Sunday, August 8, 2010

Moonlight and Shakespeare

“The moonlit garden is the perfected creation – all our dreams come true.”
~ Louise Beebe Wilder~

I love theme gardens and the possibilities they create. My moonlight garden is small, even moon shaped and has white blooming flowers, silver-hued dusty miller and the chartreuse leaves of lady’s mantle for a frilly undercoat for the taller plants. Often the flowers of this type of garden bloom in the evening, catching the reflection of the moon and filling the air with fragrance.
This type of theme garden is not new as there are Victorian references to monochromatic gardens and the famous gardener Gertrude Jekyll wrote “it is extremely interesting to work out gardens in which some special colouring predominates….it opens out a whole new range of garden delights.”
If you would like to plan a moonlight garden, keep in mind it should be on a smaller, intimate scale and located somewhere to be viewed at night. A small water feature or birdbath will also reflect moonbeams and a bench nearby to sit and enjoy the beauty and fragrance of it all will complete the theme.

In his plays Shakespeare mentioned many plants and herbs; roses in Romeo and Juliet, narcissus in Anthony and Cleopatra and lavender in a Winters Tale.  From a Midsummer Night's Dream; “I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where oxlips and nodding violet grows, Quite over-canopied with luscious wood-bine, With sweet musk roses and eglantine. There sleeps Titania sometime of the night, Lulled in these flowers with dances and delight.”
Literary gardens were popular in the Victorian era and a Shakespeare garden would have many of the plants mentioned in his works. Back then almost all of the flowers and herbs were grown for perfume, medicinal purposes or cosmetics.
This theme garden should have the formality that is seen in many English gardens with a hedge of boxwood or yew defining the perimeter and possibly a stone path to separate the interior into quadrants. The entrance will have a gate or arbour made from stone or wood and accented with the addition of roses, honeysuckle or clematis to cover the arbour.
Plant the beds with perennial flowers and herbs, intermingling the colours and scents. Here is a sampling of some plants to use: musk rose, climbing rose, fennel, pot marigolds, rosemary, lavender, mint, marjoram, thyme, carnations, lilies, daffodils and violets.

Some of the white flowers in my moon garden.  Top to bottom:
Ammi, Bleeding Heart, Daylily 'Joan Senior', Summer Phlox 'Miss Lingard', White Peony,
Echinacea 'White Swan'


  1. Judith, what an incredibly inspiring post! I adore the moonlight but never thought about creating a moonlight garden. I actually have just the spot and think I would have to have a lot of jasmine for the fragrance. Thank you so much – this is lovely! – g

  2. Hi Judith, A beautiful post!! I have always wanted a moonlight garden, and have never done it. I don't think many words are as poetic as moonbeam... it just speaks of magic:-)

  3. Yes ditto the other girls thoughts here. If only I the room to do this, its nice to have a quite place to contemplate the world or meditate

  4. I have a couple of plants that are night or late evening bloomers, both are white, and lovely. Very interesting post today.

  5. Hi Judith,
    Your moonlight garden would be a lovely place to enjoy a summer evening.
    I love the first flower-Ammi. It looks so lacy-did you grow it from seed?


  6. Good morning Judith and thank you for that lovely trip through your garden. I had never heard of "white swan" echinacea and given my love of swans I will have to check into getting some seeds for next year!
    I have long love Gertrude Jekyll and have a few books of hers or about her and I never tire of reading them.
    Have a wonderful week!
    Tina xo

  7. Beautiful post...You've inspired me to create a moonlight garden, just have to find the place. Thanks for sharing. Yvonne

  8. A wonderful post Judith, I can imagine sitting on the bench and watching the stars in the pond or birdbath.

  9. I really like this idea, Judith. I would love to have a moon garden but it would mean moving or removing some existing plants. The all whites really are lovely, and lovely in the daytime too. This post is very nicely done and it inspired and educated me!
    Hugs and blessings, Beth

  10. What an enchanting blogspot. I love the idea of a Moon Garden. I have a small cottage garden in New Zealand and have recently bought some white, silky, waxy, Moonflower seeds. Ipomoea alba
    The 15cm pure white, silky flowers stand out against large, heart-shaped leaves.
    The blooms are so fragrant that you can tell when one is open well before you see it, and if you bring a freshly opened flower indoors, its perfume will scent an entire room.
    The best thing about a moonflower is watching one open. Catch it at the right moment, sometime shortly after dusk, and before your eyes, its spirally folded, four-inch bud unfurls.
    Each flower lasts only one night, usually withering by mid-morning, but new buds open each evening.

    Growing moonflowers could hardly be easier. Its seed needs a little scarifyingthat is, filing or nicking the hard seed coatfollowed by soaking overnight in water before you sow it, but once planted, it grows quickly

    Site moonflowers in full sun in rich, moist, well-drained soil in a spot where you can observe it up close, or near a window so its scent can be carried indoors.

    This fast growing vine is related to the Morning Glory and when planted with the Moonflower it gives a spectacular late summer display day and night. ~ Anni


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