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Simple Steps to Create a Night Garden

Maria is a master gardener and master of public health. She & her husband, known online as The Gardener & The Cook, live in coastal Alabama.

Part of my night garden. Those white flowers almost glow in the dark!

Part of my night garden. Those white flowers almost glow in the dark!

A night garden is a flower garden that shows up well at night. On a moonlight night, it can appear to be almost iridescent.

There are some very simple steps to having a night garden — they are usually made up of white, bright yellow, or pale pink flowers, and other very light-colored flowers.

Some people prefer to use only night-blooming flowers. I prefer white flowers and yellow flowers that bloom both day and night. I am just getting started on having a night garden again, after relocating about eighteen months ago.

I have had one in the past, and am excited to do it again. I love my hot pink gerbera daisies and vinca, orange zinnias, and other bright, cheerful colors, so when I decided to start a new night garden, I simply tucked the white and yellow plants in among my foliage plants and those bold, bright-colored flowers.

Here's the same photo in the daylight. Notice the pink and purple flowers. There are also some bare spots where tulips have died down. Other summer annuals will fill in those spaces with a little help from me.

Here's the same photo in the daylight. Notice the pink and purple flowers. There are also some bare spots where tulips have died down. Other summer annuals will fill in those spaces with a little help from me.

Night-blooming Flowers Are Not Required.

It is absolutely NOT necessary to limit your garden to only white or pale flowers. They will show up at night, and the darker colors will simply recede into the background. So, you see, there really are some very simple steps to having a night garden.

White Hollyhocks

White Hollyhocks

Hollyhocks

Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) are annuals, but, in my mind are like perennials in the sense that they re-seed themselves from year-to-year. They grow 6 – 8 feet tall when planted in good, rich soil. The entire stalk will be covered with flowers that are approximately 3 inches across (1 inch equals about 1.5 cm).

If you plant enough of them, they will provide a beautiful screen that can hide an unsightly view, or give privacy to a patio. They also make a wonderful backdrop for lower-growing flowers. Many people plant the shorter daylilies and irises in front of hollyhocks, and even shorter flowers such as vinca, impatiens, or petunias in front of the daylilies and irises.

The hollyhock in the photo above is a volunteer, the name given to plants that grow from seed dropped by last year’s plants. The great thing is that only the strongest seed from last year seem to have come up this year, giving me far larger and healthier plants than I had last year.

The dwarf lemon drop marigold is one of my favorites, and never lets me down.

The dwarf lemon drop marigold is one of my favorites, and never lets me down.

As you can see, the white marigold is not truly white, but it will be radiant in the moonlight.

As you can see, the white marigold is not truly white, but it will be radiant in the moonlight.

Marigolds

Marigolds (Tagetes patula) are available in a large variety of colors and multi-color blooms. They come in small, mounding bedding plants with tiny 1-inch flowers, and in larger plants with 3-inch flowers, and some in-between sizes.

Marigolds are often thought of as old-fashioned flowers, but they add a burst of lively color to any landscape. They will re-seed themselves during the flowering season, continuing to produce more plants all summer. They do need to be deadheaded, however, and some people don’t have time to do it, but they will perform much better for you if you do this.

Lots of Flowers Need Deadheading

Deadheading is manually removing spent blooms. The sole purpose in the life of an annual is to bloom, die, produce seed for the next year, then repeat that sequence over and over from year to year. Pinching off the spent blooms, will prevent the plant from producing seed, so it will keep on blooming in an effort to accomplish its purpose.

Petunias

Petunias

Petunias

Petunias (Petunia × atkinsiana) come in many colors and color combinations. They will bloom all summer and into the fall, providing you with a mass of flowers. In climates that get too hot, such as central Florida, they probably will not survive the intense heat of mid-summer. They do tend to pout after a hard rainfall, but will perk up when the sun comes out again. You may have to remove any rain-damaged blossoms. Whether it rains or not, deadhead them regularly to encourage more flowers.

This a one of the few of my pansies that is hanging on in the summer heat.

This a one of the few of my pansies that is hanging on in the summer heat.

Pansies and Violas

This is one of the last pansies (Viola × wittrockiana) in my garden this year. They are quickly giving way to the summer heat. Violas (along with pansy and wild violet) are known as a type of viola. The ones we gardeners refer to as violas are a smaller cousin to the larger pansies. No, this one is not white, but it will glisten in the moonlight, right along with the white flowers. I particularly enjoy yellow flowers. They seem to shout, “Joy!” to me.


Another good thing about pansies is that they are edible, and are often used as a garnish on entrees and salads. Sugared pansies are often used on cakes as decoration. I tasted a pansy flower once, but did not care for the taste.

Note: I do not know if violas are edible, so please do not eat them without consulting an expert on edible flowers.

This photo of vinca was taken at night.

This photo of vinca was taken at night.

This one I call "peppermint" because of the tiny red center on the white blossom.

This one I call "peppermint" because of the tiny red center on the white blossom.

Vinca

Vinca (Catharanthus roseus) also known by another common name, periwinkle, is my old gardening stand-by. It is tough enough to resist the summer heat and some pretty cold temperatures. Once its roots are established, it is fairly drought-tolerant, too.

My experience has been that, if you are gardening in Zone 8-b or farther south, and there are freezing temperatures, the top layers of the plant will look pretty bad, but the roots will most likely survive.


If that happens, what should you do?

If that happens, wait until the risk of another freeze has passed, then remove the brown, damaged parts, and you will see little new growth down at the ground level. Be patient, and beautiful new growth be back soon.

Candytuft

Candytuft

Candytuft

As long as I can remember, my mom had candytuft (iberus) in her garden. Many years ago, she gave me some of hers, and I have taken some of it with me every time I moved. Well, except for the time we moved to Colorado. I didn’t know whether or not it would survive out there, as many of the leafed evergreen plants are burned by the proximity to the sun at those altitudes.

As soon as we returned from Colorado to Alabama, I went to my mom’s garden, and got more candytuft. I took it with me on our move to central Florida. It was fine there, too.

Candytuft is great in containers, rock gardens, or tumbling over a wall. I took the photo above at a local public area where they had a lot of flowers in containers. Candytuft spreads quickly, and makes a nice border, too. If you don’t want your candytuft to spread into your other flowers or shrubs, put it in containers.

Wild Dogwood Tree

Wild Dogwood Tree

Wild Dogwood Tree

This is a photo of the flowers of a wild dogwood tree (Cornus florida) that is in the backyard of our former home near Charlotte, NC, USA. There were several of these delicate-looking trees in a wooded area at the back of our small quarter-acre lot. At night, those white flowers reminded me of tiny lights out in the wooded area where I had planted an understory of azaleas, daffodils, daylilies, hosta, bleeding hearts, and ferns.

It’s Your Night Garden!

Whatever flowers you choose, it will be beautiful, and you will enjoy it. Be sure to include some plants that re-seed themselves, so you will have less work to do next season.

© 2021 MariaMontgomery

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