Johannesburg - At sunset, there is beauty and tranquillity to be enjoyed in the garden on warm midsummer evenings. The garden becomes a peaceful place where white and pale-coloured plants take on an iridescent beauty and where strong colours darken and sink away, adding a mysterious quality.
The key to a successful twilight garden is to plant up light-coloured flowers and foliage which will remain visible as the light fades. In addition to mid-summer flowering white flowers, add white or stone ornaments and benches.
A suitable focal point could be a pond of water that is not disturbed by wind. The reflection of the stars and the moon in this pond will add a magical quality to any twilight garden.
It is best if the design of twilight gardens is simple and uncluttered. Add pathways that are constructed of light-coloured stone or gravel, making them easy to navigate in the dusk. Low-intensity solar lights on pathways and steps will complement the decor.
A twilight garden need not be large. It can be part of the main garden, or positioned near the house or patio. Consider these tips when creating your twilight garden for a glorious New Year’s Eve party.
Focus on designing a patio garden that will have the most impact during the evening. Position a small water feature or fountain near the patio to provide a relaxing background sound to a summer evening dining outdoors. Light up the patio with solar products, low-energy bulbs and candles.
Pillars and posts on patios offer vertical support for white-flowered climbers such as the white-flowering mandevilla, Pandorea jasminoides “Lady Di” or star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides).
Fill containers with white alyssum, lilies, white and lemon petunias, dwarf white marguerite daisies, dwarf Gardenia “White Gem” and white-flowering begonias (shade), interplanted with silver-grey foliage plants, as well as those with light-coloured leaves, such as Cuphea “Lemon & Ice” and Lamium “Silver Beacon”.
What to plant
There are many white, cream, lemon and pale pink roses that are suitable for a romantic evening garden. Iceberg roses in bush, standard and climbing form are among the best for landscaping. They are generous in bloom and their clusters of white flowers show up well at night. Their scent is noticeable in the evening.
For the back of a border, grow white liliums, cleome, lace flower and tall Nicotiana alata and Nicotiana sylvestris with clusters of trumpet-shaped blooms. White agapanthus, dahlias, alstroemerias, marguerite daisy bushes and Shasta daisies are suitable for the centre of a border, with fillers of gaura with its butterfly-like blooms, frothy gypsophila and edged with white alyssum. Grow white begonias with green rather than bronze leaves in light shade.
Bulbs with white flowers include arums, the pendant bells of the Berg lily (galtonia) and tuberose. Lilies are a favourite in the evening garden, for their elegant flowers and perfume.
Consider white-flowering mophead hydrangeas, oak-leafed hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) with white panicles of flowers, as well as white-flowering proteas and ericas.
Plumbago, freylinia, Bau-hinia natalensis with white bell-like flowers, and the dainty white flowers of indigenous river stars (Gomphostigma virgatum) will also be an asset in the twilight border.
Pale-coloured foliage will give a feeling of stability and permanence to a garden.
In an evening garden, the foliage of caladium, variegated hibiscus and hosta, and silver-grey Artemisia “Powis Castle”, catmint (nepeta), Festuca glauca “Silver Eyecatch”, Helichrysum petiolare, lamb’s ear (stachys), lavender, Lamium maculatum “Beacon Silver” and santolina show up well.
When creating a twilight garden, the fragrance of flowers is as important as colour. The scent of choiysa, frangipani, gardenia, jasmine, honeysuckle, mock-orange (philadelphus), murraya, roses, tuberose and viburnum will drift across the garden to patios and open windows.
Sometimes flowers are insignificant but have a strong fragrance, such as the tiny sprays of flowers on osmanthus. Alyssum has a delicate honey scent and is among the most useful of annuals for a quick carpet effect. Use it to edge paths, grow between the treads of steps and paving and spill from containers.
White flowers often attract night-time pollinators, not only because they are visible in the dark, but also because many of the blooms are scented, as in the indigenous dainty epiphytic (tree) orchid Mystacidium capense with its arching sprays of scented white flowers.
Whether you enjoy sitting on the patio or walking in your garden in the evening, there are many delights to be found in a twilight garden. - Kay Montgomery, Saturday Star