Moon Shine: Herbs of the Night (part one)

garden-2393245_640By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Often associated with the mystical, moon gardens have been lighting up the night for thousands of years. Adored by lovers and philosophers alike, these midnight gardens were places of secrecy and silence, contemplation and meditation, ritual and ceremony. The moon has always given mankind a reason to look towards the heavens in search of answers and inspiration. The cool solid stillness of the night is the perfect venue to relax and reflect. The moon garden provides just such a place. It is no wonder moon gardens have become not only a popular gardening theme but a true place of peace.

To our ancestors, the roundness and luminosity of the moon spoke primarily to the feminine form and the moon became a goddess of fertility and bounty, a keeper of time, and the mother of all living things. Many cultures paid homage to the moon in the form of deities such as the Greek Selene and Artemis, the Roman Diana, the African Maou and the Aztec Coyolxauhqui. Both beautiful and mysterious, the moon’s soft femininity was countered by a vengeful power strong enough to push and pull the waters of the earth and the cycles of life. Those who worshiped the moon clearly understood this force quite well, performing traditional rituals and ceremonies to honor and appease her.

In ancient times moon gardens were not just for aristocrats, poets, and stargazers; they were places filled with valuable medicinal herbs used in the healing arts and religious rituals. Monks, shamans, doctors and granny women have long been recognized for their contributions to the wealth of knowledge in the use of plants as medicines. Like many farmers of the day, these healers knew that seed should be sown in the light of a full moon and that root crops are best harvested under a waning moon when the energy of the plant is being drawn back down into the earth. This affects not only the plants but the potency and effectiveness of medicines made from them. With the moon playing such a critical role in the growing and harvesting of plants and herbs for food and medicine, it’s no wonder that moon gardens came to be not only functional places but places of sanctuary.

Moon gardens are as old as the mythology surrounding the moon. Little is known about their true origins or when they were first intentionally cultivated. It was most likely a natural progression from an average daytime garden to one that included plants whose bright reflective colors illuminated the darkness all around them, dispelling certain fears and scenting the night air. After all, what better place to meet friends or a lover than in a beautiful garden in the evening when the heat of a summer’s day has slipped away? Like our early ancestors, we too have need of such spaces. Whether you want a special place to gather with friends or loved ones, or a retreat for quiet contemplation, the moon garden simply shines.

Growing your own slice of heaven need not be a complicated affair. And whether you decide to incorporate a few select moon garden plants into an existing flower or herb garden, or create a full-scale masterpiece, only one thing really matters: that you make it a place that you will enjoy.

Next week, I’ll talk more about the types of plants work best in a moon garden!

Until then, happy gardening!

Show Me Oz | Living and loving life in the Ozarks!
Gardening, foraging, herbs, homesteading, slow food, nature, and more!
© Jill Henderson

THPOKH-214x321_thumb7The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs

Learn how to grow and use the world’s oldest, safest, and most medicinal herbs with this easy step-by-step guide!  From starting seeds to preparing home remedies, The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs is a treasured resource that you will turn to time and time again.

Available in the Show Me Oz Bookstore.
Look inside!

Jill Henderson is an artist, author, and the editor of Show Me Oz . Her books, The Healing Power of Kitchen HerbsThe Garden Seed Saving Guide and A Journey of Seasons can be found in the Show Me Oz Bookstore.  Jill is a contributing author for Acres USA and Llewellyn’s Herbal Almanac and her work has appeared in The Permaculture Activist and The Essential Herbal.

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4 responses to “Moon Shine: Herbs of the Night (part one)

  1. Lovely idea … good to remember that some plants come into their own at night so that garden time can be extended. I love the shadows trees and plants create at night. Knowing that other creatures are abroad when we’re not there, it’s good not to use too much extra lighting also. Looking forward to your next episode. xxx

    • Thank you, Sara. I hope you’ve had plenty of moonlit gardens to wander about in as of late! I know I’ve been relishing the nighttime frog and cicada chorus and cooler outside air during these hot days of summer. Plenty of opportunities to enjoy plants that shine in the night.

  2. The breeze of the ocean, and the palm trees offer you peace and calm by night. I love sitting there , nature is wonderful indeed. I love your article Jill.

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