Nocturnal. It's not a word often associated with gardening. But for busy Richmonders whose daylight hours are often crammed with commitments to work and children, evening may hold the only available hours for relaxing and enjoying the beauty of a home garden.
Luckily, there are entire species of flowering plants and leafy shrubs that come alive at night. Most have white or yellow blooms that glow softly under even a pale moon, according to Janet Baruch, landscape designer with Greenway Gardens. And the fragrance, drawn out by cooling temperatures and evening breezes, can be intoxicating, she adds.
Partner them with some low lighting, says Ian Johnson, landscape designer with Greener Landscapes, or a small, reflective pond or fountain, and you're sure to be lured outside after bedtime.
Datura ( Datura inoxia )
The Datura plants are spectacular night bloomers, with 6- to 8-inch white or off-white, trumpet-like blossoms on a 4- to 5-foot-tall plant. Unlike Brugmansia, the Datura's blooms generally face upward. It's a dangerous beauty, however, as all parts of Datura plants are poisonous. It's best planted in gardens without small children, our experts note. A prolific grower, it needs a large area to spread into, or careful thinning each fall to keep it in check, Johnson adds.
Hyperion Daylily ( Hemerocallis Hyperion )
Don't be fooled by the name – Hyperion is one of a handful of daylilies that also bloom in the evening, according to Neal Beasley, a landscape designer with the Timmons Group Inc. And they're an old-fashioned favorite that are easy to establish. They multiply quickly and provide not only large, 5-inch bright-yellow blossoms that show up clearly at night, but also a light fragrance.
Moonflower ( Ipomoea alba )
The night-blooming cousin of the morning glory vine, moonflowers have 4- to 5-inch white blossoms. "They are so attractive and unusual that they can easily become the center of a party as guests gather in the evening hours to watch the buds open," says Peter Loewer in his book, The Evening Garden. Moonflowers are annuals in Richmond, but according to Baruch, they grow rapidly and can be established from seed in as few as 45 days.
Evening primrose ( Oenothera biennis )
Another old-fashioned favorite, its small silky flowers are tightly curled and even look slightly worn out by day, but unfurl once the sun sets and glow "with a mildly incandescent sulfur yellow," Loewer says. It must be re-seeded every two years, but is terrifically hardy, handling full sun and drought with aplomb, Beasley notes.