The Moon Garden

moon flower

I’ve mentioned our moon garden multiple times in homestead updates and in conversation, and based on the number of “what is that?” responses I get, I realize I haven’t actually talked about what a moon garden is, exactly, and why you might want to have your own. So, today’s post is all about moon gardens!

Let’s start with the basics: what the heck is a moon garden? It is, simply, a garden planted to be specifically enjoyed at dusk and/or nighttime, by the light of the moon and stars. Nighttime is a wonderful time to enjoy the garden – it’s quieter, there are fewer bugs about (provided you don’t have a light to attract the night critters), and there’s just something serene about seeing the silhouettes of petals and leaves by the eerie light of the moon, rather than the harsh sunlight of the day.

Another bonus: if you’re out or working during most of the daylight hours, a moon garden provides a way for you to enjoy a garden without feeling rushed, or like you’re missing out on something you’ve worked on. You’ve specifically planted it so you can enjoy it on your own time.

With that in mind, for a moon garden, you plant flowers, herbs, and other plants that have the following characteristics:

  1. They can be seen easily at night. Think white or silvery blooms and leaves, and plants that either tend on the larger side, cover a lot of space, or stand out significantly in darkness.
  2. They evoke senses other than sight. Just because you can’t see the plants as well, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them! Moon garden plants are often very fragrant, and even tactile (soft, fuzzy, or otherwise pleasant and safe to touch).
  3. They bloom and release fragrance at night. Is this necessary? No. Is it amazing to see a flower that opens its petals at dusk for you to enjoy? Heck yes. Do these flowers exist? Double heck yes.

Aside from plants, you can also put other items in the moon garden that reflect moonlight. Think white lawn furniture, gazing balls, statuettes, and the like. (Some people use actual lights in their gardens, too. I prefer to leave the lighting to the moon.) You can plant directly into the ground, or do a moon container garden, with pots and vases in light colors to reflect even more light. Pretty neat, right?

You also want to plant your moon garden somewhere the moon is actually going to shine, and preferably somewhere you can easily find at night. When planning a moon garden, go outside on a few nights when the moon is bright and full(ish), and walk around to see where you’ll get ideal lighting at a time when you’ll actually be out to enjoy it. The moon, after all, moves across the sky like the sun, lest ye forget, so you don’t want to plan a garden in a space that only gets good lighting at 3AM (unless, of course, that’s when you want to use it. More power to ya).

If the space is out of the way or hard to reach in the dark, you’ll also want to plan for a walkable, very visible pathway. You can choose to illuminate this pathway with light-colored stones, solar lights, or however you want – just make sure you don’t trip in the dark!

Now, you may ask, what plants are good for a moon garden? Firstly, as my disclaimer, I urge you to plant native and/or noninvasive plants, especially if you’re planting directly into the ground. This will vary depending on where you live, so do your research. At the very least, plant items that you can easily control their growth and path.

Speaking of controlling the growth path, some of the plants I mention below loooooove to spread, so make sure you’re willing to work with their growth habits, unless you want your whole yard (and your neighbor’s yard) to be a moon garden. This means you might need to get or build trellises, or plant your garden near a fence, or keep certain plants in pots.

moon flower vine
Case in point – this is a moon flower vine. Like, three seeds worth of moon flowers, and that “trellis” is about four feet tall. Build your trellises BEFORE you start growing vines, and build them well.

Finally, you can choose to plant flowers so that everything blooms in midsummer (when your nights are likely to be the most pleasant), or spread out your planting for spring, summer, and fall. We do the latter, with flowers that bloom at different times, but we still focus mostly on summer blooms.

Without further ado, a list of suggested moon garden plants, based on what we’ve done and what we plant to do for the future:

Flowers:

  1. White phlox. This is an early spring bloomer, and spreads as a ground cover if you let it go, albeit fairly slowly.
  2. White blooms in general. For early spring, daffodils and other early bulbs could work. For summer, we’ve got dianthus and daisies. You could also do white roses, azaleas, and hydrangeas in spring and summer, and white mums for early fall. Heck, you could even do pansies in the winter!
  3. Gardenias. Have you smelled a gardenia? And I’m not talking about Bath and Body Works here – get yourself to a gardenia bush and smell the actual flower. Gardenias check the boxes for looks and fragrance.
  4. Moon flowers. These are basically the reason why we have a moon garden. Moon flowers grow fast on creepers/vines (so you’ll need to trellis them), and flourish in late summer, with heart-shaped leaves and hand-sized white blooms that open at night. Definitely my favorite, but definitely something you need to work to control.
  5. Night-blooming jasmine. Haven’t used this one, but might in the future.

Herbs:

  1. Lavender and rosemary. Watch these buggers – they can grow into huge bushes if untamed.
  2. Mint, catnip, and catmint. Keep these in pots, or they’ll take over your yard. Pineapple mint is a favorite of mine, both for its flavor and the fact that the leaves are lined with white stripes.
  3. Sage. Ornamentals are great here (they’re usually a little brighter in color), but culinary sages work well, too.
  4. Bergamot (AKA bee balm). The bergamot herb has silvery-green leaves and spidery flowers in a range of colors, and smells amazing. The plant attracts pollinators (yay!), and as a bonus, it can be used in cooking and teas. It has a bit of a spicy, minty flavor, reminiscent of oregano.

Other:

  1. Lamb’s ear. These soft leaves (like, literally fuzzy soft, hence the name) have a silvery sheen, and range in fuzziness depending on the variety.
  2. Dusty miller. Neat powdery-green leaves that are easily grown big or small.
  3. Hosta. If you’ve got a shady moon garden, or want something in the shady undergrowth, these guys are great. Get a variety lined with white on the leaves to see it better at night.
  4. Ornamental cabbages.

There are so many plants you could use, and I’ll likely think of more as the year progresses. Leave suggestion in the comments if you think of others – I’d love to see more!

As of now, our moon garden a square of mulch with dottings of spring plants just starting to peek out (AKA not much to look at currently). But as the garden grows and we add new seeds, I’ll post the pictures here. Until then, folks, happy moon gardening!

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