The magic of a twilight garden
Nocturnal gardens are a romantic enough notion to draw us outdoors even on chilly Seattle nights, says Plant Life columnist Valerie Easton.
What works when the light fades
White, cream and palest yellow flowers, as well as silver foliage are the go-tos for evening gardening. Also effective are pale blues and purples.
Angel's trumpet (Brugmansia spp.): These statuesque annuals with large, pale bell flowers have an intoxicating scent at night. A single specimen grown in a pot can scent a large terrace or patio.
Daylily (Hemerocallis citrina): A pale yellow daylily that blooms and releases its lemony fragrance at dusk.
Moonflower (Ipomea alba): An annual vine with pure white flowers that stay tightly shut during the day. Each flower pops open at night to emit a strong, sweet, moth-attracting fragrance.
Lily (Lilium regale 'Album'): Lilies come into bloom in July and August when the evenings are warmest. Plant these white trumpet-shaped lilies to tower over your dining table and fill the garden with their strong, sweet perfume.
Local news partner - Plant Talk
Valerie Easton writes in her blog about gardens and the people who make them. A columnist for The Seattle Times' Pacific Northwest Magazine for the last 14 years and author of four books on gardening, she lives on Whidbey Island where she loves to hike, read and garden.
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GARDENS ARE magical after dark, when pale flowers and foliage gleam in the moonlight and, if you're lucky, a bat or owl swoops through for Gothic effect. Overhead are stars, underfoot even the rustling of insects is magnified into mystery. Some flower fragrances are more potent as the sun goes down.
Is this because, as our vision diminishes with nightfall our other senses become more acute? Maybe this heightened sensitivity is why dinner always tastes better eaten outside, and birdsong and frog cheep are especially sweet in the evening.
Whatever the reasons, nocturnal gardens are a romantic enough notion to draw us outdoors even on chilly Seattle nights. A fire pit, chiminea or, luxury of luxuries, a heat lamp helps. But so do blankets, sweaters and fleece.
Maybe this'll be the summer when the days are warm enough that brick and stone patios store up heat during the day to release after the sun goes down. We deserve it after last summer, when we ate outside only a few times, so swathed in lap robes we felt as if we were on the deck of a ship.
Whether or not we'll have the heat, there's a new book from England that'll add to the mystique. "The Twilight Garden: Creating a Garden That Entrances by Day and Comes Alive at Night" (Ball Publishing, $26.95) suggests plants and touches sure to lure us outdoors to bask in long, midsummer evenings.
Author Lia Leendertz is an encouraging guide. "No matter how chilly or windblown you get, you feel slightly more alive at the end of an evening out-of-doors," she writes. From summer barbecues to a quiet evening spent moon gazing, Leendertz explores the possibilities for what to do outside after dark in our own backyards.
While most nocturnal-gardening books concentrate on white and scented plants, lighting is also vital for safety and enhancing the experience of nature at night. But not too much or too bright — you don't want to compete with nature's own night lighting of moon and stars. "Ever felt romantic under strip lighting?" Leendertz cautions. She suggests more subtle possibilities, including solar lights, candles, fairy lights (Brits' term for strings of tiny white lights). Most of all, this author is practical; she suggests sticking candles in glass jars. "One of the beauties of night gardening is that no one can really see how posh your candle holder is anyway."
Your guests will ooh and ahhh over globes of white allium shimmering in the fading light, flowering tobacco releasing its sweet scent into the night air, and perhaps those silky solar lanterns that soak up, then release, sunlight's glow.
But it's the gardener who most appreciates nightfall. All the weeds and not-quite-finished work fade gently into the darkness, and you can relax and enjoy your garden — until tomorrow anyway, when the morning light will shine again on all that needs to be done.
Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer and author of "The New Low-Maintenance Garden." Check out her blog at www.valeaston.com.
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