Moon Gardens are appreciated after sunset

Many people wonder what point there is to a garden is when they are gone during the daytime hours. Why spend the time and effort? But for those who are away from home during the day, putting together such a garden can allow even commuters with a lengthy day to enjoy their gardens.

Sometimes the hardest thing is determining where to begin. A good place to start is with a foundation plant. The foundation plant for a white garden should be at least one white blooming shrub. The focus in my garden was the rose 'Madame Hardy' a once-blooming plant from 1832. It can be good to surround it with other white plants with a goodly amount of rebloom.

Let's start with shrubs and large climbers.

Clematis terniflora; Sweet Autumn Clematis

This one is tricky, so approach it with caution. When I moved into my home in 2011 there were three of these plants on the neighbor's chain-link fence that separates our properties. For some, this is a terribly invasive plant. But in zone 5a/6b, where I am, it has remained under control all this time, and it was planted, apparently, more than 30 years ago. It completely obscures the unattractive fence. If you can do it, it's amazing, and I love it, but again, research it for your zone. The hardiness zone is 5-9.

This perennial and can grow from 15 to 30 feet (15 or so in my yard). It can take full sun to part shade. In my yard, it is almost entirely in shade. If you choose to grow it (and it was not my choice because it was already there) do monitor it. Maintenance is simple. Just cut it to the ground in spring.

Tenufolia at nightViburnum carlesii 'Compactum'

For another shrub that appears white at night and adds serious nose appeal, try a scented viburnum, such as this one. Once the flowers open, it is indeed white, and the scent is amazing and unmistakable.
The common name of the Viburnum carlesi is Korean Spice viburnum. This zone 4 to 7 plant has a native range of Japan and Korea. The height of the standard plant is 4 to 6 feet, with the spread being 4 to 7 feet. Carlesi grows to only 4 feet tall to 4 feet wide. It is upright and rounded. The blooms appear in the early spring and last for a few weeks. It thrives in full sun to part shade. Maintenance is essentially nonexistent. It is very attractive to birds and is black walnut tolerant. While the fall color is not particularly celebrated it ranges from a dull red to, in some years (like this one) it displays a very attractive burgundy color.
It is completely unaffected by the viburnum beetle.

Viburnum carlesi

Doublefile viburnums (Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum)

If you want a pure white, from bloom on, try a doublefile viburnum. One of the pleasant things about them is that they can actually be grown in full sun or in part shade. I have done both. Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum has a ring of large sterile flowers around a center of small, fertile flowers. The flowers are up to 4 inches in diameter. The only drawback is the lack of fragrance.

These plants are hardy in zones 5 through 7, and are best in full sun to part shade. I have grown them in both and really prefer the partial shade, because the flowers really glow.

Doublefile viburnum

And the fall color is beautiful.

Doublefile viburnum in fall

Rose 'Madame Hardy'

Madame Hardy Rose

The focus in my garden was the rose 'Madame Hardy' a once-blooming Damask rose from 1832. It can be good to surround it with other white plants with a goodly amount of rebloom. Why not a white rose? Perhaps a large one and a small one?

This rose was named for Felicite Hardy. Hybridized in 1832, and was named by its creator for his wife (always the sign of a great rose). He was the superintendent of the Luxemburg Gardens in Paris in the mid-19th century. The fact that it is readily available today speaks volumes. It only blooms once, but for several weeks. Its blooms have a lemon scent. And it has a beautiful structure. One of the pleasant aspects of the once-blooming rose is the minimal necessity of maintenance. After bloom it is an attractive shrub. The solution to its once-blooming status is to surround it with reblooming white roses, white perennials and white annuals. It is zone 4 hardy. Like many non-recurrent roses, it will take up to three years to bloom, but it is worth the wait.

If you do put in a large non-recurrent rose, it is a good idea to accompany it with two small roses, one on each side. I recommend one that blooms in clusters, is disease resistant and blooms throughout the season.

Rose 'Pillow Fight'

Pillow Fight is a fairly new rose that provides profuse bloom. Hybridized by Tom Carruth, who just retired in 2012, it is described as a shrub rose. The flowers are a pure white, and it has a rounded form. The scent is strong and very pleasant. It is described as blooming continuously, and I found that this to be true. Very low maintenance, and disease free, it's zone 5 hardy, and three feet by three feet. I put two in the ground, but a large container would also work.

A shoutout to Sue Brown for this superb image.

rose pillow fight

Asiatic Lily 'Eyeliner'

White lilies are always delightful. For a longer season of interest, put in more than one type. Asiatic lilies tend to bloom early in the season, while Orientals are much later. Asiatic lilies do not necessarily have scent, but this one does, and it is are extremely easy to grow, tend to multiply easily and stay in bloom for extended periods. I found this grouping that The Chicago Botanic Garden in a dark corner in front of evergreens and found it irresistible, acquiring it for myself shortly thereafter. It grows about three feet tall and needs no staking.

This actually longiflorum asiatic lily. But it is much tougher than longiflorums. It is hardy in zones 5 to 8 without protection, and I find that longiflorums (commonly known as Easter Lilies) require protection in the garden.

Asiatic lily Eyeliner

Oriental lily 'Crystal Blanca'

This is not a typo. I discovered Crystal Blanca some years after acquiring a dozen 'Casa Blanca' lilies and losing them over the years. I found that 'Crystal' was advertised as having a shorter, stronger stem. I found this to be true, and many years after have my original ones. This lily has all of the fine qualities of 'Casablanca', but never requires staking.

Lilium Crystal Blanca

Tulip 'White Trumphinator'

White tulips shine at night. Taller, strong stemmed ones are the best. This is a classic lily flowering tulip that is incredibly elegant and refined.

There are many good white tulips, but this is one of the best. White Trumphinator is a towering lily with a strong stem. It blooms late in the tulip season, preferring full sun or light shade. Introduced in 1942, it has never really been superseded. It looks phenomenal in a pot and stands 26 to 28 inches tall. It sometimes shows the slight yellow tinge you see here but turns pure white.

Tulip White Trumphinator

How about a tulip that produces multiple flowers on a single stem? They are known as multi-flowering tulips, and they are in several divisions.

Tulip 'Weisse Berliner'

Multi-flowering tulips give you a wonderful performance because each stem, as the name implies, produces multiple flowers. 'Weisse Berliner' is a Triumph tulip. It isn't one that comes back year after year. I dig mine up, store them and put them back in, but they tend to split into singles. But if there are six flowers on a stem (not uncommon) I then have six flowers to spread around my bed. It grows approximately 20 inches tall and is hardy in zone 3 to 8.

Triumph tulip Weisse Berliner

And then, of course, you need white annuals and perennials. I have found several perennials that are usually used as annuals but, for me, come back in profusion year after year.


Any of the white feverfews will work in a white garden. This one I purchased as 'tetra strain'. I find that in my zone 5b/6a garden, feverfew actually lasts through the winter. The first time I grew it I pulled it all out in the fall, but the following spring found that I had missed some, and they were growing back. It is a short-lived perennial in zone 5 to 9, but I have found that its tendency to seed results in its increase through that process, and some of the plants always survive winter.

Feverfew is native to Asia Minor and the Balkans, but is often found in English style cottage gardens. It requires no care and is always attractive. It blooms well into the fall.

Feverfew tetra strain

Nicotiana alata

This is a plant that turns up in catalogs from the 1880s. I found that I could simply toss the seed on the ground. The funny part was the place I tossed it was altered when the wind took it elsewhere - to what turned out to be a perfect spot. This, again, is a plant you only have to sow once, despite the fact that it is tender, because it definitely self-sows. It is not a great plant during the day - it sort of droops. But at night it stands out and emits a scent that used to cause my neighbors to call out - "what is that scent?" I thought, at first, that it was my lilies, but no. It was Nicotiana alata. It is also known as jasmine tobacco. It is readily available by seed so I suggest you just go out and put the seeds where you would like them to bloom. It's a surface sower. You can start it indoors.

One thing to watch out for is the size of the root ball. A plant I had grown from seed actually knocked a perennial completely out of the ground.

White borage

Blue borage (another lovely plant) is well known, but white is less common. Borage is a supposedly annual herb, but I find that if you grow it once you have it forever. It is native to the Mediterranean region but grows well and tends to naturalize. I grow it in both blue and white in zone 5a/6b, and one of its great qualities is that it is said to attract more pollinators than any other plant. It's wonderfully unfussy. Mine tends to clump up during the season and then I either cut it back or tear it out when the season ends, but even if I tear it out it returns the next year. And, because it is white, it attracts both day and night pollinators. Indeed, I have read that it attracts more pollinators than any other plant.

In my zone it flowers from June on, and here in mid-October, it is still in bloom. It needs no fertilization and can cope, from what I have both read and observed, any pH and can be grown in full sun, part sun or shade.

The flowers have the taste and scent of cucumbers. There are many goo culinary uses for it but the sheer beauty of it draws me to it. Some freeze it into ice cubes for a festive appearance in beverages. It also is a good companion plant. I looked on line and it is readily available by mail.

white borage

There are many other plants that you can try, and some can be grown from seed. Salvias, both tender and perennials, are great choices. With a little thought, you can transform parts of your yard into an evening paradise.