A night garden is not the place for showy blooms or vivid colors, for they get lost in the darkness. Focus on senses other than sight, using the opportunity to plant things that play to your guests sense of smell, touch, and even taste.
Look for night blooming plants that impart fragrance as well as beauty. Night blooming jasmine and Casablanca lilies will flood the garden with intoxicating scent while Night Gladiolus will lend a spicy note. Plant a scented ground cover that emits a heady fragrance when guests stroll across it in bare feet. Try creeping mint for a fresh, invigorating scent or creeping thyme for something more pungent and herbal.
Choose flowers that bloom white to capture the light of the moon and give an ethereal glow to your garden party. Try moon flowers, angel's trumpets, and dragon fruit for large, creamy white blossoms. If you plant them in swathes or cascades, that part of the garden will reflect moonlight in a truly magical way.
If you have a pond or water feature of some kind, be sure to incorporate night blooming water lilies and illuminate them with lighting that reveals their elegant shapes.
Lighting is essential for a night garden both for the ambiance it provides and the protection it gives by allowing strollers to avoid injury by illuminating pathways and seats. It can also provide a handy distraction for mosquitoes that might otherwise land on you and ruin a peaceful evening.
Choose soft lighting that lends a gentle glow which doesn't compete with the beauties of stars and moonlight. Consider solar lamps along pathways, lanterns hung from branches or set on tables, or fairy lights strung from trees or draped along a fence or gate. Candles provide a beautiful flickering light in a night garden. Just be sure to protect the flame from gusting winds that might leave you in sudden darkness.
When choosing seating for your night garden, look for comfort. While a daytime garden is often the scene for animated chats, games, and yard work, night is the time for relaxation and leisurely conversation over glasses of wine. Look for hammocks or swinging chairs, loungers with squishy cushions, and footstools that can easily be pulled up to a lawn chair. Keep a basket full of light blankets and throws handy in case the evening turns chilly.
The magic of your night garden can be enhanced with sounds that delight and soothe. Add delicate wind chimes to a nearby tree, incorporate a gurgling fountain, plant trees that rustle in the wind.
Prepare party foods that taste great warm or cool so your guests can graze at their leisure. Some suggested recipes:
Photo credits: Hotel Montecatini Terme, Asit K. Ghosh Thaumaturgist, Chris Phutully, Pottery Barn, and falco.