Deb Babcock: Peace and serenity in a moonlight garden

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Deb Babcock

Deb Babcock's gardening column appears Thursdays in Steamboat Today.

Find more gardening columns here.

When the sun goes down over the Sleeping Giant and the moon rises above Mount Werner, a certain serenity descends upon our valley.

That serenity can be extended to your garden where many plants actually are more fragrant and beautiful after sunset. If you are busy with work and other obligations during the day, consider planting a garden that comes alive in the evening when you can most enjoy it.

One night-flowering plant for your nocturnal garden should be the Evening Primrose (Oenothera), a perennial with scented blossoms of soft white, pink and bright yellow that open each evening. It can handle full sun during the day and requires little water.

A night-blooming relative of the morning glory, Moonflower (Ipomoea alba) releases a fragrance from its large white flowers at sunset. Four O’Clock (Mirabilis jalapa) is colorful annual that releases a jasmine-like perfume in the late afternoon from its trumpet-shaped blooms.

Night Phlox (P. "Midnight Candy"), a Zone 4 perennial, flowers at dusk to release a honey/almond/vanilla aroma. Another perennial, Fragrant Columbine (Aquilegia fragrans) has creamy white flowers that release a rich honeysuckle scent at night.

Two varieties of Daylilies (Hemerocallis) actually bloom at night: “Moon Frolic” and “Toltec Sundial.” Be sure to deadhead to promote continuous blooms.

Queen of the Night (Selenicereus) is a night-blooming cereus known for its large (as big as 12 inches) fragrant, white flowers. Since this cactus is not hardy below 55 degrees, grow it in a container so you can bring it indoors when the weather turns too cool.

August Lily (Hosta plantaginea) is a Zone 3 plant that produces waxy, trumpet-shaped flowers that perfume the garden with a honey scent each evening.

Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris) is a statuesque 5-foot tall plant whose white trumpet-like blooms open at night and on cloudy days releasing a spicy fragrance. This plant is poisonous and should not be in a garden where children are likely to play.

Three evening-fragrant vines that offer beautiful camouflage for fences, walls and trellises include the Climbing Hydrangea (H. anomala), Sweet Autumn Clematis (C. paniculata) with its creamy white flowers and Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) with its purple-tinged white flowers.

The Plant Select® people have adapted a beautiful Mock Orange (Philadelphus lewisii “Cheyenne”) for Steamboat Springs area nocturnal gardens. This shrub grows to just 7 feet and is drought tolerant. It is loaded with white, orange-scented blossoms in the spring to early summer.

Other plants with white blooms or reflective foliage that would complement a moonlight garden include “Purity” cosmos, “Armour White” verbena, “Alba” Foxglove, “Bride” Impatiens, “Alba” Bleeding Heart, “Moonraker” Cape Fushia, “Perry’s White” Oriental Poppy, White Forsythia, “Alba” Columbine and “White Lace” Dianthus.

The silver foliage of several of the artemesias are striking after sundown and are wonderful when paired with night blooming plants as are some of the ornamental grasses that sway in the light, evening breeze.

Relax after a busy day, and enjoy the peace and serenity of your garden in the moonlight.

Deb Babcock is a Master Gardener through the CSU Extension Routt County. Call 970-879-0825 or email csumgprogram@co.routt.co.us with questions.

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