Your garden might look beautiful when the sun is shining. But what happens after dark? We all enjoy being able to sit back, relax and soak up the beauty of our outdoor spaces during the day, but what about creating a garden that shines at night for a whole new dimension. A whole other world exists in the light of a moon-filled night that few of us even notice.
Many people use lights in the garden to illuminate it at night and whilst dramatic up lighters can certainly illuminate your plants –imagine a garden that comes to life at night all by itself, twinkling and shimmering under the silvery light of the moon and emitting an intoxicating evening scent.
In the height of summertime’s heat, we often drift outdoors at dusk to refresh ourselves in the cooler air of evening. Stay a while and listen, evening birdsong welcomes in ever-lengthening shadows to create a natural symphony of overlapping sensations that invigorate the body and gladden the soul. As the sun sets, the vivid colours of most flowers and leaves fade, becoming a dull grey, but a moon garden provide us with a space to appreciate Mother Nature’s bounty long after the light of day has retreated. Designed to be enjoyed from dusk until the coming of the darkness, these gardens serve as a perfect complement to silvery moonlight, mild summer nights, and the spirit of rejuvenation.
Green spaces come alive at night when nocturnal blossoms release their perfume into the air and ethereally lovely and luminous foliage dances in the breeze. In a moon garden, relaxation is a simple matter of attuning yourself to the stillness of evening and seeing, for the first time, the myriad shades of beauty that can be found in the darkness.
Most plant life worships the sun, but a select few shrubs and flowers come into their own in the moons glow. The silvery leaves of lamb’s ears and artemisia reflect the radiance of the moon, while the bright-white flowers adorning yucca and evening primrose seem to shimmer brilliantly in dusk’s gloom. Certain blossoms such as the moonflower open only at night, releasing their sweet fragrances in spectacular displays of scent and beauty.
A moon garden can be a joy for each human sense. We appreciate the ghostly beauty of night-time nature best when we can sit comfortably until our eyes have adjusted to the surrounding darkness. Bamboo and thick grasses make a comforting sound when bandied about by gentle night-time breezes.
Once the sun goes down and we head indoors, a new world of wildlife wakes up and takes over. There are estimated to be over 15 million gardens in the UK, covering an area greater than all the National Nature Reserves combined! So our gardens are vitally important habitats for wildlife. By taking small steps to make them more wildlife friendly we can make a big difference – and there are lots of benefits for gardeners too, sit quietly in the garden at night and you’ll have a ringside seat to see everything from foxes to field mice. The air is alive with nocturnal flyers, a typical garden may contain more than 200 species of moth. They visit looking for flowers that open at night so they can find nectar. You may even be lucky enough to see long-eared bat, which has huge ears that are super-sensitive. According the Bat Conservation Trust, it can even hear a ladybird walking on a leaf!
By far the most famous (and popular) nocturnal garden animals are hedgehogs. One of the easiest ways to help is to create ‘hedgehog highways’ – small holes in boundaries that allow hedgehogs to roam freely. They can travel quite large distances at night, but not if they can’t get through your fence! Cut a hole 13cm x 13cm for easy access.
Owls are famous for their late-night hoots, but lots of other birds croon by moonlight, too. In fact, ecosystems around the planet host a surprising variety of night birds whose voices can be as haunting as any hoot from an owl. Most of these birds have been serenading night since prehistory, and their after-dark arias are now staples in nature’s dusk-to-dawn soundtrack. If not for night birds, the anthem of evening in many places may be little more than traffic noise.
Robins aren’t naturally nocturnal, but they are well-adapted to twilight, so they also tend to be the first birds singing at dawn and the last to stop after dusk. And since their timing is based largely on light levels, robins can be easily fooled by electric lights, so think carefully about where you place lights as urban lights may convince robins that daytime never ends — and their extra singing isn’t necessarily harmless. Singing is a costly behaviour; it takes energy. So by increasing their song output, there might be some energetic costs.
Transforming a portion of your existing garden into a moon garden is simple, and the pleasure you will derive from your night-time retreat will become worth it once you start to enjoy it.