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The white-tinged leaves of hostas add a dramatic punch to an evening garden but still offer a nice background for flowers.
Here, for most gardeners, is the fun part. Choosing flowering plants for the evening garden is similar to throwing an elegant party with an exclusive guest list. White- and cream-colored flowers shine in the twilight, and thankfully, many of them are also graced with a delicious nighttime fragrance. Alluring to nighttime pollinators, plants like flowering tobacco, moonflowers, angel’s trumpet and white oriental lilies are visual knock-outs. Add to that their intoxicating fragrance, and you’ve got yourself some must-haves for the evening garden.
Robin Bennett, owner of Summer Hill Seeds, suggests selecting plants that have different bloom cycles so there are flowers nearly all the time.
“I would mix annuals for their sheer blooming power with perennials for their longevity. And be sure to choose plants that suit the sunlight capacity of your garden,” she says. Including other white flowering, non-fragrant perennials and annuals will keep the garden from overpowering visitors and help it maintain its interest during daylight hours, too.
Flowers such as simple Shasta daisies, sweet alyssum, garden phlox, white coneflowers and Gaura are all attractive additions and can easily be used to fill in the site while still maintaining the garden’s allure.
“By combining ordinary gray-foliaged plants, common day-blooming white flowers, and those of truly nocturnal habit, the ghostly paleness of leaves and flowers and the mysterious whirring and hovering of the night moths may be enjoyed together. ... The entire scheme can be directed to showcase the unique beauty of plants in cold, blue lunar light,” Ogden says.
If you plan to use your evening garden for solace, you’ll need a contemplative corner to park your bottom. The furniture you place in your garden should be welcoming to you and your guests. If sinking down into softness is your thing, choose weatherproof chairs with overstuffed cushions. If you prefer a more natural setting, perhaps a hand-carved wooden bench is in order. Or, you may want to add a splash of pale colors by adding some painted patio chairs to draw the eye.
Whatever you decide, be sure it blends well with your farm’s style and it’s comfortable. A bistro table for wine glasses and dinner plates isn’t a bad idea, nor is a foot stool or even a chaise.
The sound of moving water is both convivial and calming. No need to install an in-ground water feature in your garden when a standing fountain will supply the same traits at a fraction of the cost (unless, of course, you’ve been looking for an excuse).
Listen carefully to the fountain before you buy. Whirring motors aren’t very attractive, and you’ll need to decide whether you prefer an open babbling sound or a thin trickle to grace your garden. Position the fountain amongst the foliage plants so it doesn’t visually stand out, and bury the cord in conduit so no one trips in the darkness.
If you can’t find a way to include a fountain in the garden plan—no electricity, perhaps—consider wind chimes instead. Clear, crisp metal tones or deep, hollow bamboo notes are both fine choices. Again, follow your ear and your eye when making your selection.
Enjoy the evening garden year-round by including a fire pit, chimnea or cauldron in the garden plan. Keep it near the garden’s sitting area to warm toes on cold nights but away from plants to prevent singed foliage.
A more subtle way to introduce fire to the garden is through the use of candlelight. Simple votives, candelabras or hanging candle chandeliers look lovely in the dusk and add a bit of romance to the garden scene.
While human company may or may not always be welcome in the evening garden, nocturnal wildlife should be. Hawk, Luna, Io and Isabella tiger moths are breathtaking as they flutter about the garden, searching the depths of light-colored flowers for nectar.
Spring peepers and other frogs trill their nighttime chorus, and toads are often found happily downing the slugs and beetles feeding in your garden after dark. Bats, too, are lured to the evening garden.
Consuming mosquitoes and many common garden pests, bats are wildly entertaining to watch and are a sure-fire form of organic pest control. Hanging a bat box somewhere near the evening garden ensures their presence and invites these amazing creatures into your life.
“Under the moon, a garden expresses its beauty through the rhythmic patterns of light and shade in its reflecting surfaces,” Ogden notes. Such beauty is best appreciated by some in solitude and by others in celebration. Either way, the evening garden suits, for here, life’s treasures can be revealed and cherished like nowhere else.
About the Author: Jessica Walliser is the author of Grow Organic: Over 250 Tips and Ideas for Growing Flowers, Veggies, Lawns and More (St. Lynn’s Press, 2007). She lives and gardens in Pennsylvania. This article first appeared in the March/April 2010
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