Have you heard about “moon” gardens, in which white flowers reflect the moonlight, and night-scented varieties add to the sensory delight? I don’t know how many moon gardens actually exist- maybe they’re the unicorns of the garden world. Certainly their close relative, the white garden, is beloved by gardeners everywhere.
The white garden at Sissinghurst Castle in England has long been in my garden dreams. In the 1950’s, its creator, Vita Sackville-West, envisaged it as “a low sea of grey clumps of foliage, pierced here and there with tall white flowers”. Only the colours of white, green, grey and silver were allowed.
Irresistibly romantic! I’ve decided I must have a moon garden, a white garden, or both!
I chose a spot on my eastern boundary, where a gap in the trees frames a view of the rising moon. It’s also close to the verandah, where we love to sit on balmy evenings in spring and autumn. Perfect for a moon garden. So Michael and I got to work last weekend.
The blank canvas
The first chore was to pull up the abominable “weed mat”, under the supervision of our little friend, the blackbird. Beneath the weed mat, the soil was dead, and set hard like concrete. Michael had to use the mattock to break it up.
Michael removing the weed mat
Hard, lifeless soil underneath
Meanwhile, I raided the “compost” bin. It’s not real compost because it doesn’t generate heat, but it’s made from all my food scraps and garden waste rotted down. A year’s worth provided 2 wheelbarrow loads of rich organic matter and worms galore! This we spread out, mixed with the soil from on top of the weed mat.
Last I spread some blood and bone over the top and watered it in. I’ve left two (deciduous) forsythias against the fence, for now, as they’re are about to flower. I’ll decide whether to remove them, later. Their deep green leaves could provide a good backdrop for the white flowers, but keeping them would mean I can’t put a trellis against the fence to grow moonflowers, the quintessential moon garden plant.
I’m working on a spreadsheet listing all the plants I’d like to grow (including several Sissinghurst varieties), their requirements and characteristics, to ensure I have healthy plants and flowers year-round. At the moment I’m thinking of Achillea “Moonshine” (yarrow), Santolina magonica (Minorcan cotton lavender), Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s ears), Artemisia ludoviciana (white sagebrush) and gorgeous Centaurea cineraria (dusty miller) for their foliage, all of which should suit the climatic extremes of the central west.
As I surveyed the product of our solid morning’s work, and fantasised about all the lovely plants I want to grow, the blackbird hopped about, picking over the soft soil for tasty morsels. A pair of very young king parrots arrived at the bird feeder, followed by a pair of galahs, and last of all, a pair of crested pigeons, who enjoyed a dust-bath after they’d eaten their fill. Long may these lovely birds bring their vitality and colour to my garden!
Young King Parrots (female left, male right)
Crested pigeons enjoy a dust bath
In the coming weeks I’ll finish selecting the plants, and periodically check the soil acidity and adjust it if needed, to ensure my plants get the best start in life. I should be ready to start planting when the weather warms up.
In a future post I’ll share how I make and use my spreadsheet, and let you know what plants I’ve finally decided on.
Have you grown or visited a white garden or a moon garden?
Have you been to Sissinghurst Castle?
Can you tell me, are moon gardens as romantic as they sound? Or are they an impossible dream?