Wild Things…
Wild Garden at Night
By Karen Vizzi
   Often overlooked is the beauty of the wild garden at night. But there are many reasons to design a garden for evening enjoyment. For most people, the only time they have to spend in the garden may be in the evening after work. It is cooler and things look so much nicer. Plants, as well as people, tend to perk up when the sun goes down.
   There are many plants that bloom only when daylight fades. Night-blooming plants also tend to have intense fragrances and are pollinated by moths that find their way via these delicious scents. More often than not, the flowers of these plants are white. This makes the evening garden especially beautiful, as white flowers will stand out more in the soft evening light. There is a white strain of the morning glory vine that blooms at night called Moonflower (ipomoea alba). This is a fascinating plant because the blooms open so rapidly, you can actually watch the flowers fully expand in a matter of moments… and the fragrance is incredible. Other choices include night blooming stock and white nicotiana (flowering tobacco). Nicotiana will look rather sad in the harsh light of day, but the flowers and scent will knock your socks off once the sun goes down. Even white phlox (which blooms all day) becomes more fragrant at night and is a great choice for the evening garden.
   But the real stars of the wild garden at night are the moths. Many moths are much more beautiful and complex than just Cecropia moths (pictured)the little white guys that flit around the back porch light. Cecropia moths (pictured) are multi-colored and have wingspans of 5 to 6 inches. Sphinx moths are adorable, fuzzy little critters that resemble hummingbirds and are often mistaken for such. And nothing makes my heart skip a beat like the ghostly Luna moth. These iridescent green moths with 3 to 4 inch wingspans are like gossamer faeries. 
   Because there are so many colorful moths, it is sometimes hard to tell the difference between a moth and a butterfly. The way to tell them apart is to get a look at the antennae. Moth antennae are wispy and hair-like, OR they resemble tiny feathers. Butterflies have little knobs at the very tip, often called “clubbed” antennae.
   A really neat project for kids (or big people who act like kids) is to stage an event called a “Moth Quest”. Find a dark, quiet corner of the yard and hang a white bed sheet over some low tree branches. Place a black light behind the sheet and wait a little while. Come back with a flashlight and a field guide and have some fun trying to figure out who all your night visitors are!
Bird Brainers: Birdbaths should be cleaned regularly in this hot weather. A ten percent bleach solution will eliminate harmful bacteria. Just be sure to rinse and dry thoroughly before refilling.

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