How To Create a Moonlight Garden

Long working hours often mean that we don't get home until sundown, just as the garden is retreating into the darkness. For the keen gardener, this can be frustrating, until you realise that with a little planning, it is possible to create a garden that is at its best as the night falls. Leading UK garden designer Alice Bowe talks us through her favourite planting choices for the moonlit garden, and shows us which plants are best avoided...

Step 1

White, grey and silver plants reflect light, appearing to glow at dusk. The key to creating a moonlight garden is to pick colours that shine out of the darkness. Create a silvery backdrop of foliage plants such as lavender and artemesia, or the wonderful metalic leaves of Convolvulus cneorum. On a larger scale, the architectural grass Astellia 'Silver Spear' works well. Avoid Stachys as this tends to look very messy in the winter, try Balotta instead.

Step 2

Add depth to your planting with misty clouds and ghostly spires of pale blooms. Pale flowers with an airy texture add depth to a planting scheme. Try Dicentra spectabilis ‘Alba’ and tulip ‘White Triumphator’ for spring interest followed by white Cosmos, Gaura lindheimeri and gypsophila for summer interest. Add drifts of tall spires, perhaps Veronicastrum virginicum 'album' or Epilobium angustifolium album. Avoid white foxgloves as these invariably revert to pink after a couple of years.

Step 3

Add large white blooms to create a striking focal point. Concentrated blocks of white can be used to draw the eye. Plants with excellent large, white flowers include Lavatera trimestris ‘Mont Blanc,’ Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’ and many of the viburnums. I particularly like Hibiscus syriacus ‘Diana,’ whose flowers stay open at night. Avoid lilac, as the blooms die badly and the dead brown petals cling to the plant.

Step 4

Don't forget the scented plants. White and pale-coloured plants tend to be some of the most fragrant plants in the garden, although many of them require heat to release this scent. Classic choices for the moonlit garden would include Nicotiana or night scented stocks which would be great in pots near a bench or the doorway out to the garden.

With so many appropriate plants to choose from and so few precious daylight hours available, a moonlit garden seems the obvious choice...

Alice Bowe is a leading UK garden designer and writer.  She is also the owner of acclaimed garden accessory store Garden Boutique

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