Until a few years ago, I always hated being home alone at night. Every noise was a burglar or axe murderer, and I virtually slept with my shoes on, so I could make a quick getaway if I had to.
Two posts lined each side of the driveway. I strung a chain between them to deter any evil stalkers who might drive down in the middle of the night. It certainly deterred my friend Mike, who drove in one evening and wrecked the
front of his car.
I habitually left every light on in the house, until a neighbour pointed out that keeping my home fully lit was a good way of showing murderers where to come, so I decided to take myself in hand and get over it.
The first night I turned the lights off, I lay awake, staring out at the garden. Unfortunately, it was a moonlit evening, which threw shadows everywhere, and after an hour I was a sleepless, shivering, whimpering wreck.
I climbed out of bed and strode determinedly into the garden to face my demons – there weren’t any.
I was assailed by nothing more than the intoxicating scent of the Queen of the Night, and after I’d checked every corner for axe murderers, began to enjoy my midnight ramble.
Meandering around your property at night can give you a whole new outlook. For me, it was the beginning of an appreciation of plants that look, or smell, good at night, along with the sounds of moreporks, possums and cicadas, and the tranquillity of a moonlit space.
The idea of designing a night garden took root, and I fortuitously found a story on how to make one in the now defunct English garden magazine New Eden. It was a decade ahead of its time, evidenced by the fact that I often reread copies and still find them innovative and fresh.
The story suggested designing a silver garden with pale grey foliage, white or pearl-coloured flowers, and perhaps a silver-coloured sculpture. As well as providing a night-time sanctuary, such a garden, it said, could also be ideal as a place of remembrance for the ashes of a beloved relative or treasured pet.
The main trick is to choose plants and materials that are pale and reflective. Stone chip, shell or white pavers are perfect for paths because they’re easily seen, and this is one situation in which solar lights are acceptable – they cast a lavender light, as opposed to white or yellow.
Pale grey rocks, grey or white stones, pieces of pumice, silvered timber posts or pieces of furniture and decorative metal relics are other items to consider. Add a stainless-steel lamp to sit alongside a path or sitting space and spray terracotta saucers silver to use for tea lights.
Axe murderers wandering about at night will at best be confused by the reflective qualities of your tranquil silver garden, or soothed and disarmed by its serenity.
About Lee Ann McKenzie
Lee Ann wasn’t always a gardener - she lead what she terms ‘a normal life’ as a newspaper journalist and then television producer in Dunedin until the nineties, when she started moving north. Working on various lifestyle magazines in Auckland, Lee Ann eventually published her own garden design magazine, Alfresco, for 10 years.more of this author