A night or moon garden is a delightful way to enjoy evenings in your yard during the warmer weather. Typically, these gardens are comprised of late-afternoon/evening blooming plants that offer pale flowers as well as plants with silvery foliage that capture the delicate light of the moon. Not surprisingly, one of the most popular moon garden plants is aptly named the Moonflower.
Moonflower (Ipomoea alba) – is a beautiful, fragrant, vine that can grow to dramatic heights – 15’-90’ with flowers as large as 6” across. A native perennial in sub-tropical climates, we can grow Moonflowers as annuals here in our area. Moonflowers are related to the Sweet Potato Vine and Morning Glory, with flowers that open in late afternoon
The vines have large, beautiful, heart-shaped leaves that need a sturdy trellis or stakes to support them. The spectacular, iridescent white, trumpet-shaped flowers unfurl at sunset and sometimes on cloudy days, curling back into their closed form as daybreak approaches. Their delightful fragrance makes them perfect to plant by an outdoor eating or lounging area or nearby a window in your home where you can enjoy their sweet scent.
Moonflowers are self-seeders and can form seed pods from their spent flowers, making a surprise appearance in your garden next year. You can deadhead the flowers if you don’t want them to reappear randomly in your garden next season. When the spent flowers drop, a soft, thorny pod develops which becomes hard and sharp over time. Once ripe, the pods burst open, dropping hundreds of seeds.
Ipomoea Albans has a level of toxicity that is considered “low” but there are other plants, also referred to as Moonflowers that have dangerously high toxicity levels such as Datura Inoxia, which is actually related to the Jimson Weed. Be wary of your plant selection and planting site if you have children or pets.
Evening Primrose (Oenothera) – Despite its name, the Evening Primrose is not closely related to the true Primrose (Primula) but is a member of Onagraceae family. There are about 145 species of Evening Primrose native to America, that vary in height size from 10” to 3’ or more and come in colors that include frosty white, rich cream, buttercup yellow, rosy pink, bright orange and brilliant red. They attract butterflies and bees and, in one study, were found to have increased the concentration of sugar in their nectar within minutes of sensing the sound waves of nearby bee wings through flower petals. Some varieties to consider:
- King’s Cure-All – Also known as Common Evening Primrose, can grow from 2-6 feet high, with bright yellow, lemon-scented flowers that bloom in the evening. It is a biennial, which means it will take two years to complete its life cycle; basal leaves established in year one and flowers appearing in year two.
- Siskiyou Pink – The vigorous spreading growth pattern of this Evening Primrose also makes it a great groundcover for sloped areas. It has a long bloom season that runs throughout summer and sometimes into fall. Flowers are a pretty, crystal pink, about 2” wide.
- Twilight – Is a stunning variety with masses of bright pink flowers that float above gorgeous bronze leaves with bright green margins. Twilight reaches a height of about 12” when fully grown.
- Glowing Magenta (Oenothera Kunthiana) – At only 12” tall and wide, what Glowing Magenta lacks in size it makes up in color, boasting hot pink blooms all summer long.
- Lemon Sunset – Derives its name from the sunny yellow flowers that gently fade to a sunset orangey-red as the blooms mature. Lemon Sunset flowers all summer long and reaches a height of 2’-3’.
- Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria) – A lovely addition to a night garden, with soft, fuzzy, silvery grey foliage that captures even the most gentle light. While the plant does produce small yellow blooms as the season progresses, the plant’s popularity is centered on its attractive looks and ability to withstand heat, drought, and a variety of soils. It is an herbaceous perennial in warmer zones, but is typically used as an annual in our area. Deer and pest-resistant, Dusty Miller requires minimal care once established, grows to a height of 10”-18,”and makes a beautiful backdrop for other colorful flowering plants in the garden.
Main Image Credit: Monrovia – Siskiyou Pink Gaura