As people spend more and more time inside , they’re looking for ways to extend their enjoyment of the outdoors. In fact, 93 percent of Americans spend 22 hours a day indoors, according to Garden Media Group’s 2019 Garden Trends Report.

“We’re all so busy during the day that the only time we actually have to spend in the garden is at night,” says Katie Dubow, Garden Media Group’s creative director. “That’s why we’re seeing a renewed interest in moon gardens.” Designed for evening enjoyment and featuring white, night-blooming plants, moon gardens actually date back centuries. But this trend made it into the 2019 Garden Trends Report because modern gardeners are reviving old traditions as they create charming outdoor spaces for entertainment and relaxation.

PHOTO COURTESY OF LOUISE REILING

“The new twist on the old tradition is the fact that a moon garden today is more than just a garden. It’s a unique experience,” says Holly Cusumano, former chairman of the Philadelphia Unit of The Herb Society of America.

Garden centers can capitalize on this trend by merchandising plants, accents and décor that pop at night. Industry experts share their tips below to help retailers magnify the magical experience of moonlight gardens.

Beyond basic white plants

Plants with white flowers and silvery foliage are the foundation for moon gardens because their light colors seem to twinkle in the moonlight.

Auburn Pointe Greenhouse and Garden Center in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, actually sold out of white and silver plants last year as a result of this growing trend. “Generally, white isn’t the biggest seller, but they sold very quickly,” says Owner Louise Reiling, citing best-sellers like white New Guinea impatiens and ‘New Look’ dusty miller.

Sales of these plants have skyrocketed since Auburn Pointe started hosting its annual Midsummer’s Night Garden event 13 years ago. Guests can stroll through moonlit garden vignettes around the property and watch the landscapes transform at dusk, accented by an enchanting luna moth release.

“We feature more unusual plants in our moonlight gardens, like Nicotiana alata (flowering tobacco), the night-blooming cereus and brugsmansia (angel trumpet),” Reiling says.

The problem is, plants that pop at night can be hard to sell during the day – especially when they’re up against bright-colored blooms.

Auburn Pointe Greenhouse and Garden Center’s annual Midsummer’s Night Garden Events include a catered dinner, dessert buffet and two moonlight garden plants to take home.
PHOTO COURTESY OF LOUISE REILING
PHOTO COURTESY OF LOUISE REILING

So creative merchandising is key. Events have been a huge success at Auburn Pointe, but Reiling says retailers don’t necessarily need to throw a party to make sales.

She recommends grouping and labeling plants that perform well at night and providing handouts that list popular nighttime varieties.

“The best thing we have found is to create a dedicated moon garden section with a large sign because most of these plants are green when the garden center is at its busiest, and a lot of them aren’t fragrant until nighttime,” she says. “If you can get a large picture to hang by it that shows a garden after dark, that really helps sell it.”

Light up the night

Creating an experience in the garden requires more than just plants, so merchandising moon gardens means emphasizing other nighttime accents, too.

“Nighttime entertaining has been an increased focus for a lot of our clients,” says Nate Robinson, creative director at Chalet in Wilmette, Illinois. “Outdoor spaces have become more adaptable to our modern lives, with Wi-Fi-capable sound systems, water features and outdoor lighting. It’s much easier to have creature comforts in your backyard, so homeowners are more inclined to spend their evenings outside.”

Artificial lighting helps supplement the ambiance of moonlight and make gardens more functional after dark. “Providing outdoor lighting options, such as string bistro lights that can be hung underneath a pergola or strung from a tree, enables clients to utilize their outdoor space at night,” Robinson says.

Fire pits and fire tables are great for entertaining, but simple solar lights or battery-operated lanterns offer some variety. Reiling also likes to incorporate candles by floating them in birdbaths alongside fragrant begonias. “It instantly creates a beautiful setting,” she says.

White blooms can turn a garden into a nighttime oasis.
PHOTO COURTESY OF HOLLY CUSUMANO
PHOTO COURTESY OF HOLLY CUSUMANO

A little night music

Since a garden’s visual impact is dampened at night, other senses play an important role in creating the best moonlit garden experience.

Water features like fountains and waterfalls add a soothing background sound of running water.

Reiling also recommends wind chimes, rain chains and hanging crystal mobiles to add soft melody and charm to gardens after dark. Sound systems and Wi-Fi speakers can make music more accessible too.

Also consider white gravel path material — not only to brighten the walkways surrounding moonlight gardens, but to add another layer of sound.

“I visited a moon garden in a small tourist town that had crushed seashells on the path,” says Cusumano, who has light-colored tumbled stone surrounding the raised bed moonlight garden in her backyard. “Hearing that crunch-crunch-crunch is part of the pleasure of a moon garden.”

Lighting like fire pits and candles accentuates moon gardens.
PHOTO COURTESY OF CHALET NURSERY
“People just love the night-blooming cereus,” says Louise Reiling, owner of Auburn Pointe Greenhouse and Garden Center in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. “It opens after dark, and the flowers are only open for one night. It’s a very unusual flower and it has a beautiful fragrance, so people love to sit and watch it and photograph it.”
PHOTO COURTESY OF KAREN GRAYBILL

Delight in the details

Whether customers are designing moon gardens for reflective meditation or evening entertainment, furniture and décor can help set the right mood.

“One of the most important components of a moon garden is a place to sit and relax or entertain,” Dubow says. “Entertaining means tables, chairs, cushions, firepits – anything that makes the space more comfortable. Then, you can personalize a garden by adding fences, arbors, ornaments and statues.”

Statuary and pottery made of cement or white-colored stone are great choices for moon gardens, Reiling says, because they stand out in low light.

PHOTO COURTESY OF KAREN GRAYBILL
PHOTO COURTESY OF KAREN GRAYBILL
PHOTO COURTESY OF KAREN GRAYBILL

But since a moon garden is such an experience, selling the concept requires more than just plants and products on a shelf.

“Merchandising can only go so far. Certainly creating ‘rooms’ instead of rows of plants will help, but events and experiences that get people into the store are key,” Dubow says. “From full moon festivals to nighttime hikes with plant identification, there are so many events to host at a garden center. You could even offer special deals on moon garden items when there’s a full moon.”

By showing customers how to make the most of their gardens after dark and selecting the right nighttime plants and products, IGC retailers can inspire the rising trend of modern moon gardens no matter where they are.

“Life is so busy and everything is so chaotic, so it’s nice to have a place to sit and relax at the end of the day,” Reiling says. “It extends the enjoyment of your yard to be able to enjoy it in the evening.”

The author is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.