Blog post

Moon Garden Magic with Jeanne Nolan

Jeanne Nolan of the The Organic Gardener is known for creating gardens that are as nurturing as they are beautiful. For Nolan, a home garden can be touchstone of daily life: a source of food and cut flowers, a place of meditation and play, and an endless source of creative inspiration. Like us, Nolan is particularly enamored with moon gardens, the daytime gardens that transform at night into dreamy landscapes, aglow with white flowers, silvery plants, and meaningful art and objects that reflect the moonlight.

Jeanne Nolan, Founder & President of The Organic Gardener.

Nolan begins her moon gardens with a mix of white and night-flowering blooms. She says that “scented flowers are a favorite, especially rare jasmine-scented nicotiana. These star-shaped blooms support nocturnal pollinators and emit an intoxicating jasmine scent.” The team at The Organic Gardener sows them “in drifts to perfume the evening air. Long, slender stems emerge from lush and velvety obovate leaves, bringing elegance to flower borders.” Other favorite moon garden choices include lambs ears, white morning glories, clematis, and white anemones.

A moon garden aglow at night.

For Nolan, these drifts of blooms are only part of the design. She believes that “a dreamy moon garden is a portal that beckons us to pause and find the glow of the moon reflected on Earth within beautiful one-of-a-kind garden objects that become a focal point for meditation, contemplation and self-reflection.” She chooses these objects carefully to suit both the garden and its intended use. For example, a family that loves to entertain may select a stone well head mounted as a sculpture that frames a viewpoint easily admired from the patio, while a client who meditates might prefer a marble moon bench for quiet reflection. This mix of plantings and objects are what make a moon garden personal and memorable.

Lakeside, Michigan Garden Collaboration between The Organic Gardener & Hoerr Schaudt. Photo Scott Shigley.

One of Nolan’s favorite projects was a collaboration with landscape architects Hoerr Schaudt, for a family compound in Lakeside, Michigan. Nolan worked with the clients for over a decade before this chapter of the project, in which they sought to create extensive kitchen and cutting gardens. The Organic Gardener and Hoerr Schaudt imbued the garden with nighttime interest by painting the shed a chic white. Under the moonlight, it casts the surrounding garden in a beautiful glow.

A limestone trough, planted with Creeping Jenny and other silvery greens.

Our in-house green thumb at PAGODA RED, Michael Keeley, also has a creative and intentional approach to moon gardens, and often helps our clients chose thoughtful objects for their own. Michael suggests layering darker foliage with light stone sculptures and white-glazed porcelains to create contrast and focal points of interest. Both he and Nolan love to incorporate marble drum stools for seating or to be used as plant stands. These stone drums can also be occasional tables and work as well in petite gardens as they do in larger ones.

Celestial Cloud Architectural Object, circa 1750 at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Nolan and Keeley both emphasize that a moon garden should be a sensory wonderland, layered with texture and fragrance. Keeley notes that ancient stone objects are often client favorites. A great example is a 18th c. celestial cloud architectural object, with an all over motif of billowy clouds, which the Chicago Botanic Garden once featured in an orchid show as a heavenly statement in a lush bed of green.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Moon1.png
A moon micro-garden in a white marble root tub.

While Nolan often designs extensive moon gardens, we’ve also seen small moon gardens installed on balconies and urban spaces. Keeley notes that creating a moon garden near a bedroom is especially nice, since it can be viewed just before sleep. In the gallery, Nolan told us that lamb’s ear would be lovely planted in a half-moon limestone trough. On a terrace, it would look striking with a marble mosaic by Toyoharu Kii, hung just above to reflect the light. Keeley notes that “these are objects that catch your eye, when you glance or peer through a window. Moon gardens are contemplative spaces, thoughtfully designed to please all of your senses.”

Of course, if you have the space, consider elevating your moon garden into an outstanding art installation with a statement sculpture. A current favorite of the entire PAGODA RED team is this monumental marble elephant. Not only would he make an unforgettable impression lit by moonlight in any garden, but elephants are important South Asian symbols of wisdom and are associated with water — beckoning healthy growth while standing proudly over fragrant blossoms and textural leaves.

Lamb’s Ear and varied greenery adds interest to a moon garden.

Nolan sees gardens as sacred spaces “where we can pause, go deep within ourselves and nourish our souls and access the healing that nature provides — let the stress go and transform into our best, evolving selves.” However you plant your moon garden, it should be a place of peace, a timeless ethereal space to enjoy at the end of the day – with friends, family, or completely and blissfully alone.


Previous Post