There is something special special about pottering about in the garden on summer evenings staying out until as late as you possibly can, until you can almost no longer see the end of your nose but before you snip a finger off with your secateuers . However I must admit that until now I have never consciously given thought to planning any aspect of my garden with the lateness of the hour in mind. I may well be having a rethink on this score.
Lia's Leendertz's latest book 'Twilight Garden' presents a compelling argument to make your garden somewhere 'that comes into its own at night', so that for many busy people, gardeners or not, it becomes more than a chore to be fitted in between the demands of work, parenting, traveling, shopping, cleaning, and cooking etc. After all as many people only see their garden in the evenings, we should keep this in mind when planning this extra room in the house ~ for some it can become somewhere special to provide quiet sanctuary and breathing space to be themselves, for others a place to entertain family and friends and for others that cherished gardening space.
First impressions ~ calling into my local library to pick up my reserved copy of this book 'Twilight Garden' the librarian commented on how inviting and attractive the cover of the book is. The above photo does not pick up on this but the illustration of silver and white foliage on a blue background shimmers most reminiscently of a moonlit evening.
Part One ~ 'Making Your Twilight Garden Reality' covers planning and design including using colour, scent, lighting and water. There is also a section of wildlife in the garden, tips on using space and a section which ponders on what style of night- time garden you might want to achieve. It rounds up with a section on entertaining. I must admit that I only skimmed through this. It contains 'recipes' for various outdoor themed parties and to my mind seemed almost to belong somewhere else.
Part Two ~ 'Plants & Planting' was the section that I lingered over and I am sure I will return to. There are what Lia describes as the 'star plants', 'the supporting cast' and 'backstage beauties'. There is basic information on the ideal growing conditions for each plant, their height and spread, how to propagate them and an indication of their flowering period. This is further supplemented by an explanation of why Lia has included them as candidates for the twilight garden. Many of these plants have not surprisingly white or pastel coloured flowers or silver foliage so they are more visible as darkness falls. The majority of them are also highly scented and in some cases their aroma intensifies as the clock ticks on. There are many useful ideas and suggestions to be found here, which you feel are inspired by both personal observation and practice. One or two that I have taken particular note of ~
- I have realised for some time that petunias, especially lilac and purple ones are scented but I am not always able to readily get my hands upon them. Lia suggests that if that's the case that you could consider growing either the more highly scented 'Tumbelina' or 'Wave series from seed and she provides detailed sowing instructions. Result ~ definitely a must have on next year's seed list.
- The ultimate test of how hardy you are ~ yes ~ the plant to tempt you out on a dark winter evening ~ the snowdrop. Lia suggests that this might be the ultimate magnet to pull you away from the warm indoors so that you spend some time, albeit a brief few minutes savouring the twilight winter garden. It will be interesting to find out whether their honey scent is discernible on a cold evening. Result ~ I will report back but should I disappear come one freezing February evening please launch a search party in my snowdrop patch.
- Zaluzianskya ovata ~ yes that plant with an unpronounceable name although its common name of night phlox is a lot easier to get your tongue round. This is one of those plants that I have often considered sowing but have never got round to it, mainly because I was under the impression that it is an annual. Thanks to Lia I now realise that it is a South African perennial so half hardy in our climate. Although it is short lived it can be propagated from cuttings. Result ~ an experiment. I have bought some seed and will be sowing some later today. It is possibly too late in the season but I might get some plants sturdy enough to overwinter, which will provide me with some delicious scent next summer. Nothing to lose as I will only so a few seeds so if it does not work I can try again come spring.
I must admit that I was surprised by the inclusion of some plants such as phyllostachys nigra or black bamboo. I was initially flummoxed but then all made sense. As well as providing a dark background to illuminate paler flowers, Lia points out that this is a 'noisy' plant ~ not in an offensive way but one that might block out less desirable noises floating in from outside the garden. In a similar vein she also mentions how the sound of the trickle of water from a fountain can have a similar effect. I can certainly vouchsafe for the latter technique. We have a trickling water feature outside the front door which masks the noise of the nearby busy main road.
In conclusion I thoroughly enjoyed the unique subject of this book which other books touch upon but have not gone into such depth, as far as I am aware. I can certainly say that you can ignore that familiar adage of "never judge a book by its cover". This book starts with elegant style and continues with thoughtful content. My only slight criticism is that I would have welcomed the inclusion of a bibliography or some links e.g. the sections on wildlife and using scent left me wanting more. Some references for further reading, details of wildlife organisations etc, websites would have been much appreciated. I only wish that the book had come out sooner, whilst I was still working as I would have definitely given more thought to my own twilight space. I have since received a review copy of the book from the publisher and am delighted to now have my own copy in my bookshelves to refer to again.
'Twilight Garden' by Lia Leendertz is published by Pavilion.
IBSN : 9781862059115.
Details of other books written by Lia can be found here.
You can also enjoy Lia's writing on her blog ~ 'Midnight brambling'.