Jessica Walliser
September 19, 2013

Flower's like Angel's Trumpet brighten up the garden at night. Photo by Jessica Walliser (
Photo by Jessica Walliser

Dusk is a beautiful time in the garden, especially for certain plants. Specimens that might otherwise go unnoticed in the daylight become alive at night. Sometimes their foliage glows in the moonlight or their light-colored flowers reflect the evening light or a heady, sweet fragrance is released when dusk arrives. I love to choose plants that really shine in the evening, especially for use on and around our patio.

Plants with grey or variegated foliage stand out in the soft light of evening, their muted tones or light margins reflect both candlelight and moonlight. Variegated cultivars of some shrubs, including creeping Euonymus, red-twigged dogwood and hydrangea, have striking foliage that lights up our garden even when nothing is in bloom. The silvery-grey foliage of perennials like false indigo and Artemisia Powis Castle or annuals like licorice plant and dusty miller help soften the lower layers of my garden and provide a nice transition from bare soil.

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I use white- or cream-colored blossoms to power our patio garden by reflecting the moonlight and providing beauty and form that is best appreciated without harsh, direct sunlight. Small trees, including the Japanese Stewartia and Virginia Magnolia (I have one of each) have pale blossoms that shine in the soft twilight. Bubbly, white flowering shrubs, like sweetspire and summersweet, add more interest on summer nights, while the delicate white blooms of perennial Gaura and fall-blooming Anemones lend a soft feel; plus, they extend the garden’s bloom time well into autumn. 

Every year, I incorporate several species of flowering plants that begin to release their heady fragrance at twilight around our patio area and in my containers. Angel’s Trumpet and Oriental lilies are notorious for their amazing scents; just a few will fragrance my entire garden. I also like to use flowering tobacco because it has a delicious sweet scent and the white flowers are open both morning and night. The fragrance can be a bit overwhelming sometimes, so I try to stagger bloom times and make sure there isn’t more than one or two heavily fragranced plants in bloom at the same time.

Another delightful element we enjoy having on our patio is a fountain. The sound of running water is very relaxing. And, of course, don’t forget to have plenty of places to sit down, relax and enjoy the evening!

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