Moonlight Gardening

Picture this,” invites night-beguiled blogger Moonfairy,

“It’s a warm summer night …

tree frogs and crickets are singing their night songs,

and the full moon is casting its glow on the landscape.

You wander through the moonlight until you come to a place

that seems to glow …

It is your very own moonlight garden,

and creating one is easier than you think.”


Cloud Study, Moonlight by Albert Bierstadt, c. 1860, via Wikimedia Commons

I’m entranced—how about you?

I wandered serendipitously into the magical world of moonlit gardens while wrapping up the latest issue of MaryJanesFarm, June/July 2013.

The theme of the magazine?

“Midnight Hour.”

So, I simply had to know …

what IS a moonlit garden, and how can I get one?


Photo by Imogen Cunningham, 1911, via Wikimedia Commons

What is a Moonlit Garden?

Every good gardener covets the sun.

Our fruits and flowers depend upon those bright, golden rays.

Exposure is everything.

But, as the sun retires and shadow envelops the landscape,

an entire cast of otherworldly blooms begins to unfurl with a whisper

of lush fragrance

and mysterious allure …


“The Night-Blowing Cereus” from The Temple of Flora, 1804, via Wikipedia

Jasmine, tuberose, gardenia, and moonflower take their cue from the darkness,

creating a garden of moonlit wonders,

luring nocturnal pollinators like the velvet-winged luna moth.


Photo of a luna moth by Geoff Gallice via Wikipedia

“Gardens at night are more fragrant than gardens at day because most nocturnal pollinators have poor eyesight so must rely on their sense of smell to find flowers,” says John Kress, curator of botany at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.

Vita Sackville-West, a 19th century gardener and author, designed a divine White Garden at her Sissinghurst Castle in England. The garden was carefully planned to exude an ethereal glow long after sunset, favoring the luminous white blossoms of white tulips, lilies, anemones, cream delphiniums, campanulas, and Iceberg and White Wings roses. Vita wrote that she hoped “the great ghostly barn-owl will sweep silently across a pale garden … in the twilight.”


Photo of a rose arbor in Sissinghurst’s White Garden by Vashi Donsk via Wikipedia

Another maven of moonlit gardens was Thomas Edison’s wife, Mina. In 1929, she commissioned one of the first female landscape architects, Ellen Biddle Shipman, to design a night garden at the Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, Florida. It was filled with blue and white flowers that surrounded a small reflecting pool to capture moonlight.


Photo of Mina Edison’s moonlight garden via Wikimedia Commons

The Making of a Moonlit Garden

While moonlit gardens elicit starry illusions of grandeur, you needn’t be royalty

(or a famous inventor’s wife, as the case may be)

in order to transform your own backyard into a midnight marvel.

In fact, moonlit gardens may be easier to undertake than those we dabble in by day …

“The moon forgives the blight laid bare by sun,” writes National Geographic’s Cathy Newman. “The cankered flower, the desiccated leaf, the rotted branch are swallowed by shadows, leaving only the illusion of perfection, silvered by starshine, gilded by moonlight.”

Ahhh …


Discover fragrant night-blooming flowers and dreamy design ideas for your glowing garden using Moonfairy’s “How to Create a Moonlight Garden” tutorial.

Star light, star bright,

first star I see tonight …

I wish I may, I wish I might

see flowers blooming late at night.


  1. Elizabeth says:

    One of my absolute favorite times to sit outside is a couple of hours before sunrise. As you may have noticed from my posting times here, I am an early riser:-) I love to sit outside & just be among the quietness before dawn. Sometimes I think I hear a hummingbird fly to the feeder hanging not more than 2 feet away from me…? And in the deepest of our hot sticky, summer months a swarm of bats will circle for…? mosquitoes (we always have lots of those here) & before you know it, one of the bats will swoop around one of my planters sitting right next to me! The first time that happened I nearly fell out of my chair.

    Oh, & nighttime is a wonderful time to take pictures of your garden (true, as in your article & links) the flowers look enhanced & the blemishes of the plant seem to disappear:-) I also adore my white bloomers & intentionally try to sniff-out fragrant bloomers to plant for the bees, butterflies & me. I’ve often found bumblebees hugging/latched onto a flower as early as sunrise until it warms up a bit & can fly/move. Some creatures seem to enjoy traveling through town just as the sun breaks in the morning. It is at that time of day that I have seen: a raccoon family moving along the road & seen deer walk the sidewalk as if someone had an invisible leash attached (I really thought it was a Great Dane at first sight) & have spotted a scraggly looking coyote ( & foxes) which take the same path the deer followed.

    We have a friend that finds planting at night (midnight or later) very relaxing; she once planted over 100 tulips bulbs at that time. Moonlit gardens are indeed~enchanting:-)

  2. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I never heard of moonlit gardens?? Where have I been? I have seen the lovely gardens in Fort Myers at Edison and Fords homes. They are quite lovely in the daytime for sure. So many beautiful blooming flowers create amazing landscapes around the two homes. But the moonlit gardens conjure up those fantasies of fairies and gnomes and other folk figures dancing about. Something similar to these gardens are canoe trips on the area rivers at full moon when the landscapes are transformed with the river and hanging Spanish moss. It is indeed enchanting!

  3. Reading this post reminds me of the beautiful moonflowers my mom and I raised one year. The blooms are large, smell sweet, and are a joy to photograph! They seem mysterious, but are so pretty, the white in contrast to the green vine.

  4. Terry Steinmetz says:

    How enchanting & romantic! I may try this one in the place where I plan to put my glamper on our property.

  5. Pingback: Lunar Gardening | Raising Jane Journal

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