Friday, January 17, 2014

The Moonlit Garden

Today was another winter wonderland with big flakes drifting down throughout much of the day.  As I was finishing some presentations for this spring I realized that I'm presenting one of my favorite topics a couple times over the coming months.  The Moonlit Garden is a fun topic that I developed last year and will be soon giving it at the WPT Garden Expo ( coming up in early February at the Exhibition Hall of the Alliant Energy Center (Madison, WI).  This event now sees over 20,000 visitors a year and the presentation component continue to be more popular each year with large crowds and full rooms.  Our RBG booth should also see plenty of activity.  The image above was from last year at RBG just outside the reception garden showing a nice combination of silver and white with some punctuation of blue.  This is the type of composition that glows in moonlight with the lighter colors taking center stage and darker colors disappearing.  See some other examples below.  The evening garden looks dynamite with white blooming plants, silver foliage selections and other additions that I'll mention further below.  This is just a taste of the topic which is fun to explore if enjoying the garden in the evening is of any interest.

Today was relatively quiet with just a few volunteers coming in to help out.  Pat spent most of the morning processing lights that have come in from the Holiday Lights Show (HLS).  He also went outside to haul lights to storage and shift some things around.  Dr. Gredler finished painting our Adirondack chairs for the North point garden and Vern worked on painting a sign frame that he built yesterday.  Cathy O. popped by later to help coordinate the continued updating of our woody plant records.  I continued to select vegetable varieties for our Spring Plant Sale (May 10th and 11th, pre-sale for RBG members on May 9th, 9 am - 4 pm daily).  We're actually having our Spring Tree Sale (more details soon) on the same dates and times as the spring plant sale.  I also scoured more seed catalogs, worked on plant records and am finalizing my presentations for the WPT Garden Expo (The Moonlit Garden, The Vertical Garden and Exciting Annuals for Flowers & Foliage).

white garden in Victoria, B.C. (Canada)
white theme at RBG in 2012 (entrance garden)
same as above (2012)

Above is a white border I photographed at Longwood Gardens (PA) many years ago.  I love white out in the garden and feel it is not only a "powerful" color but a color that helps unify compositions that include hot colors (red, yellow, etc.) and cool colors (blue, maroon, etc.).  White is indispensable in the garden border and container.  Keep in mind that white can be represented by flowers and/or foliage and is easily provided by annuals, perennials, woody plants and even "non-living" garden elements like obelisks, fences, garden furniture, etc.  As the evening becomes darker, colors like silver, white, light yellow and pastel blue will almost "glow" with some moonlight.  We've all seen it or gone outside on a summer evening with a full moon and remarked how bright it is.  These light colors will be the cornerstone of a moonlit garden and are certainly contributors during the day as well.  Silver foliage plants with different leaf sizes and shapes also help add interest. You have to ask yourself first if you will spend time out in the evening garden.  If the answer is yes, consider the addition of more white and silver (flower and foliage) and also consider the addition of plants that offer evening scent.  Many plants emit their strongest fragrance at night and your magical moonlit garden should contain scent as well.  Flower form is important too and consider that white blooms will seem to "hover" if the foliage of that same plant is green or another dark color that disappears with night. "Floating" spheres, spires and daisies can help be nice additions to that space, whether in the shady or sunny garden.  This blog will not do the topic justice nor will just fourteen images. However, see some of the neat plants below that can become anchors in a moonlit garden for those of us that like to enjoy an evening outside.  Be wary of adjacent "light pollution" from other sources though as you really should strive for the only illumination to be from reflected moonlight.

Scotch thistle (Onopordum acanthium) - a biennial (don't let it reseed!!!)
'Miss Willmott's Ghost'  giant eryngium (Eryngium giganteum) - biennial
'Berggarten' garden sage (Salvia officinalis) - tender perennial in our climate
woolly sage (Salvia argentea) - tender biennial (Z5)
silver willow (Salix alba var. sericea) at Olbrich Botanical Gardens (Madison, WI) - cut back severely to keep size limited
'Honorine Jobert' Japanese anemone (Anemone x hybrida) - perennial
'Evening Fragrance' downy thornapple (Datura meteloides) - annual (poisonous + fragrant)
'Only the Lonely' flowering tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris) - great evening scent!
'Midnight Candy' night phlox (Zaluzianskya capensis) - fragrant night-blooming annual
a moonlit garden composition with woolly sage (Salvia argentea) and cardoon (Cynara cardunculus)

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