Silverbells Upon a Moonlit, May Night: Planning an Enticing Evening Garden . . .

Moonlit_Halesia_ tetraptera_(Carolina_Silverbell) Silverbells Swing in May Moonlight (explore Halesia tetraptera here)

“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine.”  
William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

After the Sun slips below the horizon, tossing her golden farewell to the tree tops, a different kind of garden romance begins. Slowly, indigo-blue twilight sweeps in, enveloping the garden in long, velvet shadows. As darkness falls, lady Moon often makes a dramatic, evening entrance; seducing us with her ever-changing glow and mysterious platinum charm. Overflowing with shimmering, fragrant blossoms and leafy silhouettes, there’s something irresistibly enticing about a moonlit garden. Many of us spend our daylight hours busy with work, leaving our gardens for late afternoon and evening enjoyment. So why not make the most of the night? When designing outdoor rooms for busy clients —particularly entryways, porches, balconies and dining terraces— I like to add a bit of moonlight garden surprise into my planting plans. Silverbell Blossoms —Pretty as Crystals Dangling from a Handblown, Glass Chandelier— Sway in the Breeze Above the Outdoor Dining Table on a Moonlit Evening

A wide variety of trees and shrubs —including the Carolina Silverbell (Halesia tetraptera), pictured here—produce white and light colored blossoms; perfect for catching glints of moonlight. In spring, Serviceberry (Amelanchier x arborea), Dogwood (Cornus florida, C. alternifolia and C. kousa), Cherry (Prunus), Apple (Malus), deliciously fragrant Daphne (D x burkwoodii) and many Viburnum come to mind. Climbers, like self-clinging Moonlight Hydrangea Vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides), and Clematis (particularly white-flowering moon-garden-classic Clematis Henryi), are invaluable for adding height and glow to the evening garden. Flowering perennials —such as fragrant Oriental Lilies (Lilium ‘Casa Blanca’ & ‘Star Gazer’), Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata) and Fairy Candles (Actaea simplex)— especially those with lush, variegated leaves, as well as ferns (particularly Athyrium x ‘Ghost’), foliage plants and ornamental grasses in shades of silver, white and gold are also helpful in creating nighttime drama.

Queen-Annes-Moon-â“’ Queen Anne’s Lace, Silhouetted in the Late-Summer Moonlight

But often, in the stillness of late spring and summertime air, it’s the light, lacy silhouettes and fragrant, evening-blooming annuals that we find most enticing in an evening garden. For alluring scent, try fragrant, flowering tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris), delightful Datura (Datura meteloides ‘Evening Fragrance’), Heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens), Night Phlox (Zaluzianskya capensis), Four-O’Clocks (Mirabilis jalapa), Angel’s Trumpts (Brugmansia arborea), Night-Blooming Jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum); all among my favorites. And for some reliable, light reflection, add classic Moonflowers (Ipomoea alba), Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) and sparkly, white Spider Flowers (Cleome hassleriana), for more night-dazzling pizazz.

Photography & Text â“’ Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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