In the Garden:
New England
February, 2004
Regional Report

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White flowers alongside steps and walkways can almost guide you with their nighttime glow.

Evening Garden

I've always loved being in the garden at night. It may have started when I was young and would spend summer nights chasing fireflies in the yard. Then when my son was young and I had precious little leisure time to lose myself in the garden, I'd go out after he was asleep and tend my plants by the light of my headlamp. Now that I don't have to "work" in the garden after dark, I'm free to simply enjoy it. I'm designing some garden beds around my patio to be more luminous at night and having fun thinking about which plants and other features I'd like to incorporate.

Plants That Shine at Night
Reds and oranges may claim dominance during the day, but at night the pale colors come into their own. White flowers, of course, are the stars of the night garden. Moonflowers (Ipomoea alba) are a traditional favorite; as they vine upwards, the large, shimmering flowers seem to reach to the sky. Other delights are Angel's trumpet (Datura spp.), flowering tobacco (Nicotiana alata), and white-flowered varieties of cleome, lavatera, impatiens, alyssum, and phlox. Start all of these indoors in our region or buy transplants, or you'll have to wait too long for the blooms.

Pale pinks and blues also glow, such as the low mounds of perennial Campanula carpatica 'Blue Clips' and annual Phlox drummondii 'Phlox of Sheep', which almost provide floor lighting along the edges of a walkway.

The silver or white variegation of flowers and foliage can be as striking at night as during the day. Lamium maculatum 'Beacon Silver' is a standout ground cover; so is lamb's-ears (Stachys byzantina), dusty miller (Senecio cineraria), and silver mound artemisia (Artemisia schmidtiana).

Heavy Scents
Many flowers that depend on night-flying moths for pollination emit strong fragrances to entice them. We're also the beneficiaries. Heliotrope has both white flowers and fragrance to recommend it (yes, there's a purple heliotrope, too), as do alyssum and moonflowers, four o'clocks (Mirabilis jalapa), and many lilies. Evening-scented stocks (Matthiola bicornis) are nothing special by day, but they earn their keep after dark.

As for fragrant shrubs, there are dwarf lilacs to please us night strollers – or sitters – in late spring, summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) to emit its vanilla-like aroma in late summer, and roses to keep us happy in between.

Glowing Ornaments
I interspersed my bluestone patio with some light-colored rocks that reflect the moonlight, and I'd like to add some more as edging stones. I've seen some commercially made faux rocks with dim lights inside for using along walkways, but you can achieve almost the same effect with white rocks and low voltage pathway lighting. White lattice, statues, birdbaths, and other garden features would also be fun to place near a night-time sitting spot.

Come this summer, we'll see if I can make myself sit down and enjoy all of this without wandering off after the fireflies.


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