Smithsonian Collections Blog

Highlighting the hidden treasures from over 2 million collections

Collections Search Center

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How Does Your Garden Glow: Night Gardens

"I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.” 
~Vincent Van Gogh

Imagine spending laborious hours designing, landscaping, and planting in a garden, only to not have any time to actually enjoy the fruits of that labor. Night gardens, also called moon gardens or evening gardens, are one way that busy individuals are able to take pleasure in their gardens “after hours.”

These intriguing gardens can be traced back to medieval Japan, where gardens were created using white sand, white rocks, water, and white chrysanthemums to attract the moonlight. In 17th century India, plants like lilies, jasmine, and narcissus were used with the express purpose of reflecting the light after dark.

A night garden’s design is unique in that it relies on light to illuminate and transform the landscape and plants. White, yellow, and silver plants like silver sage, White Eyed Susie, lilies, White Queen, four o’-clocks, and Cart White are common inclusions as they reflect both moonlight and artificial lighting. Night gardens delight the senses, as they focus on stimulating sight and smell. A distinguishing characteristic of a night garden is the sweet fragrance that perfumes the air, more so than other gardens for very good reason. These gardens are rife with night bloomers that possess a strong scent, such as evening primrose and honeysuckle, to attract night pollinators that rely on their sense of smell.

The Archives of American Gardens contains wonderful examples of gardens that can be enjoyed in the evening hours. Brush Hill Gardens in Connecticut is comprised of purple, yellow, and green foliage that will be reflective at night.

Barbara Paul Robinson, photographer
Post Court in Gwinnett County, Georgia uses artificial lighting to brilliantly set aglow a Japanese Maple at night.

PostCourt, 1988. Hooks, John D., photographer
The Maida Babson Adams Collection contains an image of Ellistan, which shows a daytime view of a terrace garden designed as a night garden.

Ellistan, ca. 1992-1994. Molly Adams, photographer

Night gardens may require more imagination and planning to coordinate with their daytime version, but they are truly worth the effort since they ensure a garden can be appreciated continuously. 

For more information about night gardens, please visit:

Bella Wenum, 2013 Summer Intern


No comments:

Post a Comment