A moon garden comes to life at night. Teeming with silver foliage and fragrant night-blooming plants, this type of garden actually flowers in the dark and therefore offers a unique experience for all the senses. “Enjoying a moon garden can be an unexpectedly sensual experience,” says Jarema Osofsky in her new book, Moon Garden: A Guide to Creating an Evening Oasis. “It relies less on the sight of vibrant, colorful displays, and more on the soft glow of white flowers, the nocturnal pollinators drawn to their luminescence, the scents of night-blooming plants, and the sounds of nature in the stillness of the night.”
At the same time, the moon garden’s appeal lies in its synchronicity with the cosmos. Osofsky, a Brooklyn-based landscape designer and founder of Dirt Queen NYC, drew inspiration for her own moon garden from India’s Mehtab Bagh Garden, or “Moonlight Garden,” built by Emperor Babur in the 16th century. It sat across from the Taj Mahal and acted as a pleasure garden for the Mughal nobility, who enjoyed the glittery pathways and marble pools alight under a full moon.
But not all moon gardens have to be so focused on lavish aesthetics. For Osofsky, moon gardening makes for an opportunity to understand the cycles of the moon and “reflect upon different cycles and patterns in your own life.” She notes that mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is not only used in moon gardens but also for centuries as a way to foster lucid dreaming. You can even create a moon garden indoors or with very little space—your moon garden doesn’t have to fit any traditional standard. Read on for her expert tips and tricks for creating your own moon garden that is both stunning and in-tune with the moon.
Consider the season when creating a moon garden
Even though you can grow a moon garden anytime of the year, many night-blooming plants are tropical and cannot survive below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If you live in a region where snow and frost can impact your moon garden, Osofsky suggests growing some of the night-blooming plants as potted houseplants first; you can bring them back indoors in the springtime, after the threat of frost has abated. These can include varieties like plumeria, bromeliads, and Queen of the Night cactus—a plant which only blooms one magical night a year. “Luckily, its foliage is attractive even when it’s not in bloom,” she adds. In her own house, Osofsky likes to use potted pink jasmine (Jasminum polyanthum) for its “divine fragrance, pink buds, and lush green foliage.”
During the winter, Osofsky brings out glass vessels for bulb plants that can be grown indoors, showing off the plant’s intricate root systems. This includes plants like paperwhite narcissus, which is known for its sweet smell. If you’re starting your indoor moon garden closer to the winter season and want to create further visual appeal, opt for Amaryllis with their giant white or glittering red blooms. “But start growing these bulbs six to eight weeks prior to your desired bloom date,” she warns. They also need good drainage, so place them in terra-cotta pots that have drainage holes. You can also go beyond potted plants. “In the late winter, on the cusp of spring, I bring in a few cut branches of magnolia in bud and bloom to invite spring to come a little sooner.” Osofsky also uses bunches of cut dried hydrangea panicles, alliums, and lunaria as arrangements for her living room.