets and frogs by creating natural habitat.
- Include plants such as ornamental grasses or bamboo that will gently rustle in the evening breeze.
- Choose plants that are highly scented at night, placing them near the seating area.
Extend the theme.
To further emphasize the celestial theme, include plants with star-shaped flowers, create crescent-shaped planting beds, add star and moon-shaped accessories, or hang a string of twinkling lights to simulate the stars. Use your imagination and have fun!
MOON GARDEN FLOWERS & PLANTS
DIAMOND FROST® EUPHORBIA — Buy now from Proven Winners
10-11, usually grown as an annual
Full to part sun
Upright mounding habit; 12 to 18 inches tall & wide
Clouds of airy white flowers bloom from late spring through frost. Use this annual as a bedding plant or in containers.
Mounding bushy habit; 3-5 feet tall and 2-4 feet wide. Climbing form grows 12-15 feet tall and 7-9 feet wide.
This award-winning floribunda shrub or climbing rose produces abundant clusters of fragrant white flowers throughout the growing season.
'POWIS CASTLE' ARTEMISIA
Upright mounding habit, 2-3 feet tall and wide
Feathery silver-blue foliage on this stunning shrubby perennial is useful as a background plant and for providing separation between white-flowered varieties.
'SILVER FALLS' DICHONDRA — Buy now from Proven Winners
10-12, usually grown as an annual
Full sun to partial shade
Trailing spreading habit, 2-4 inches tall, 3-4 feet wide, up to 6 feet long
Silver foliage on this gorgeous annual creates a cascade of shimmery color from late spring to frost. Use as a groundcover to outline pathways, or allow to spill over a container or hanging basket.
HEART TO HEART™ ‘WHITE WONDER’ CALADIUM — Buy now from Proven Winners
10-11, usually grown as an annual
Partial sun to shade
Upright spreading habit, 1-2 feet tall and 1-1 1/2 feet wide
The bold foliage on this classic Victorian shade lover is almost entirely white, making it an attention-grabber in moonlight. Grown from a bulb, this tropical is treated as an annual in most regions. Good for containers.
‘DAVID' PHLOX — Buy now from Proven Winners
Full sun to partial shade
Upright spreading habit, 3-4 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide
An elegant cottage-style perennial with clusters of fragrant white flowers. Blooms from mid-late summer.
Part to full shade
Upright spreading habit, 1-2 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide
Bold textured foliage with deep white margins helps to lighten up darker areas. This shade-loving perennial is exceptionally hardy, growing in most zones.
'CASA BLANCA' LILY
Full sun to light shade
Upright slender habit, 3-4 feet tall and 1 foot wide
One of the most spectacular oriental lilies, ‘Casa Blanca’ has large elegant snow-white flowers and intense floral fragrance that is more pronounced at night.
Full to partial sun
Upright bushy habit, 8-10 feet tall and 4-6 feet wide. Can be kept smaller with pruning.
Long associated with moon gardens, the creamy white star-shaped flowers on this semi-tropical shrub open at night, releasing a powerful, sweet perfume. For those in colder climates, grow as a potted plant and overwinter indoors.
Climbing habit, 10-15 feet tall and 3-6 feet wide
This vigorous tender perennial vine grown as an annual is the quintessential moon garden plant. Large 6-inch white flowers open at night, exuding a soft lemony fragrance.
Full sun to partial shade
Upright habit, 3-5 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide
Tubular star-shaped white flowers produce a sweet jasmine-like scent that is more pronounced at night. This summer-blooming annual is a popular mainstay of moon gardens.
'MY MONET' WEIGELA — Buy now from Proven Winners
Sun to partial shade
Mounding bushy habit, 1-1 1/2 feet tall and 1 1/2-2 feet wide
White variegation tinged with pink characterizes the foliage on this versatile shrub. Use as a background plant or to create separation between white-flowered plants.
CHOOSING MOON GARDEN PLANTS
A fairy figurine with gazing ball is the centerpiece of this all-white garden bed. Designer: Cheley Witte. Photo: Janet Loughrey.
- Consider plant varieties with different sizes, structure, and leaf shape.
- Use a mix of white-flowered perennials, annuals, bulbs, roses, and vines.
- Incorporate foliage in shades of silver or variegation to lend contrast, texture, and visual interest.
- Include different shades of white flowers, including snow-white, cream, ivory, and pearl.
Plant for seasonal interest.
Choose varieties that will bloom at different times, as well as plants with attractive foliage that will lend continuity throughout the growing season.
Make an impression.
Group the same varieties together in drifts of 3-5 for maximum impact. Larger blooms or groupings will show better in the dark than smaller individual flowers.
Less is more.
Choose a few primary plants rather than a lot of different varieties to keep the design from being too busy.
Include vines to add vertical height. A trellis can support climbing jasmine or moonflowers for a living wall of color and fragrance.
In-ground and containers.
Incorporate both in-ground and container plantings. Even apartment dwellers can have a small containerized white garden on a balcony.
Keep it eco-friendly.
Plants that are more heavily scented at night will attract moths and other nighttime pollinators, which will help keep a healthy eco balance in your yard.