Cape Town - The heat of midsummer has arrived and the hour just before sunset is the most pleasant time to spend in the garden. It is also the best time for outdoor entertaining. Now is the time to plant a special twilight garden around your patio or braai area.
When planning an evening garden, incorporate plants that show off their beauty at dusk.
White and pastel flowers and plants with variegated foliage in particular take on a special glow in the evening light and show up best at night. Plants with silver foliage also appear to gleam. And including plants with fragrant night time flowers provides an extra dimension of beauty.
Summer-flowering shrubs and perennials can be positioned among other more colourful plants in the garden where they provide a glow of white in the evenings. Hydrangeas with their huge blooms are ideal for shady borders. For sunny positions choose large-bloomed white flowers such as agapanthus, Erica, echinacea, trumpet lilies (Lilium longifolium), moonflower and roses.
A profusion of white bloomed summer annuals such as alyssum, verbena, dianthus, oxalis and cosmos can be planted near entertainment area, in adjacent beds or in containers. White petunias and New Guinea impatiens are particularly stunning in a night garden as they are so floriferous. Planted in containers on the patio or at the front of a border, they create snowy mounds of brightness.
Light foliage is another way to create an evening glow in the garden. Ground-covering lamium “Beacon Silver” and “White Nancy” have large white blotches, as does the water-smart variegated Plectranthus madagascariensis. Variegated hen-and chickens has pale yellow stripes. Also consider shade-tolerant coleus and liriope “Silver Ribbon”.
Silver foliaged plants also show up well in the evenings. Lamb’s ear, festuca, snow-in-summer, silver arctotis (Arctotis stoechadifolia) and trailing gazania (Gazania rigens), as well as grey-foliaged succulents can be planted as ground covers, while liquorice plant or silver bush everlasting flower (Helichysum petiolare) can trail over the edge of a raised bed or large container. Medium-size shrubs with silvery foliage include artemesia “Powis Castle”, lavender and dusty miller and well as the lovely silver tree (Leucodendron argenteum).
Fragrance: with careful selection of plants, the scent of a twilight garden can be intoxicating. Scent in the evening somehow carries further than in the day. Evening bloomers often have a strong fragrance to attract night-flying moth pollinators, and there are many with attractive white blooms. In the border plant moonflower, frangipani, gardenia and mock orange shrubs; their heady fragrance will permeate through the evening air.
Nearer the patio, plant climbing starry white jasmine (Jasminium multipartum) and star jasmine; both have masses of starry white blooms. The white heliotrope cultivar glows in the evening and gives off a heady vanilla scent. The tobacco flower (Nicotiana alata) has a sweet night scent. The indigenous marsh gladiolus (Gladiolus tristis) has creamy yellow blossoms with an intensely spicy night fragrance.
Sound: sound in a garden is wonderfully relaxing, no matter what time of the day you are there. However, at night, the sounds seem amplified and can add to the calm, soothing atmosphere you are trying to create. The simplest option is wind chimes, which tinkle gently in a light breeze. However, in windy gardens they may be more annoying than refreshing.
The sound of a running or trickling water feature adds mystery to the garden if you are not able to see the feature immediately and can draw a person to exploring the garden. If you want people to explore the garden at night make sure you have adequate lighting. If not, place your water feature where it can easily be seen and enjoyed.
Micro water features are easy to install near a patio and can be plugged into an outdoor or indoor electrical point. For larger water features it is best to employ a qualified electrician. There are even mini water features that can be placed on a table top.
Lighting: enhancing the garden with lighting produces wonderful effects. Candles are particularly pleasing because the flames flicker in a breeze and create shadows and reflections.
Solar-powered lighting can illuminate a path or a particular plant. Twinkle lights, readily available during the festive season, are now finding favour in the summer garden for mood lighting. They can be draped through trees and from pergolas to create magical effects. If you choose to have a dark-coloured still pond – one with no moving water – it is possible to arrange for it to reflect carefully positioned twinkle lights.
Permanent garden lighting can also be used to add an extra element of excitement to the garden, as well as for purely practical purposes. There is a wide variety of outdoor lighting available from lighting stores that includes safety lights like spotlights, uplighters for tall trees, downlighters for focal points and ponds, and small lights to illuminate your pathways. Such permanent lighting should be installed by a qualified electrician in order to maintain safety standards.
Accessories: besides flowers and foliage use garden accessories to add some sparkle to your garden. A mosaic made of pieces of mirror that is placed in the right spot will shimmer enchantingly with reflected light. White pebbles gleam in the dusk.
A white garden ornament that serves as a focal point in the day garden – a bench, an urn, a statue, a fountain – will also assume a glowing presence in the evenings. An archway or arbour can be a frame for climbing white roses or star jasmine.
Kay Montgomery, Weekend Argus