Trip the light fantastic: Plants for a pretty, scented dusk

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Hard at work all day? Then you'll need a garden that shines in the evening.

Long summer evenings are often the best times to enjoy the garden. For many of us, those precious moments at the end of the day are the only time in the working week when we can unwind, drink in hand, watering can, possibly, in the other.

This is when we need to be surrounded by delicious scents, harmonious sounds and an eye-soothing panorama of plants.

It helps, of course, if we can see our surroundings, rather than stumble around in the gloom, and the most effective – and romantic – way to do that is not with harsh artificial lighting, but with flowers. Those fashionable fiery colours – the clashing reds and yellows of summer bedding – lose their intensity as light levels drop, so if you want a garden that comes to life at night think light... and think white.

As Lia Leendertz says in her book Twilight Garden, a guide to making the most of your outdoor space in the evening: "All the finest moonlit evening gardens are filled with white, silver and palest yellow plants. Dark colours absorb light rather than reflect it. White, on the other hand, fires back at us every scrap of available light, so the white appears brighter as other colours fade."

Adding hits of white here and there to a border of colour, however, tends to be jarring, so instead, create a designated twilight zone: a small, concentrated area of flowers and foliage that surround patio or terrace, or even just a seat in a moonlit corner. That way you can build up, with container plantings and maybe a backdrop of white-flowered evergreen jasmine on a trellis, an enclosure of pale, light-reflecting plants that positively glow in the dark to create an enchanting summer space in your back garden.

A brugmansia – the tropical plant with pendulous trumpet flowers in white, peach or lemon – could be your equivalent of a floral chandelier to light the night in exotic fashion. The large, super-white flowers of New Guinea busy lizzies would make a fitting accompaniment. Pale blues and lilacs also look their best in fading light, so you could add some potted ice-blue agapanthus, the South African lily, with froths of palest blue lobelia around their base. A bower of lemon-and-white honeysuckle Lonicera halliana or opalescent, silvery-blue clematis such as Prince Charles would be heavenly.

If you have a gravel floor in your moonlit spot, plant an evening primrose or three to self-seed and spread themselves around; their pale lemon, ephemeral flowers are positively luminous in the dark, even when the moon is barely there.

Many white flowers hold all the cards in creating an evening garden because they also send out pulses of gloriously heady fragrance.

"White flowers are often pollinated by night-flying insects such as moths," explains Leendertz. "These insects use the flowers' night-time glow as well as their scent to help them navigate towards them."

Flowering tobacco, Nicotiana sylvestris, releases its sweet scent at dusk, when the tall, sharply white flowerheads on 5ft stems look magnificent in fading light.

White lilies are a must. The perfume of Lilium regale is intoxicating, and the white waxy flowers on tall stems are simply exquisite. For a special evening you could cheat and prod five or six florists' stems into the compost of a faux lead container. Augment the floral lighting with soft pools of light from candles in storm lanterns or glass jars of flickering night lights.

Paths and steps need to be lit for safety, but your special twilight zone should be more gently illuminated. Fairy lights around a convenient branch are the city substitute for glow worms.

Shimmering silk shawls draped over garden furniture lend night-time glamour; tubular wind chimes tinkling in the breeze, a little night music.

With such glorious surroundings, you might even consider garden glamping. There are worse ways of spending the night than sleeping under the stars, surrounded by fragrant lilies and scented jasmine.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
The monkey made several attempts to revive his friend before he regained consciousness
video
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Sport
Brendan Rodgers looks on from the touchline
SPORT
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick