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Evening garden offers oasis after a day of work

Tuesday, July 15, 2008 | 3:00 p.m. CDT; updated 1:21 p.m. CDT, Friday, April 10, 2009

Have you ever considered planting an evening garden? A lot of people work during the day and don’t get to enjoy their gardens much. The solution can be to design your garden to be viewed at night.

An evening garden can be a wonderful oasis to come home to after a day of work.

Many plants take on a magical appearance at that time. Our eyes see differently at night, and colors tend to take on a different look. An evening garden relies heavily on flowers that are white or light-colored and so are visible even on a moonless night. Moonlight illuminates the flowers and foliage, making the garden at night a different experience.

Nighttime flowers are exactly that — they bloom in the evening and remain closed during the daytime. These flowers often give off beautiful, fragrant scents, and the evening dew helps intensify those scents. Even if some of the flowers do bloom during the day, it is in the evening when they give off their fragrance. Scent in the evening somehow carries farther than in the daytime, and it is this scent that attracts the nighttime moth pollinators.

There are quite a few plants that are suitable for evening gardens. Consider planting a dusty miller. Its leaves range from gray-green to silvery white. Trumpet lilies give off a heady smell and heliotrope, which also comes in a creamy white that will shine at night, gives off a sweet vanilla scent. Alyssum has tiny white flowers and a sweet smell, making it good for pots and borders. Impatiens also comes in white, and when planted in a pot or on a deck it can reflect light from the moon to create a beautiful effect.

Peonies, roses and hydrangeas also come in bright whites and yellows and will add much beauty to the evening garden.

Bright foliage is another way to create evening beauty in the garden. Lamium has two-toned white centered leaves and spreads in the garden bed. Dusty miller is, again, a good choice. Lamb’s ears are another good plant for evening foliage.

A favorite flower for an evening garden would be moonflower. These are annual vines that thrive in hot weather. It is similar to the morning glory except it blooms at night. Its large, white blossoms seem to illuminate the garden. They are pure white with faint green tracings and the blossoms are fragrant all evening. By noon, the blossoms dwindle and close up. This vine will need support along a trellis or fence and is a good selection to place near a favorite seating area.

Evening primrose is another good choice. This plant has four satiny heart-shaped petals that form open cups with long stamens. When they open, the blossoms are a soft, clear white that fade into pink as the flowers mature. Their scent is reminiscent of a blend of honeysuckle and lemon custard. The flowers open every evening until frost.

Nicotinia is another sweet-scented flower whose blossoms close in the daytime but open in the late afternoon and fill the air with jasminelike aroma. In looking for your plants, be sure to look for fragrant hostas. Other plants worth considering as choices for an evening garden are the snow bush, gardenia, perfumed fairy lily, dame’s rocket, tuberose, petunia and dianthus.

The visual impact of bright whites, the scents of flowers and the sound of the evening all combine to make the evening garden a place that will calm and sooth the spirit — a place to relax and enjoy yourself after a long, hard day.

Barbara Michael has been a Master Gardener since 1993, and she serve as the Master Gardener’s liaison to the Community Garden Coalition as well as serving on its board. She enjoys container gardening and houseplants. She can be reached at bam626_us@yahoo.com.


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