Moon gardens are gardens that are meant to be enjoyed in the early evening and on moonlit nights. They are composed of plants that have gray or silver foliage, plants that have white flowers and plants that release their scents at night because they are pollinated by nocturnal insects. The white, silver and gray colors seem to glow in the moonlight. The varied scents add to the enjoyment of the garden.
Moon gardens were popular during the Victorian era when pale complexions were valued. Women protected their skin by spending little time outdoors during daylight hours. At night, when there was no danger from the sun, they enjoyed spending time in their gardens. Moon gardens were a favorite.
Many herbs are perfect for moon gardens. They are fragrant. Drought tolerant herbs frequently have gray or silver foliage. Many have white flowers.
Here are some of my favorites.
Gray or Silver Foliage Plants
Artemisia – Artemisia ludoviciana ‘Silver Queen’. Shorter and less invasive than its cousin ‘Silver King’, Silver Queen Artemisia is a drought tolerant perennial hardy through zone 4. It grows in a rounded mound 24” to 30” tall and 36” to 48” around. Its silver foliage is both deer and rabbit resistant. Grow it in full sun to partial shade.
Curry Plant – Helichrysum italicum. Smells like curry, but it doesn’t taste like curry! Nor is it used in curry powder. The curry plant is a drought tolerant perennial native to Turkey and only hardy through zone 8. It requires full sun. The foliage is silver. The plant grows to 2 feet.
Lavender – Lavandula spp. Lavenders, with their pale gray foliage and soothing scent are a natural in a moon garden. My favorite lavender, Anouk Silver, has silver, almost white foliage. It is a Spanish lavender, Lavandula stoechas. Spanish lavenders are not normally hardy above zone 7, but the Anouk series is supposed to be hardy to zone 6. Like all lavenders, it is drought tolerant and requires full sun. It is a small lavender growing only 12” to 18”.
Lavender Cotton – Santolina chamaecyparissus Grows in silvery mounds reaching 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide. The leaves are fragrant and when dried, can be used as a moth repellent. It is a sun-loving, drought tolerant perennial that is hardy through zone 6.
Sage – Salvia officinalis A woody shrub that is drought tolerant, sage’s gray nubby leaves are a wonderful addition to a moon garden. It grows to 2’ to 3’ in height. While it prefers sun, it can tolerate a little shade. Just be aware that it tends to get leggy in the shade.
Yarrow – Achillea taygetea Add some ‘Moonshine’ to your moon garden with this yarrow. The foliage is gray green and the flowers a pale yellow. A herbaceous perennial, it grows to 1’ to 2’. It’s drought tolerant, deer resistant and requires full sun.
Chamomile – Matricaria chamomilla Chamomile is an annual whose cheerful daisy-like flowers are often used in a soothing tea. It will readily self-sow in your garden if you leave some of the flowers on the plants to develop seeds. It grows 24” to 36” tall and prefers full sun, although it will tolerate some shade.
Echinacea – Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ the white version of the familiar purple coneflower. It’s a little shorter, only 2 feet tall, and while hardy to zone to zone 3, it is slightly less hardy than its purple cousin. But it likes the same full sun and dryer soil.
Feverfew – Tanacetum parthenium Another daisy like flower, this time a perennial hardy to zone 5. Aggressively deadhead this one or it will aggressively reseed itself all over your garden! Only 18” tall, it prefers full sun and well-drained soil.
Foxglove – Digitalis spp A biennial hardy to zone 4, it prefers shade or semi-shade. The flower stalks grow 2’ to 5’ tall depending on the variety. Choose one of the white cultivars to add some magic and maybe fairies to your moon garden.
White Horehound – Marrubium vulgare White horehound has both gray green foliage and white flowers making it the ultimate moon garden plant. A drought tolerant perennial, it grows 18” to 24” tall. It loves full sun.
Yarrow – Achillea millefolium Another drought tolerant perennial, it is hardy through zone 3. Yarrow will grow 2’ to 4’ tall depending on the variety. Grow it in full sun. If you deadhead the flowers, you will be rewarded with a second flush of blooms.