Moonlight Gardens

Hydrangea 'Limelight' showing the pink tinge of fall color on the blooms.

Hydrangea ‘Limelight’ has pale green flowers in early spring and tinges of pink in fall, but it is a beautiful white most of the summer.


Single bloom of white astilbe. Dark background.

This bright white astilbe blossom will stand out in the light of the moon.

One of the easiest, but also one of the most fun gardens to make is a moonlight garden.  A garden is most pleasing when there are distinct rooms created.  If you circle round the hedge and find a room filled with cream, silver and white, you’ve stumbled into the Moonlight Garden, so named because the white flowers show well even with the soft light of the moon.

Brunnera ‘Looking Glass’ blooms blue.  Lamium ‘White Nancy’ has pink flowers.  Hosta ‘Antioch’ has soft purple blooms.  Don’t get carried away–the moonlight garden can have dabs

of color contributions.  The essence of the moonlight garden is to use plants that feature silver, cream or white shades but it need not be exclusive.  And no two moonlight gardens need to be planted alike.  There are so many plants with variegated foliage and so many plants with white blossoms, the moon’s the limit!  Just choose your favorites and start combining.  When I design a moonlight garden, I feature whites, and I avoid the stark golds and yellows.

As with all well designed garden spaces, don’t be afraid to use multiples of the same plant.  In the shade you might select from these suggestions:  Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’,  Dicentra spectabilis ‘Alba’, Helleborus niger, Brunnera ‘Looking Glass’, Arabis ‘Snowflake’, Iberis ‘Alexander’s White’, Iris odaesanensis, Rhododendron ‘Cunningham’s White’, Astilbe ”Bridal Veil’, Aruncus dioicus, Tsuga ‘Gentsch White’,  Acanthopanax ‘Variegata’, and hostas such as ‘Patriot’, ‘Loyalist’, and other white variegated selections.  That list includes shrubs, evergreens and perennial material.  Bacopa is a beautiful annual to provide a focal point of white.

If your moonlight garden is sunny in the daytime, then consider Rosa ‘Icy Drift’ or ‘Iceberg’, Leucanthemum ‘Becky’, Magnolia ‘Elizabeth’ (cream color), Miscanthus ‘Variegatus’, Osteospermum ‘Avalanche’, Hemerocallis ‘Arctic Snow’, Salix integra ‘Hakura Nishiki’, Spirea ‘Renaissance’, Syringa ‘Ivory Silk’, Hydrangea ‘Limelight’, Paeonia ‘Festiva Maxima’, Phlox paniculata ‘David’,  as just a few of the many possible.  Again, this covers both woody and perennial material.  For annuals, not only is there bacopa, but the more drought tolerant Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ is perfect.

Are your favorite white and silver plants even in the list?  There are so many possibilities that it would be easy enough to avoid all these plants and still have a lovely garden for the moonlight.  So choose a portion of your

Mass planting of white variegated hostas.

A mass planting of variegated hostas can form the backbone of a shady Moonlight Garden.

property that forms a separate room (or hedge it so it is then separated) and use the lists and plant multiples, plan for the watering, plan for the mature sizes of the plants, and the outcome should be over the moon!

Brunnera 'Looking Glass' in bloom with tiny blue flower over the silver foliage.

Brunnera ‘Looking Glass’ has silver foliage. For a brief time in spring there are sparkles of blue flowers, but the plant still belongs in the Moonlight Garden.


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