Make your backyard gardens magical nighttime respites

Jasmine polyanthum fills a yard with perfume both day and night

Living in this part of the country rewards us with a climate that makes it perfect to use the garden after dark.

Most other areas of the country have too much inclement weather or too many aggressive nighttime bugs to regularly relax outdoors after the sun goes down. And since so many of our summer days chase us indoors with excessive heat, the garden becomes even more tempting when temperatures cool at the end of the day.

So why not design your landscape to include nighttime use? After all, a garden can look amazingly magical after dark!

When planning out your garden, keep in mind all the different ways you can use it when daytime is done. Think of extending your living space outdoors for rest and relaxation, entertainment and nighttime sports. There are many ways you can turn your ordinary landscape into a special place that is quite different than the daytime garden you are used to seeing.


Add comfy chairs, a water feature to provide the calming sound of trickling water and plant night-scented plants for a bit of aroma therapy. You can make your garden into a sensory experience after dark with scented flowers. There is something truly delightful about sitting in a garden aglow with warm nighttime lighting and the fragrance of night-blooming flowers filling the air.

By planting scented flowers in your garden, you can create a romantic experience or stress-healing retreat to enjoy and share after dark. Look for white or light pastel-colored flowers to add visual contrast in the dark. 

Scented flowers

Some good night-scented white flowering vines are jasmines like Trachelospermum jasminoides known as Star Jasmine (best planted with some daytime dappled shade), and the pink and white Jasminium polyanthum for full sun.

Another good vine for partial- or full-shade garden areas are Moonflowers (Ipomoea alba only – other varieties can be poisonous) with its big, white reflective disks filled with perfume at night.

For low-growing flowers, try a ground cover of white Alyssum, flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana alata), or the Four O’Clock Alba. Two California native plants — the Tufted Evening Primrose, Oenothera caespitosa, and the Chocolate flower, Berlandiera lyrata — are two good choices for native, water-wise scented flowers.

Fill a larger space with the shrubby California native Mock Orange (Philadelphus lesisii) for full sun or part shade. Or, try the frost-shy Cestrum nocturnum, the Night-Blooming Jasmine, to permeate the air with a powerful perfume in a protected area. Gardenia, another scented favorite, is best grown in containers since it will require special care to keep the soil acidic.

Casa Blanca Lily or the diminutive Zephranthes drummondii (Rain Lily) are some good bulb choices. They are good to grow in mild sun or part shade, and are not fussy about soil.

There are whites and other colors of Brugmansia, Angle Trumpet (all parts toxic if eaten), Centauria and Tobacco flower that will add color to your garden during the day yet still flood your garden with a gentle nighttime perfume. Some other flowers that are scented strongly at the end of the day or nighttime are the annual Night-scented Stock, some Honeysuckle blooms, and many Iris varieties. Not all of these flowering plants are drought-tolerant.

You can even design in some of these fragrant flowers near to a doorway or a window where the scent can filter into your home and soothe you as you drift off to sleep.

A lighted swimming pool invites you in for an evening dip

Nighttime fun and comfort

Other ways to make your garden inviting at night involve building and furnishing spaces that are comfortable and practical. Design in permanent features like a cozy patio, add tables and chairs, build an outdoor fireplace or fire pit and maybe a built-in barbecue so you can celebrate the outdoors at night with friends and family. Or, add a hot tub or swimming pool lit up for an otherworldly nighttime vacation sure to delight both children and adults.

If you like to entertain, set your backyard up so it is comfortable for evening parties in the garden. Look into some of the decorative and useful furniture being made for outdoor use. You can even buy weather resistant outdoor fabrics ideal for cushions and drapes to make your outdoor world as enticing as your indoor environment.

Create a little mystery with night lighting in your garden


Add a lighted sport court, a small hiking path dotted with low voltage or solar lighting or consider a dramatically lit water feature for powerful effects in the evening hours.

Lighting is an art of its own, transforming the same location into something entirely different with light and shadow. Use it in your night garden to pick out focal points, provide safety and transform a dark garden into a magical playground.

With outdoor LED lights embedded in flexible cords, you can even line walkways or draw outlines in your nighttime scene. There have never been so many choices in lighting effects. Most are energy efficient so they shouldn’t have much impact on your electricity bill. Choose warmer yellows or cooler whites and accent a special area with colored lights for special effects.

Think about all the ways you can make your garden work for you after the sun goes down. Nighttime gardens can be a haven for the inland landscape. Create your own magical garden. You can extend the useful part of your house and lifestyle not only into your garden, but deep into the night.

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