Moon Gardens

There is something very special about a garden of white flowers and silver foliage, reflecting the moonlight and giving it an almost magical feel. Couple this with the fact that many white flowers release their fragrance after sunset, filling the air with perfumes, and on a moonlit night this creates a glorious romantic place. This is a Moon Garden!

Moon gardens work best if they are away from artificial light, such as street lights, which is why they work so well in country gardens.

Massed planting of May Bush (Spiraea cantoniensis) along the side of a long winding drive will reflect the moonlight as well as the car lights, and provide a guiding ‘light’ to the house. Even in a suburban area, white flowering plants in a darker area of the garden can give the same effect.

A trick landscape designers use is to make the surrounding colour dark so that even in daylight the white flowers will appear to be more luminous.

White garden, Sissinghurst

A garden of white flowers is a relatively new garden style.
In 1950, at Sissinghurst in Kent, Vita Sackville-West created what is considered to be one of the first white gardens. Although she referred to it as her “grey, green and white garden“. The garden was used for garden parties in the long English twilight with the white flowers ‘lighting up’ the garden.

A single species could be used for a white garden but to ensure there are flowers all year round, a mix of white species planted in drifts works best. The selection of species will vary depending on where the garden is located.

Besides flowers and foliage, water can be used to great effect. Running over rocks water provides reflection, or even better, a small fountain with tiny water droplets will catch the moonlight and appear like crystals in the air.

La Rosaleda, New Plymouth, NZ

White gardens blend well with a cottage garden style but can also look great as a perennial border, which can suit a range of garden styles.

I visited Coleen Peri’s garden, La Rosaleda, in New Plymouth (NZ) during the Taranaki Garden Spectacular. Photograph shows a border which includes many different white flowering plants: white roses in the foreground, a wonderful Japanese snowball (Viburnum plicatum) in the background and magnificent 1.5 metre spikes of white foxgloves.

There are many spectacular Australian shrubs that have white flowers but the garden should be a blend of foliage, some with a silvery sheen adding a cool relaxing feel to the garden. Grey and silver foliaged plants are some of the most drought tolerant plants because they have evolved to grow in some of the world’s toughest environments. Mediterranean plants work well and silver bush (Convolvulus cneorum) is one of my favourites. It is a silvery grey-leafed, compact, rounded, bushy shrub with attractive large white flowers which occur from late spring to summer. And there are some wonderful silver-leafed West Australian plants, but be aware, many do not do thrive in the humid areas of our East Coast.

A sample of white flowering Australian plants includes:-

Flax-leaf Heath Myrtle (Baeckea linifolia) is a delicate weeping shrub ideal for planting near a path where the tiny white flowers can be seen.

Callistemon ‘White Anzac grows to about 1.5m high and has pure white flowers appearing profusely over spring with sporadic bursts throughout the year including summer and autumn. Attracts small nectar feeding birds and makes a wonderful compact hedge or border for a moon garden.

There are a number of cultivars of Grevillea with creamy white coloured flowers so for the white purists Grevilleas may not make it to the short list. But, for those that love Grevilleas, Grevillea ‘Moonlight’ is a good choice. A large sized shrub to small tree which will flower most of the year.

The Stream Lily (Helmholtzia glaberrima) loves shady moist positions and has long, dark-green strap-like leaves with tall flower spikes, which appear in the summer. They are white or pale pink so if you are buying them, look for plants that are flowering so that you can ensure that they are white.

For a ground cover, the small white fan shaped flowers of Scaevola albida ‘White Carpet’, if allowed to weave through the garden bed, will softly cascade and sprawl over rocks and garden edges.

There are so many wonderful white flowering plants, native and exotic, and I have only mentioned a few. There are also many different styles of moon gardens and the design is only limited by your imagination. It is important to have plants flowering through most of the year but care needs to be taken when designing the garden, as large expanses of white can act as a blank space in the landscape.