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SPRING IN THE GARDEN: The intoxicating moonlight garden

Closeup view of the silver leaves on a Silver Brocade plant - a good plant to include in a ‘moonlight garden.’ ADOBE STOCK IMAGE


Special to the Record

We often fill our gardens with colours and fragrances to enjoy during the day… but what about at night?

Now that the evening nights are warmer and we begin spending more time outside, it is time to think about planting a moonlight garden. Three things you need to consider: white flowers, silver or variegated foliage and plants that are fragrant.

As the night draws near, the bright colours of red, blue, purple and green begin to fade and what the moonlight captures and reflects is white and silver. This could be the silver of the annual ‘Snapdragon gummy’ or the perennial Artemisia ‘Silver Brocade’ and ‘Powis Castle,’ which are wonderful low-growing plants that are great in containers or to add along walkways.

Variegated leaves of trees or shrubs will all capture the moonlight and shimmer in the dark. The Hosta ‘Patriot’ is green with a striking white edge to each leaf and seems to glow in the dark.

There are many annuals that have white blooming varieties for both the sun and the shade garden. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive to add white to your containers or garden beds. Mixing white flowers with the other bright colours will make the colours pop during the day and at night the white will take on a magical quality of its own.

Now that you have plants that reflect the moonlight, the other thing to consider is fragrance. Wandering through the garden at night, our senses enhance and the fragrance of the plants is magnified. Some fragrant plants have their scent activated by the heat of the sun, some need you to brush by them or crush their leaves to release a fragrance and some plants open up at night.

Nicotiana (tobacco plant) is a lovely annual with trumpet-like blooms that come in a variety of colours and are valued for their intense evening fragrance. All nicotiana are fragrant at night but my favourite is nicotiana sylvestris. It is stately at three-to-five feet with amazingly fragrant showy white tubular flowers.

There are many wonderful shrubs such as choisya ternata (Mexican orange) and Philadelphus (mock orange), which are fast-growing and loaded with fragrant white orange-scented blossoms.

During the day and night, the luscious form of the paeonia (peony) ‘Duchesse de Nemours’ has large white fragrant blooms with a hint of yellow and adds a romantic touch to any garden. In a shady area, be sure to add the fairies to your garden, with the digitalis (foxglove). The fairies hide in their hooded bells and come out to dance in the moonlight.

I will end with an old fashion favourite: matthiola incana (evening scented stock), which has small purplish flowers that are not showy but emit an intoxicating fragrance at night.

By choosing plants that shimmer under the night sky and capture the moonlight, and by letting their sweet fragrance fill your senses, you can easily create a magical evening experience making the summer nights more enjoyable whether you sit outside with family and friends or have a romantic interlude with your loved one.

Happy gardening!

Ellen Presley is the owner of Anderton Nursery, at 2012 Anderton Rd., Comox. Visit