Atmospheric gardens and terraces: rely on these plants and lighting

Enjoy summer nights
Tips on planting and lighting for the garden

It’s not just sunshine on your face and ice cream that represents summer. Even warm summer nights where you can sit in the garden for a long time. Here are additional tips on planting and lighting for that.

When the sun disappears below the horizon, the garden does not calm down. Plants and animals, which are usually active only at night, wake up at dusk. Bats fluttering in the moonlight, owls squawking, bushes rustle: many people find it frightening to be in the garden at night. Melanie Conrad finds this time of day very exciting.

“When the noise of the day is less, we can perceive a lot through our senses,” says a garden expert with the German Conservation Union (NABU). There is so much to see, hear, taste and smell in the nature park, even during the day. On mild summer evenings, around the time of blue hour, heaven and earth are filled with noises and smells.

The chirping of night grasshoppers from the meadow grass blends with the singing of trees and shrubs where blackbirds and nightingales perch. Fireflies light up hedges to attract friends. Common frogs leave their hiding places under piles of wood and stones, and newts leave the pond and go in search of snails, worms and insects.

Some flowers only open at night

And in the perennial bed, fragrant flowers open at sunset: night violet (Hesperis matronalis), night phlox (Zaluzianskya capensis) and evening primrose (Oenothera biennis), so this time of day bears its name. They look beautiful, but above all, their food supply is important to many insects.

“80 percent of moths are nocturnal,” Konrad says. To make sure that pollinators can find them, plants don’t just rely on scents. Moongrass (Ipomoea alba), nodding (Silene nutans) and white cambon (Silene latifolia) stand out clearly from their dark surroundings with their bright flowers: they seem to glow. Biologist and garden planner Brigitte Kleinud knows why: “Evening and night flowers contain pigments that reflect short-wave light.”

Glittering Leaves in the Dark

Less for insects, but very attractive to the human eye, it is also sage (Salvia) and woolly sage (Stachys byzantina) with its shimmering gray-silver leaves and perennial with variegated white foliage such as some Hosta or spotted lung herb (Pulmonaria officinalis) .

So that you can watch the hustle and bustle of the park undisturbed in the evenings, Kleinwood recommends setting up benches directly in the park – if you can, even with a view of the sunset. “Sunset is one of the most beautiful moments of the evening,” he certainly finds not only Clenwood. Depending on the season, protection from rain or wind can also come in handy here if you don’t want to settle for just the right clothes, blankets, and umbrellas.

To ensure that the seating area also becomes a quiet place to rest, the garden planner recommends a privacy screen behind which you can relax and end the day. Car noise and other annoying background noise can be masked if necessary, for example by using the water spray feature. “First think about how you will use the garden before designing it,” offers Kleinod.

Avoid artificial lighting if possible

Under the starry sky and moonlight, the park’s nightlife can be observed. But also on other evenings, the lights should remain off. “It takes about two minutes for the eyes to get used to the dark. Only then do they test how little light is,” says Clynaud. And if necessary to your senses, the garden planner recommends using lights that emit light downward with the lowest possible light intensity.

Konrad recommends LEDs whose light does not have a blue component. Because this makes the light white and bright – and this has a direct impact on the environment. “Bright light with a strong UV component strongly attracts insects. As a result, they lose energy to find mates and food,” explains NABU gardening expert.

However, there are areas that need lighting for safety reasons, such as steps and basement entrances. Here, motion detectors can be used to ensure that the lights are only on when we humans need them. “Set motion detectors so that the light only turns on when a person approaches, not a cat,” Kleinwood advises.

Tips against unwanted night guests

In the evening and at night, animal visitors can also go outside and are not welcome in the park: snails, mosquitoes, rats, and raccoons, for example. They also mostly forage under cover of darkness.

You can do something about it without harming the animals. For example, minimizing a food source for rats and raccoons: manure. “Don’t throw away any cooked food leftovers in the compost, especially fish and meat,” Konrad advises.

Mosquito larvae usually develop in standing water such as rain barrels or bird baths. Here it helps to cover the containers and change the water in the ponds daily. On the other hand, a semi-natural pond with different water areas and corresponding vegetation does not provide a home for mosquito larvae – at the latest when the dragonflies are on the move. Mosquitoes are one of the main food sources.

Such natural opponents can also be found in snails, for example in the form of fireflies and hedgehogs. “Diversity in the garden is crucial to preventing the animal from reproducing too quickly,” Konrad explains. So it is better to provide a home for opponents, for example in piles of dead wood, dry stone walls and other undisturbed wilderness corners, but also by non-poisonous care.

Conrad Allure: “Displace the robotic lawn mower—or just leave it running in the afternoon hours when you’re around. Motorized lawn mowers are especially bad for nocturnal animals like hedgehogs.”

(This article was first published on Monday, July 18, 2022.)

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