October 3, 2014, Release for Tallahassee Democrat
By Marilyn S. Larson
There is something magical about a garden at night. Flowers and shrubs “shine” under the natural light of the moon. Light colors and white take on a glow. Moon gardens can be enjoyed year-round since light-colored and variegated gold and silver foliage plants transcend the seasons.
Why the interest in moon gardens? There has been a great deal of media coverage on the recent Super Moon, planting vegetable gardens by the moon phases and signs, and the upcoming “Moon Over Maclay” Jazz in the Park Concert on October 5th. The topic of moon and gardens sparked an interest as a unique and timely gardening topic.
According to landscaping experts, the key to moon gardens is the use of masses of light colors to make a visual impact. Plants should have cream or snowy white flowers, but a moon garden is not limited to white colors. It may include bright foliage which can be variegated with gold or silver color. It should include night blooming plants and fragrant blooms.
Several years ago while visiting family in the Midwest, I had the opportunity to meet another Master Gardener who had recently designed and planted a moon garden. Although I viewed the garden during the day, I’ve always imagined how the garden area would look when the full moon illuminates a specially-created moon garden enclave on a hilltop bluff of the Missouri River. Her moon garden included trees, shrubs, white flowering annuals and perennials forming an outdoor room with a sitting area from which to take in the view.
Whether a small area in your yard or more ambitious larger yard section, what plant options should you consider for a moon garden? Several annual varieties include moonflowers, also called moon vine Ipomeoa alba, and white flowering four-o-clocks Mirabilis jalaba.
Also consider plants with visual shapes and plants that produce sounds, such as grasses that flutter in the wind. There is a wide range of plants that fit the criteria for a north Florida moon garden and these can include the snowball Viburnum bush, white flowering crape myrtle, white climbing roses and white flowering azaleas. Early blooming flowers include Magnolia trees, azaleas, daffodils, snapdragon and sweet alyssum. Mid-season choices can include queen Anne’s lace Daucus arota, yarrow achillea, white shasta daisy, ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea, ‘white queen’ or ‘Candidum’ caladiums, and a variety of daylillies. Late bloomers for fall include gold chrysanthemums and garden phlox. By adding silvery-gray colors to the mix, the options for plant choices are expanded. Choose dusty miller, artemisia, lamb’s ear stachys, and licorice plant Glycyrrhiza glaba. Use plants with silver and gold variegated leaves to add a golden illumination to a moon garden.
The garden should also include not only the visual element, but something for the other senses by using plants with fragrant blooms, such as the yellow flowering evening primrose Oenothera biennis, gardenia, or ginger lily (butterfly ginger) Hedychium coronarium.
While gardens are generally defined as plant material, by expanding the use of materials and including architectural elements such as a mirrored gazing ball on a pedestal or white pebbles or crushed granite in a pathway to reflect light, all add interest, character and illumination to the garden.
So what could be better than having that special place in your garden where you can relax on a comfortable seat and take in the visual and sensory appeal a moon garden provides?
Marilyn Larson is a Master Gardener volunteer with the UF/Leon County Cooperative Extension Service and a board member of the Friends of Maclay Gardens, Inc. For gardening questions, email us at Ask-A-Mastergardener@leoncountyfl.gov