Our gardens change dramatically when the sun sets. What was once a clear scene of all colors is reduced to black, white and gray. Everything seems closer and at the same time far away. All is quiet as birds, bees and other critters rest for the night. Other creatures make their appearance. The bats begin their swooping dance in search of insects. (Did you know that bats are flower pollinators?) Slugs, snails, earwigs, and weevils come out of the ground to feast on the succulent foliage. The wind dies down, yet when the night is warm flowers cast their fragrance upon the gentle breeze. What was bright, glaring and loud is now nuanced, softened, and quiet.
Being a night owl and mad scientist, I love the garden at night. Especially late July, August and early September evenings. The sun sets earlier and the nights in Oregon are warm. There is a languid peace that settles in upon me as I sit in my garden after dinner. I feel at ease, able to relax and most importantly to my husband, able to talk. We have spent many evenings unwinding with a glass of wine and much conversation in our side yard. And there have been many late evenings, flashlight in hand, making a major assault upon the slugs and snails. It is so interesting to see what creepy crawlies come out at night!
A few years ago, my sister Erica, appeared on a national gardening show talking about how she had created a moonlight garden. She even purchased a book, The Evening Garden by Peter Loewer. That and a mutual love for Fragrant Tobacco, inspired me to think about enhancing my garden for even greater nighttime enjoyment. Here are some of the considerations I made.
White and silver reign at night. At night, our eyes see black, white and shades of gray. Those plants that reflect light (white, gray and possibly light yellow and chartreuse green) show up in the dark. In addition, fragrant plants are spotlighted at night. There are some plants that release their fragrance only at night. All fragrant plants are accentuated by the evening. So for several years I have incorporated some plants that are night fragrant. These include Nicotiana sylvestris and alata, Brugmansia (Angel’s Trumpet), Jasmine and Heliotrope. As an aside, I tried 2 years in a row to grow Moonflower vine. This is a vine much more suited to the south, I believe. One year proved successful in growth and finally in flower-in October. My husband and I were literally out there with a flashlight, hoping that the flower (as in there was one) would actually open. I never regret anything, especially where plants are concerned. However, after that year, I didn’t attempt to grow the Moonflower again. In addition to fragrant plants, I have tried to add some punches of white flowers and gray foliage into my garden, especially near the two areas that my husband and I mainly sit at night.
The final piece to my puzzle was the addition of candles and solar lights. Two years ago, one night I decided to light candles in the garden. I was amazed at the effect they created. The candles created a definition and contour to the nighttime landscape. There was a three-dimensional aspect that emerged. In addition, they lit the way as we moved from dining table to adirondack chairs in the side garden. Since then, I have become a fanatic. I have found a way to set, hang and otherwise place candles through-out my back and side yard. I love the effect they create. The addition of glowing, artsy solar lights have accentuated that warm feeling that the candles created.
Already, my husband and I have been out several nights this year. Slug and snail hunting have predominated but we have lit the candles a couple of times as well. I am most looking forward to about July 15th. For some reason, the environment always changes in the latter portion of July. I will be ready to be lazy and enjoy the summer. It all culminates in September, when I realize that fall (and therefore winter) are around the corner and I need to suck up all the summer I can. Hopefully, you get out into your garden and enjoy the special night garden as well.