The idea for a moonlight garden began when I visited Nantucket one summer. It was evening and at the entrance to an art gallery an all-white garden caught my attention.

At the back of the garden was a white flowering dogwood, Cornus kousa. Over the silvery flowerbed, its branches formed an airy canopy over part of the garden. Silvery foliage plants and flowers in various shades of white made the garden shimmer in the June moonlight.

hydrangea white_diamonds

Returning home from our trip I began to create my moonlight garden. Choosing the site was easy. I added plants and shrubs to my herb garden that would reflect the light at night. The plants in the herb garden—rosemary, sage, lavender, artemesia, silver thymes, a curry plant, Russian sage and yarrow added iridescence and gave me a head start on creating my moonlight garden.

Even when a full moon is not out, a few garden lights illuminate the white-flowered plants and silver foliage. Their soft, gray leaves add a glow to the garden. White roses, shasta daisies, lamb’s ears silver gray-green foliage can take the sun; shade lovers like white astilbe, white bleeding heart and even some hostas are good plants for the moonlight garden with partial sun.

Fragrant plants like nicotiana, white Asian lilies, sweet alyssum and white petunias will bring lovely scents to the garden. Your moonlight garden can be planted with bulbs like glads, dahlias and irises in a variety of white tones. And you can begin as early as spring for your moonlight garden; plant bulbs—daffodils, hyacinths, tulips and snowdrops.


The moonlight garden can have shrubs and trees if you have the space. At the back of the garden, place Annabelle hydrangea, white lilac, a weeping silver pear, a butterfly bush or a mock orange and towards the center, white peonies and white-bearded iris followed by low growing ground covers like variegated silver and white foliage lamium or a carpet of white sweet woodruff. I love the tiny white whorls of sweet woodruff’s flowers atop shiny stiff green foliage; however, it can be invasive.

Vines can be a part of the moonlight garden. White morning glories, white clematis and moonvine, a night bloomer, are nice additions to the moonlight garden. A small pergola, trellis or arbor can support these climbers.

Containers are not to be overlooked for holding plants that shine at night. The nice thing about containers is their mobility for placing them where the plants will be seen in the moonlight. Cascading petunias, portulaca, impatiens, begonias, sweet alyssum come in shades of white and make good container plants.

As always, location of the garden is important. Is it in the backyard, on a back deck or a spot in the front of the house? Plant your garden where you know you will spend a lot of time. Note where the light shines both day and night when you are choosing a location. If space is limited, even those who live in an apartment can enjoy a moonlight garden. This is where you will fill containers with plants to catch the moonlight and you can add outdoor garden lighting, too.


Ornaments in the moonlight garden will also catch the light and act as reflectors in the garden. I like soft gray stone statuary, a water fountain, a gray stone birdbath and some stones to reflect and replay the light of the moon. A birdbath filled with water when the moon is shining gives off a shimmering reflection.

Once your moonlight garden is completed, dining and entertaining there will be wonderful. The fragrant blooms will send a heady scent throughout the garden and cast a spell of enchantment. A full moon or the garden lights beckon me to my garden of the night for magical moments.

Tips for a Moonlight Garden: 

  • Keep in mind the growing habits of plants as to whether they prefer sun or shade. The plants will be blooming in the daytime, so if a sun-loving plant is planted in a shady spot, it will not be flowering well in the night garden. Also, if you plant a shade-loving plant in full sun, it could wilt by nighttime.
  • At night, our eyes view objects differently. Most colors vanish and blue becomes white. Choose some of these blue flowering plants: forget-me-nots with masses of pale blue flowers and rosemary with tiny blue flowers. For blue or white blooms, balloon flower and scabiosa daisy offer both colors.

Carole McCray is an award-winning garden and lifestyle writer and artist who lives, writes gardens and paints in the scenic Laurel Highlands in southwestern Pennsylvania. She won the 2003 Garden Writers Award of Achievement for her article on Native Seeds published in The Christian Science Monitor Newspaper. You can read Carole's profile at www.theMulch.com/my-profile/userprofile/laurelmt.

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