In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
July, 2012
Regional Report

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These white lilies are breathtaking in the moonlight.

A Night Garden

After a sweltering day recently, I stepped out at night hoping for a cool breeze. I was absolutely bowled over by the white flowers in my perennial garden. By avoiding the heat outside, I'd missed the fact that my white lilies were in full bloom, accompanied by white balloon flowers, Shasta daisies, woodland tobacco, yucca, and the first of the white phlox. In the soft moonlight, they absolutely glowed..

Night Scents
Accompanying these bright lights was a delightful scent wafting through the air. Even though these lilies had no scent, they were allowed to share the fragrance from the others. There was a six-foot tall evening primrose right at the garden path that I planted last year and forgot. The soft yellow intensely fragrant blossom taunted me as I walked past. I decided to put a chair and table in the garden to enjoy this special spot after dusk.

These are the basic elements which make a night garden work: plants that emit their scent in the evening, flowers with white blossoms, and flowers that open at dusk. And here are a few to get you started on your evening garden.

Yucca has open flowers that simply droop during the day. As the cool of evening approaches, the flowers stand up on their stalks, open wide and fill the air with a soapy-sweet smell to attract the yucca moth that pollinates them.

Even its name is romantic. Moonflower is an annual in a range of colors from yellow to white to red to rosy-pink. Although it has been a standard in my garden for years, the best use I've found for it is on a small trellis next to my flower garden.

Woodland Tobacco
Nicotiana sylvestris grows 4-6 feet tall, with abundant white flowers that are scented like freesias; the fragrance is especially strong at night. It needs a spot at the very back of the garden since it is so tall. I especially love the fact that it will grow in shade. It is a beacon in the woods.

Four O'Clocks
My grandmother always grew four o'clocks, probably because her grandmother always grew four o'clocks. I recently heard that they've been in gardens since the 1500's! The flower colors are a crazy quilt of red, yellow, magenta, pink, crimson and white -- some are even striped. And flowers of several colors may appear on one plant. They open promptly at four o'clock (except during daylight savings time) and fill the air with a lemon-sugar odor. One of the nicest features is their shrubbiness. They make an attractive backdrop to other plants if you design with the flower colors in mind.

Another old-fashioned favorite is the evening-scented stock. These plants do not have the striking, delphinium-like spikes of flowers that garden stocks have, but they are worth planting for their clove-like fragrance alone. The flowers are purple to white and arranged loosely on stalks. Most references suggest planting them behind or among something else that is more showy.

There are countless other plant choices for this special type of garden, such as night phlox, hardy gladiolus, datura, bouncing bet and night-blooming waterlilies. And this doesn't even begin to touch on the white flowers available. I can hardly wait to end my summer days with soft summer nights in my evening garden.

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