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The Moonlight Garden

With the fast and hectic pace of modern life, most of us don’t get a chance to enjoy our gardens until well into the evening hours. This was a problem shared by the Mughal emperors of India for a very different reason; it was the intense heat of the tropical sun that kept them out of their gardens until the cool of the evening hours.

In response they built magnificent moonlight gardens, filled with the sweet scents of evening flowers, the rustle of exotic grasses and the ethereal glow of plants that captured the moonlight on their leaves. Using a simple combination of planting, lighting and structure it is possible to create your own tranquil evening retreat, filled with relaxing scents, where the stress of the daytime melts away in the moonlight.

In creating your own moonlight garden it is important to make the most of the low evening light levels by choosing plants that have silver foliage or white flowers that will reflect the light and appear to glow.  Good examples to choose would be Artemesia ‘Powys Castle’, Senecio ‘greyii’, Convolvulus ‘cneorum’, Potentilla ‘Abbotswood’ or Cistus corbariensis.   In addition, white stone sculptures or marble landscaping will also pick up the light and add to the ethereal effect.

The feature the Indian moonlight gardens are most famous for is the aroma of the evening flowers and the exotic foliage that fills the air.  There are many hardy plants that will grow well in the British climate and recreate this effect. Jasmine officinale, Buddleia davidii and Choisya ternata all have sweetly scented flowers, while the aptly named “Chocolate Cosmos”, Cosmos atrosanguineus, has a delicious, rich, chocolate aroma.  In addition the scents of many plants such as Dianthus, Nicotiana, Lavender and Lillies will be stronger in the cool of the evening.

Finishing touches can include some taller architectural plants, such as Miscanthus sinenesis or Cortaderia selloana, which will gently rustle in the breeze creating a calming atmosphere. These can be enhanced using solar lights to pick out key features, such as a statue or a sculpture, which will have the added benefit of creating dancing shadows and a sense of ambience. Add an appropriate seating arrangement such as an arbour or outdoor dining set and you have everything you need to create your own magical moonlight garden.