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What is a Moonlight Garden?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A moonlight garden is a garden which is designed to be enjoyed at night, under the light of the full moon. The design of the garden incorporates plants with highly reflective foliage and flowers which will appear to glow under the light of the moon, as well as aromatic plants which will fill the air with their scents after dark. Most commonly, a moonlight garden appears as part of a larger garden, as moonlight gardens do not always look very exciting by the light of day.

The concept of the moonlight garden is ancient. The Chinese planted moonlight gardens for meditation, and at one time, there was a moonlight garden known as the Mahtab Bagh attached to the Taj Mahal in India. During the late 19th century, interest in the moonlight garden began to rise in the West, and many members of high society established moonlight gardens at their homes.

Moonlight gardens are meant to tantalize the senses, taking advantage of heightened senses of smell, touch, and hearing which emerge at night. Many moonlight gardens include fountains and pools with water which will reflect available light as well as sounding pleasant, and the paths are typically lined and sometimes covered with scented plants which will release aromas when crushed by passing walkers. The garden itself can feature a rich array of flowers in various shades of white, as well as pale yellows, purples, blues, and so forth.

When designing a moonlight garden, it is a good idea to remember that various shades of white can appear to clash with each other at night, with one color looking dingy in comparison to another. For this reason, flowers of one shade should be clustered together, and divided from other flowers with foliage. If pale colors are used in a moonlight garden, it helps to use them sparingly, so that they do not make the whites look dingy.

Placement is everything with a moonlight garden. Wherever the garden is located, it should get ample moonlight, without tall trees or structures to block the light, and gardeners may want to consider the impact of light pollution such as light coming from a home or streetlight. Some gardeners also install muted lighting systems so that the garden can be enjoyed on nights when the moon is dark, or the sky is overcast; white Christmas lights are way to provide soft, almost magical lighting in a moonlight garden. Many people like to purchase plants for a moonlight garden, arrange them in containers, and look at them by the light of the moon before deciding on final positions.

A wide variety of plants can be used in a moonlight garden, depending on the region where you live. Many plants come in various colors, so when you purchase seeds, seedlings, or plants, make sure that you know the identity of the cultivar, to ensure that the plant will be suitable. A small sampling of plants which can work in a moonlight garden includes: cosmos, daisies, zinnias, dianthus, marigolds, alyssum, candytuft, snapdragons, foxglove, dahlias, mums, asters, white bellflowers, jasmine, clematis, roses, morning glory, honeysuckle, creeping phlox, rose of Sharon, dogwood, lilac, hydrangea, nicotiana, heliotrope, soapwort, lilies, daffodils, freesia, wisteria, snow in summer, and lamb's ears.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By browncoat — On May 08, 2011

If you are in an area where it is possible, you can also try to integrate luminescent insects into your garden.

Glow worms, for example, will populate an undisturbed earth bank near water. Fireflies like low light levels and long grass. They could add a truly magical element to your already beautiful garden landscape design.

By anon15728 — On Jul 20, 2008

This horticulturalist and writer deserves 10 out of 10 marks. A beautiful piece of article writing that scents your imaginations. This is the first time I have heard of a Moonlight Garden. What a beautiful name. I would like to make one for myself. Great information. Cheers, William Lew

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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