Summer is a sensual season in the garden, with flowers in full bloom, and the longer days and warm evenings enabling us to spend more time outdoors, enjoying our gardens, not just working in them.
After all, it’s pleasant to sit in a courtyard or a secluded spot in the garden at the end of a busy day, enveloped by stillness and warmth.
Your garden is your retreat and as twilight descends, it takes on a very different aspect. It is transformed into another world in which the predominance of the visual gradually gives way to the colours, scents and sounds of night.
And while you may have adorned the garden with fairy lights and outdoor lighting ready for summer soirees, don’t forget the plants.
The plants that offer evening enjoyment are those with white flowers, silvery foliage, fragrant blossoms or varieties that open up when the light fades.
These white-flowered plants burst open at dusk, so pot them up around your entertaining area where you can really enjoy them.
Belle De Nuit
Ideal for hanging baskets, which are best positioned at nose level in courtyards, this epiphytic cactus with its very fragrant flowers grows in frost-free areas.
Ideal for hanging baskets which are best positioned at nose level in courtyards. Image: Alamy
With its large, trumpet-shaped white flowers that pop open before your very eyes, this plant looks and smells wonderful, plus it’s easy to grow from seed.
Moonflowers have large, trumpet-shaped white flowers that pop open before your very eyes. Image: Alamy
Queen of the night
This sweet-smelling blooming cactus has flowers that open to the size of dinner plates and a climbing habit up to 3m. It likes a frost-free climate.
This sweet-smelling blooming cactus has flowers that open to the size of dinner plates
As darkness descends, white flowers can shine in an almost surreal way. Plant them where they can be viewed from your entertaining area, along pathways or in a garden bed that can be seen from indoors.
There is a huge choice of white flowers to suit whatever climate you live in. Choose perfumed plants like white gardenias, dianthus and roses.
The trumpet-shaped flowers of night-scented tobacco are very fragrant through summer and autumn. Easily grown from seed, this large-leafed annual can grow up to 2m high.
Just as evocative is dame’s rocket (Hesperis). This short-lived perennial will perfume your summer nights and it will grow in shade.
Consider the pure-white flowers of Japanese anemones that appear in late summer and early autumn, white bougainvilleas that glow in the evening light, or magnolias that shine against deep-green foliage.
And don’t forget frangipanis, which are always one of summer’s delights.
Decorate your courtyard with pots of white petunias, impatiens, begonias or verbenas.
Sprinkling of silver
Plants with silver foliage shine in the moonlight, and while they often have a subtle, even delicate, appearance, most of them are capable of withstanding harsh conditions and dry climates.
Many are found growing naturally in desert and alpine areas as well as on shorelines, and they love a sunny position.
DUSTY MILLER (Senecio cineraria) has felt-like, deeply dissected foliage that glows in the evening. Cut off any spent flower stems to keep it bushy.
SILVER SPURFLOWER (Plectranthus argentatus) isan Australian native shrub that has broad silvery leaves and a velvet-like appearance.
CURRY PLANT (Helichrysum italicum) has leaves that smell strongly of curry, especially after rain. Cut off the spent flower stems to keep it bushy.
LAVENDER COTTON (Santolina chamaecyparissus) is an aromatic plant with bright silver-grey foliage and grows up to about 60cm.
The evergreen shrub, night-scented jessamine (Cestrum nocturnum) grows 3-4m high and wide. It has greenish-white flowers in summer among bright-green foliage and its perfume is especially intense on humid summer nights. It can be attached manually to a wall or trellis and treated as a small climber.
Night-scented jessamine is an evergreen shrub that grows 3-4m high and wide. Image: Thinkstock
A sun-loving shrub or small tree, this plant will add drama to any backyard. The large flowers of angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia x candida) can grow up to 30cm in length and are at their perfumed best in the evening. Cultivars come in shades of pink, peach, lemon and gold. Take care with this plant, as it is poisonous.
Sweet-smelling angel’s trumpet is a stunning sight
Angel’s trumpet will add drama to any backyard
After nightfall in the garden, the perfume of certain flowers is at its best, and white-flowering climbers are among the most fragrant in the evening.
While all these climbers are scented during the daytime, there is a distinct increase in the perfume levels at dusk as well as on hot, balmy summer nights.
You can use them to drape over courtyard walls or to cover pergolas and arbours, then sit and relax with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee and simply enjoy their intoxicating night-time scent.
HERALD’S TRUMPET (Beaumontia grandiflora) is a tough evergreen vine with large fragrant summer flowers.
It needs a sturdy support, sun and a tropical or subtropical climate.
CHILEAN JASMINE (Mandevilla laxa) has delicate trumpet-shaped white flowers, and its perfume is particularly pervasive on a hot summer’s night. It likes a warm, frost-free climate and plenty of sun.
MADAGASCAR JASMINE (Stephanotis floribunda) features trusses of flowers with a heavenly perfume. It grows best in partial shade and well-drained soil in a frost-free climate.
POET’S JASMINE (Jasminum officinale) acquired its common name from the references made by Elizabethan poets to its use on arbours. It will growin sun or semi-shade.
STAR JASMINE (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is an evergreen vine that’s ideal for covering courtyard walls. It grows in sun or semi-shade.
ARABIAN JASMINE (J. sambac) is a small climber that prefers frost-free regions and a sunny position. It bears its perfumed flowers in spring, summer and autumn.
Chilean jasmine (Mandevilla laxa) has delicate trumpet-shaped white flowers
White climbing roses shine brightly on a courtyard wall after nightfall