We spend a great deal of time pruning our gardens, window boxes and assorted pots ready for long summer days, but how often do we consider how these spaces function once the sun goes down? In this article, we’ll be showing you how to create a moon garden to boost your mental wellbeing – regardless of how much space is available to you.
Keen to savour time outdoors and create green spaces that welcome nighttime pollinators, we built our very own moonlit haven here at New Leaf HQ to support our mental health and enrich our connection with the natural environment. But, what exactly is a moon garden and where does the idea come from?
What is a moon garden?
Moon gardens are typically outdoor spaces designed to come alive by the light of the moon, filled with fragrant flowers and foliage that reflect the moonlight and nourish nocturnal pollinators.
As darkness falls and dappled moonlight descends, moon gardens offer a sense of tranquillity to all who stop by thanks to the soothing sights, scents and sounds. Creating a welcoming space whatever the hour ensures that even the busiest people have the opportunity to breathe in the cool air, make space for their thoughts and relax amongst nature.
Moon gardens supposedly date back to the 1500s with the Mehtab Bagh in India, a moonlit garden redesigned to reflect the majestic beauty of the Taj Mahal. Meditation gardens have also been commonplace in East Asia for centuries. The Mehtab Bagh had white plaster walkways and airy pavilions alongside pools and fountains that reflected light from the moon onto the water below.
This romantic vision found popularity across the globe, including hundreds of years later in Victorian England when families began to spend more of their evenings enjoying their leisure time outdoors in parks and gardens. These all-white gardens created quite the spectacle; their enchanting allure still resonates to this day.
The New Leaf moon garden
The moon garden at New Leaf HQ was born when we became interested in dedicating an area of our garden to night pollinators. Julie Lazyell, landscape architect and long-time friend of New Leaf, helped us design the moon garden layout to get the most out of the space.
After conducting research, we sourced some structural perennials that will return year after year – providing they survive the changeable weather and don’t get eaten! We used a mix of tall (blue) and low-growing perennials (purple) to create visual interest alongside a moonflower climber to create some added height. The annuals (red) surround these perennials and fill in any seasonal gaps. The crescent-shaped bed comprises scented night-blooming flowers, silver foliage for texture and shape and bright white blooms for their luminosity.
Keen to learn more about the plants, bulbs and flowers we planned to use? Consult our New Leaf Moon Garden Planting List.
Nocturnal creatures like moths, bats and beetles frequent the New Leaf garden after dark. Ampy the cat, who isn’t nocturnal in the slightest, also likes to stop by! Whilst there are species of bee that take on the night shift to feast hungrily on nectar, we’ve yet to catch them in the act. We have, however, come to realise that the garden has become a surprising habitat for our well-established great crested newts and frogs who roam freely from their pond at nightfall to relax by the light of the moon.
How to design a moon garden
Whether freshening up a window box, re-doing your doorstep pots or transforming an area of your garden, you can design a magical moon garden at home!
Here are our top tips for designing a lunar garden:
- Buy local and support your community garden centres, plant sellers and nurseries.
- Keep costs down by consulting online gardening groups where plant swapping and seed sharing is freely available. Alternatively, ask loved ones or neighbours if they’re growing the plants you’re looking for.
- Be mindful of the plants you’re using. We still haven’t been able to source all of the plants on our list! Don’t forget to also consider the seasonality of the bulbs and blooms so you aren’t left with any awkward gaps and bunch varieties together for added impact.
- Think about how you will interact with the spot. Pick somewhere peaceful where the moonlight naturally falls so you can soak up its calming qualities. Plant beds next to a patio or seating area where you can sit amongst the blooms. Alternatively, place your pots/window box where you can see them.
- Create a space that soothes all of the senses. Build a reflective water feature, add some ornamental grasses or hang some chimes for added ambience. Opt for scented flowers that fill the space with sweet fragrance, or add pots of mint, rosemary and thyme if you prefer herbal notes. Add soft furnishings to a nearby bench, patio area or doorstep stoop to create a space that feels extra welcoming.
- Experiment with hardscaping, walkways and accessories. Balance the quiet majesty of the planting with light-coloured stones, softly-lit pathways and decorative accents. You could even embrace a celestial theme, complete with crescent-shaped beds, moon-themed wall art and twinkly lights.
- Consult the New Leaf moon garden plant list for further inspiration.
Nature and mental health
Our inner world often reflects our outer reality. It’s important to nurture our connection with the natural world, much like the root of a tree embraces the earth in which it grows.
Developing a green human heart and playing an active role in the world around us is a perfect way to stay mindful and enjoy the myriad of ways nature can improve our mental health. The Mental Health Foundation conducted research that showed nearly half (45%) of people surveyed in the UK said that visiting green spaces helped them cope during the pandemic.
Whilst there isn’t solid proof that the moon actively impacts our mental wellbeing, many have come to recognise its symbiotic relationship with our emotions.
Founder of New Leaf, Becky Wright, has firsthand experience, ‘I worked as a psychotherapist for many years. My diary would get busier when the full moon approached. Those that felt unwell would see their emotions heightened, leading some to fall into more acute phases of depression or anger.
We are, after all, somewhere between 50-60% water and the gravitational pull of the moon creates the ebb and flow of the tides. I have thus come to recognise a correlation between our mental health and the phases of the moon.’
Once we recognise how to wield its calming qualities, however, the moon can become a ‘strange, ever-present nighttime companion’ that acts as a source of comfort.
Developing green values
Creating a moon garden is an excellent way to ensure that we always have a space to turn to when we want to meditate, catch up with loved ones or enjoy healing time outdoors. It’s also a great way to take care of nighttime pollinators and support our local ecosystems. Do you have plans to create a moon garden?
Here at New Leaf, we are passionate about growing in harmony with the world around us and raising awareness of the fight against climate change. Delve into the archives and read some of our green blog posts, from how to create a butterfly garden to how to green your office space.
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Are you keen to discover how New Leaf Workplace Wellbeing can help you act upon your corporate social responsibility and uphold your green values? Email Becky at [email protected] for more information.
Written in collaboration with Bee Stevenson, copywriter and content writer, from Vivatramp Creatives.