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Alabama Gardens: Moon garden

Moonflowers, a type of morning glory, are an example of easy plants for your moongarden.
Moonflowers, a type of morning glory, are an example of easy plants for your moongarden.

Planting with an eye toward the moon

The nights this summer have seemed especially bright, maybe because we’ve had an abundance of fireflies at our house — or maybe because July provided us with a “blue moon,” one of those times when we enjoyed two full moons in a single month. Regardless of the reasons, sitting outside and enjoying the nighttime landscape and the cooler nighttime temperatures has become a favorite evening activity at our house, an experience that any of us could enhance by establishing a moon garden.

Moon gardens, also known as evening, night and white gardens, have been planted for eons as spaces of worship, meditate and even romance. They’ve enjoyed a renewed popularity in recent years as folks with day jobs have adopted them to better enjoy their gardens in the evenings.

Establishing a moon garden is easy. All you need are plants that have light-reflecting qualities, such as white or pale-colored blooms or bark and silvery or variegated foliage. The list of those plants is extensive and includes annual and perennial flowering plants as well as grasses, shrubs, vines and trees.

Among the flowering options are moonflowers (a type of morning glory), angel’s and devil’s trumpets, sweet alyssum, daisies and four o’clocks. Many of these night-blooming plants emit a heady fragrance that can be enjoyed on the nighttime breeze, plus they benefit the ecosystem by providing pollen and nectar for nocturnal insects and animals.

Other plants that fit well in a moon garden are those with silver, gray or variegated foliage, including hostas, lamb’s ears, heuchera, lavender and many ornamental grasses, as well as trees and shrubs that have pale bark or silvery leaves, such as crape myrtles, variegated Euonymus, dogwoods, spruces and birches.

Moon gardens can be established in the landscape or simply created using containers placed on a patio or in the yard. In order to capture the best moonlight, locate your moon garden in a spot that is open enough to let the moonbeams shine on your plants. You can also establish a moon garden that capitalizes on the last rays of the day by facing the plantings west toward the setting sun. Or why not establish several dusk-into-dark garden areas in the yard to capture all angles of the sun and moon?

To further enhance a moon garden, adorn it with white or pale grey stepping stones or gravel, white fences, trellises and benches and light-colored statuary, birdbaths and pots. You can also use artificial lighting, such as strategically placed spotlights, strings of fairy lights or decorative torches to illuminate the garden space when the moon is being shy. Ponds, birdbaths, fountains and other water features that reflect light or add soothing sounds to the night air are also lovely additions to a moon garden.

If you’re feeling the pull of the moon in your own yard, learn more about moon gardening in such books as The Evening Garden: Flowers and Fragrance from Dusk till Dawn by Peter Loewer or Evening Gardens by Cathy Wilkinson Barash as well as online. If you get started now, you can have a moon garden ready for our next full moon on Aug. 29.

AUGUST Garden Tips

  • Plant seeds of cool-season flowers such as snapdragons, dianthus, pansies, calendulas and other cool-season flowers in flats or in the garden for mid-to-late fall bloom.
  • Be on the lookout for seed and bulb catalogues, which should be arriving soon.
  • Plant fall vegetables, such as cabbage, collards and broccoli.
  • Plant a winter cover crop in your garden as it finishes its growing season.
  • Keep an eye out for insects and disease on all ornamental and vegetable plants and treat for problems before they get out of hand.
  • Prune blackberry canes.
  • Continue to mow and water lawns as needed.
  • Divide irises and other perennials that have become overcrowded.
  •  Keep fresh water in birdbaths and keep birdfeeders full.
  • Continue to use mosquito repellant and sunscreen when you’re out in the yard or garden.

JACKSON, KATIE Gardening 2013

Katie Jackson is a freelance writer and editor based in Opelika, Alabama. Contact her at katielamarjackson@gmail.com.