As I get older, my sleeping pattern becomes more, shall we say, problematic. There are times when I wake up at 2:30 AM, and just know that it is fruitless trying to fall back asleep. On those nights, since I smoke, I sometimes step out onto the deck and settle into my zero gravity lounger, with a cup of jasmine or mint tea, and make myself comfortable...and just soak in the night. In those times, it is dark, obviously, and the garden I have planted is mostly obscured to me.
Last night was one of those nights...and as I sat there, I thought back to a scent I will always associate with my first crush, at the age of 11. Her name was Nanette, and they had a Night Blooming Jasmine plant in their yard. I never got a good look at the plant, but at 9:00 PM when we were hanging out at her house, the scent of the plant was intoxicating.
It made me think...is there such a thing as a night time garden?
I believe there is. It might not be for everyone, and it doesn't have to be the centerpiece of anyone's garden...but if, like me, you find yourself up at odd hours and enjoy the outside, here are some ideas for plants that will give your garden that 24/7 quality I'm talking about about.
Night Blooming Jasmine, Cestrum nocturnum. If you live in the southern latitudes, this is the plant for you. It's not particularly showy, but its perfume carries over a great distance. If you have a side strip in your yard that is hard to do anything with otherwise, plant a couple of these there. On a hot night, if you sleep with the windows opn, the perfume will waft into your bedroom. If you are sitting out back of an evening or night, you will smell its scent, even while smoking a cigar.
Mock Orange, Philadelphus. The mock orange is another shrub that can grow to about 6 ft (or taller, without pruning). The flowers resemble orange blossoms and the scent does as well. It is, in my mind, second only to Night Blooming Jasmine in the power of its perfume, though the perfume is much different. It is a very sweet fragrance, and the plant blooms at night from May through June. My Mom used to have a Mock Orange bush when she was living in Ohio...and when I stepped outside at night in early summer, I could smell it from several yards away. It is a delicious fragrance.
Angels Trumpet, Moonflower, Datura. This is an annual flower that some misguided folks consume or smoke for its hallucinogenic properties. The most likely trip it will send you upon is one to the emergency room. But the flower is gorgeous. Paper white, and large. It blooms late in the day, and the blossoms can reach 6 inches in diameter. It will bloom from mid-summer until late fall. There are many varieties and many are not particularly noteworthy for their scent, but the flower is eyecatching.
Evening Primrose, Oenothera. The evening primrose will grow in poor, sandy soil where few other flowers will thrive, and the flower is wonderful. Not only fragrant, but at night, their shades of white, yellow and pink are almost iridescent on a full moon.
Calabash, Bottle Gourd, Lagenaria siceraria. Not a flower, but a vegetable, this is a squash that can be eaten as a vegetable if harvested young, or allowed to mature into a gourd that can be dried and used ornamentally, as a bird house, or utensil. This squash flowers at night, and depends upon nocturnal pollinators for successful fruit setting...so depending upon where you live, your results may vary.
Lemon Lilly, Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus. How's this for a contradiction in terms? A day lily that blooms at night? Yes, indeed, it does...and it has a wonderful scent as well, so plant these beneath your bedroom window.
The night time garden is about the senses...all of them. I've covered fragrance, but one of the most pleasing aspects of a garden at night can be the sound. For that, I have a couple of good wind chimes. Not the small, tinny ones...but large ones that produce a deep, rich tone with a gentle breeze. Some of the Japanese bamboo chimes are quite pleasant as well, though as I said...the larger the chimes, the richer and more pleasant the tone it produces.
Those Victorian gazing globes? They're actually pretty cool at night, and have a completely different feel than they do in the daylight.
Another nice feature at night, if you have the space and the budget, is a small water feature. Even a small fountain, that barely makes a sound during the day, steps forward at night when the city has gone to sleep, and produces a bubbling, gurgling sound that can induce sleep in the most stubborn of insomniacs.
So...if you enjoy gardening, I encourage you to think of your canvass in its totality. It's not just a "9 to 5" landscape, if you wish it to be more. It can provide you with pleasure at anytime, day or night. And take it from me, sometimes the night time is the right time.