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Moon Gardens

White Flowers and Plants That Show Up at Night


Wolf Eyes dogwood picture. Wolf Eyes is a Chinese dogwood tree.

With 'Wolf Eyes' Japanese dogwood you get a 2-for-1: white blooms, variegated leaves.

David Beaulieu

So-called "moon gardens" are landscapes so designed as to make it possible for you to enjoy them at night, even without flooding your backyard with tons of artificial light. They will show up better on nights with lunar lighting, but the best designs will be enjoyable even in the absence of moonlight, since they'll contain fragrant flowers that you can appreciate with your nose.

There are basically four types of plants (there will be some overlap) used in moon gardens:

  1. Plants with white flowers
  2. Plants with bright foliage
  3. Night bloomers
  4. Plants with fragrant blooms

While the use of a mass of color can have great visual impact regardless of your landscape design theme, mass plantings are especially called for when planting moon gardens: a mass of white flowers simply has a better chance of having an impact than would the same white flowers scattered about. Remember, you're looking for plants that show up at night; one blossom here and there will be swallowed up by the darkness.

Plants: List of White Flowers

We can further break down this category by focusing on season of bloom for the typical northern landscape. The early bloomers will light up your yard in early-to-mid spring, after which they pass the baton to the mid-season bloomers. The latter can be supplemented with annuals. You'll have to wait till late summer for the late bloomers, but they're welcome reinforcements who will grant your moon garden a "second wind" when they do arrive.

Some of the plants on my list of white flowers come in colors other than white, too, but those with white flowers are preferred for plantings geared to nighttime viewing:

On Page 2 I'll list some plants with bright foliage for moon gardens. One benefit in going the foliage route is low-maintenance, since leaves generally last longer than blossoms do. On Page 2 I also cover night bloomers and plants with fragrant flowers. The latter bring an extra sense into play (the sense of smell) and can be admired even on nights that are totally dark....

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