Last week I delved into the history of moon gardens and why, after all this time they are still a popular type of garden that anyone can create at home. If you are like me, the first thing you want to know is what kinds of herbs and flowers work best in a moon garden. Because it will be enjoyed primarily in the evening or after dark, plants for a moon garden have several things in common. To begin with, moon garden plants generally have blooms that either stay open or bloom exclusively at night. These flowers generate the most “shine”. White, yellow and gold are all good color choices, though red and purple flowers can add a nice jolt of color for sunset viewing. Also, having one or two plants with sweetly fragrant flowers such as night blooming jasmine, white roses, or angel’s trumpets adds yet another layer of enchantment to the moon garden.
The second most important feature of moon garden plants is reflective foliage. Below you will find groups of flowering plants and herbs that have grey, silver, or variegated foliage. These plants add much-needed depth and contrast to the moon garden by reflecting their ghostly forms. And many plants with grey-green foliage have the added bonus of being luxuriantly touchable and sometimes quite fragrant as well. Artemisia and sage are two good examples.
The next group of plants anchors the garden by providing vertical lines and structural interest to the moon garden. These include ornamental grasses, small trees, slender shrubs, and even bamboo. Ornamental grasses have the added benefit of generating movement and sound. Last but not least, you can add a touch of functionality and whimsy to your moon garden by including a few white or almost-white vegetables such as pumpkins, eggplant, tomatoes, okra, and peppers. Many of these vegetables are not only decorative but edible as well. Imagine the ghostly forms of white bell pepper lanterns or magical glowing pumpkins in your moon garden. What a sight!
The following groups of plants are meant to get you started on your moon garden adventure. These plants are but a few of the thousands of wonderful possibilities. Use them as a stepping stone to find new and interesting cultivars to plant in your own moon garden.
These lists show whether the plant is an annual or perennial and gives the common name, the Latin name, and where appropriate, the specific cultivar name. Please note that a few of the night blooming plants are poisonous and have been marked as such. Use caution when growing these around small children.
- Datura/White Moonflower (Datura inoxia) annual, poisonous
- Cereus Cactus (Cerus genus) perennial
- Night Blooming Aroids (Philodendron/Arum Family) varies
- Angel’s Trumpet (Brugmansia arborea) tender perennial
- Night Blooming Water Lily (Nymphaea lotus var. ‘Dentata Superba’) self-sowing annual
- Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris) self-sowing annual, poisonous
White and Yellow Flowers
- Cleome (Cleome hassleriana) self-sowing annual
- Daylily (Hemerocallis species) perennial
- Evening Primrose (Oenothera species) annual/perennial
- Evening Primrose (Oenothera speciosa var. ‘Pink Petticoats’) perennial
- Garden Thyme (Thymus species) perennial
- Opium Poppy (Papaver laciniatum var. ‘Swansdown’) self-sowing annual
- Oriental Poppy (Papaver orientale var. ‘Louvre’) self-sowing annual
- Snow-on-the-Mountain (Euphorbia marginata) annual
- Sulphur Cinquefoil (Potentilla recta var. ‘Warrenii’)
- Vervain (Verbena officinalis) perennial
- White Four O’clock (Mirabilis jalapa) annual
- White-Flowered Borage (Borago officinalis var. ‘Alba’) self-sowing annual
- Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) perennial
- Yucca (Yucca filamentosa) perennial
Grey, Silver and Variegated Foliage
- Artemisia (Artemisia ludoviciana var. ‘Silver King’) perennial
- Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides var. ‘The Line’) annual
- Common Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis var. ‘Berggarten’) perennial
- Common Rue (Ruta graveolens) annual
- Curry Plant (Helichrysum italicum) tender perennial
- Eucalyptus Plant (Eucalyptus gunnii var. ‘Silver Drop’) tender perennial
- Lamb’s Ears (Stachys byzantina) perennial
- Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) perennial
- Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) perennial
- Munstead Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia var. var. ‘Munstead’) perennial
- Red Everlasting (Helichrysum sanguineum) perennial
- Sage/Salvia (Salvia species) perennial
- Santolina (Santolina chamaecyparissus) perennial
- Variegated Yucca (Yucca filamentosa var. ‘Variegata’) perennial
- Woolly Lavender (Lavandula lanata) perennial
- Woolly Thyme (Thymus psuedolanginosus) perennial
- Wooly Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina) perennial
- Wormwood (Artemisia pontica) perennial
- Yarrow (Achillea taygetea var. ‘Moonshine’) perennial
Vines with White Flowers
- Clematis (Clematis terniflora var.‘Sweet Autumn’) perennial
- Moonflower Vine (Ipomoea alba) annual poisonous
- Night Blooming Jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum) perennial
- White Cypress Vine (Ipomoea quamoclit) annual
- Blue Fescue (Festuca glauca) perennial
- Creeping Broad Leaf Sedge (Carex siderosticha var. ‘Lemon Zest’) perennial
- Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora var. ‘Avalanche’) perennial
- Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora var. ‘Karl Foerster’) perennial
- Golden Hakonechloa Grass (Hakonechloa macra var.‘Aureola’) perennial
- Japanese Silver Grass (Miscanthus sinensis var. ‘Cabaret’) perennial
- Japanese Silver Grass/Porcupine Grass (Miscanthus sinensis var.‘Super Stripe’) perennial
- Mt. Hakone Grass (Hakonechloa macra) perennial
Trees, Shrubs, and Bamboo
- Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides) perennial
- Ghost Bamboo (Dendrocalamus minor amoenus) perennial
- Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corylus avellana var.‘’Contorta’) perennial
- White Climbing Rose (Rosa species) perennial
- Yellow Stem Bamboo (Phyllostachys aureosulcata var.‘Spectabilis’) perennial
- Bell Pepper – ‘Bianca Hybrid’
- Eggplant – ‘Alba’
- Eggplant – ‘White Egg’
- Eggplant – ‘White Lightning Hybrid’
- Hot Pepper – ‘Arrivivi Gusano’
- Okra – ‘White Velvet’
- Pumpkin – ‘Baby Boo’
- Pumpkin – ‘Lumina’
- Tomato – ‘Great White’
- Tomato – ‘Weissbehaarte’
Now that you have an idea of the types of plants that can be grown in a moon garden, let’s get down to the bones! Start by selecting a location for your garden. It can be in a little-used corner of the yard for privacy or meditation, or it can sit smack dab in the middle of the yard. For trip-free nighttime strolls be sure and allow plenty of room for pathways that are both wide and clear. And if you are not the type of person who really wants to wander in the yard at night, consider placing the garden near a porch or deck where it can be enjoyed in relative comfort and safety.
Of course, your moon garden can be any shape or size you like, but the traditional moon garden shape is round. A circle can be arranged in many interesting ways. If the purpose of your moon garden is for relaxing or meditation, perhaps you might like to have a labyrinth of pathways within the circle that lead to a focal point in the center, such as a sitting area. A circle garden can be quartered to represent the four equinoxes, or wedged into twelve triangles to represent the months of the year. Half or crescent moon-shaped gardens lend themselves well to a fence or trellis against which climbing, night-blooming plants become the focal point.
Limited space or apartment living need not deter you from creating a small, but beautiful moon garden. It is surprising how many plants can be grown on the smallest deck or patio using pots, urns or tubs. Small wooden or plastic trellises are perfect for growing vining moonflowers or jasmine. To add some drama and flair to a small garden, use stands, blocks or empty pots to stagger plants at different heights. Hanging baskets, window boxes and many other space-saving planters are available to those with small spaces.
Water features are especially beautiful in moon gardens. Fountains make soothing gurgling sounds, while still ponds and birdbaths shimmer and shine with the moon’s reflection. Particularly attractive in a moon garden are large structural elements such as glass orbs, statues, and sculptures. Objects that reflect light or make soft sounds are all welcome additions to the moon garden. Stones don’t always shine, but they add a lot of architectural interest to any garden. Even light-colored pebbles in a pathway will glow in the moonlight, guiding you safely through the garden.
Obviously, a moon garden is meant to be viewed in the soft ambient light of the moon, which isn’t always available when we want it to be. For cloudy nights or those of the new moon, a few strategically placed solar path lights will do wonders to make your garden shine. Even on full moon nights, one or two spotlights focused upwards or placed behind a predominant feature such as a fountain, statue or trellis might just take your garden from pretty to stunning. No matter what shape, size or configuration you choose for your moon garden, be sure to provide comfortable seating so you can sit back and enjoy the light of the silvery moon.
For thousands of years, mankind has gazed into the heavens and been awed by the beauty of the moon. The ancient Hermetic teaching, “as above, so below” is one that is quite appropriate when contemplating a moon garden, which is simply an earthly reflection of the heavens above. A moon garden teaches us to see things in a different light – both literally and figuratively. To see it correctly and to fully appreciate the smallest detail of a moon garden, we are forced to slow down and adjust our vision and perspective. Doing so allows a gentle light to really shine.
Show Me Oz | Living and loving life in the Ozarks!
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© Jill Henderson
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.
Jill Henderson is an artist, author, and the editor of Show Me Oz Her books, The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs, The Garden Seed Saving Guide and A Journey of Seasons and Illuminati Agenda 21 can be found in the Show Me Oz Bookstore. Jill is a featured columnist for Acres USA and a contributing author to Llewellyn’s Herbal Almanac and her work has appeared in The Permaculture Activist and The Essential Herbal.
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