Marvelous Moon Gardens

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If you spend time outside after dark, you definitely need a moon garden – an area dedicated to plants that attract your attention while the rest of the garden sinks into darkness. Moon garden plants reflect moonlight and subdued artificial light. They arrive for work at dusk and happily reflect light into the night.

Plants visible at night have white flowers or silver foliage, and you can choose from a surprising number of them. Some moon garden flowers only open at night in order to attract pollinating moths that come out after dark. These flowers draw in the moths by emitting a strong scent – yet another benefit of moon gardens.

To start your moon garden, choose any plant with a white bloom that either opens at night or blooms during the day and overnight.

Moon Vine

First, add Ipomoea alba, which has the fitting common name of moon flower. This vine, a large version of morning glory, has huge, 6-inch blooms and heart-shaped leaves. It prefers full sun during the day and blooms annually in Illinois. Prior to planting, soak the seeds for 24 hours to soften the seed coat and speed up germination.

Angel’s trumpet (Datura) and Brugmansia, two more annual white bloomers, have trumpet-shaped flowers that face up and out (angel’s trumpet) or down (Brugmansia). They can also be moved inside and overwintered as a houseplant, but keep these poisonous plants away from children and pets.

Do you want some fragrance in your moon garden? Try sweet autumn clematis (a daytime pollinator magnet), night-blooming jasmine or flowering tobacco (Nicotiana).

Many common annuals have white varieties, including petunias, snapdragons, cleomes, cosmos, gladiolas and impatiens. The first four need sun, while the latter two prefer shade.

If you’re looking for perennials with white-blooming varieties, roses and coneflowers immediately come to mind. Don’t forget about Shasta daisies. I recommend the variety Becky for nonstop blooms from mid-summer to frost.

Illinois Moon Gardens

Some shrubs, such as azaleas, also come in white varieties.

When plant shopping, check the tag to ensure you buy a white variety. Look for the words “alba” or “leucan” in the Latin name.

White flowers serve as only one aspect of moon gardens. Silver-foliaged plants, including Lamb’s Ear, Artemesia Powis Castle and Dusty Miller, also catch the moonlight. Plants with white and green variegated leaves also work.

If a two-toned garden seems too monotonous during the day, throw in some blue or red plants for contrast. You won’t notice them at night, but they will really pop during the day.

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