Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Sunday, 10 July 2011

The Twilight Garden: Book Review


The above photo is part of the amazing A Garden by Night, created for this year's RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. This was one of my highlights of this year's event, so it's rather timely that I've received a review copy of Lia Leendertz's book Twilight Garden, which has lots of information to enable you to do this kind of thing for yourself.

Now Lia's book is here, I've been wondering why no-one's thought of it before. When do most gardeners relax in their gardens? If you're like me, going into the garden during the day means even if you do manage to sit down, then you're soon up again having spotted something which needs doing. No, my relaxing time in the garden is at dusk, when the bats start circling.

The book is divided into two parts: Making Your Twilight Garden Reality and Plants and Planting. The first part covers the design aspects of a twilight garden and how to use colour, scent, lighting and water to make a garden for all the senses. Practical tips for wildlife gardening and organising space then follow. Finally there's ideas for entertaining geared towards the fun kind of events I like to have or remember with fondness from my childhood.

The bulk of the book is geared towards the plants to use, with around 60 selected for you to choose from. If you thought a spot of Nicotiana, scented jasmine and evening primrose are the only plants you can use for this time of the day, then you'll find plenty of extra inspiration from the star plants, supporting cast and backstage beauties suggested here. How about adding a Moonflower (Ipomoea alba - star), Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis - supporting cast), or a Himalayan birch (Betula utilis var. jacquemontii - backstage beauty) to your mix?

I'll add a further suggestion of my own. In March I was often woken by owls hooting in the middle of the night and because of the unseasonally warm weather at the time, I was able to throw the windows open wide to listen to them. An added surprise was the fantastic scent of the 'Thalia' daffodils wafting up to me from the pots of them I had on the patio :)

There's lots of information on the conditions needed to make each plant thrive, so you can easily find the ones best suited to your garden. The inclusion of plants such as Hellebores and plums shows Lia is intending us to enjoy our twilight garden in all seasons. She also has lots of practical tips to ensure success and things to watch out for, making this one of the best described plant list sections I've seen in a gardening book so far.

If you're thinking this book is a bit too niche or doesn't suit your lifestyle, then remember many of the suggestions are also suitable for that classic English garden style many people would like to have: the white garden.

Having realised twilight is my favourite time in the garden, I'll be adding some of Lia's suggestions to make my time there even more pleasurable.

Update from yesterday's post: I now have the i-player details for my first slot on BBC Wiltshire Radio. It's 1 hour and 29 minutes in, available until next Saturday and features apples and gardening on a slope :)

If you're a BBC Wiltshire radio listener and acted on Laura's information at the end of the piece, then welcome!

8 comments:

  1. I hate twilights...I don't know but I feel too sad every time I watch the sun set.. so I prefer to hang out in my garden early in the morning or at 1pm...

    Nice book review though... Sorry I haven't visited for a while 'coz I had exams last week!!!

    But I'm so lucky to be the first one commenting here.. :))

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  2. I often find myself still gardening at 10pm in summer (as I did this evening) and I love twilight. I love the way that foliage and branches are silhouetted against the sky at sunset, so that's another thing to think about if you have a garden that faces west, as mine does.
    Your photograph of the Garden at Night came out really well, didn't it?

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  3. We love spending evenings in our garden.....or throwing a quilt out on the front lawn and gazing up at the stars through the big pecan tree. I keep strings of white lights up year round on the front poch and by the side fountain.....looks so pretty at night. Here in Texas the evenings are the ONLY time you can be out and comfortable. The 'work' gets done in the intense heat of the day!

    The book sounds inspiring!!

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  4. Cecile - I seem to remember that nightfall happens more quickly in your part of the world. Here it's a more gradual process, so you get used to nightfall in a gentle way. It's also a time when the birds start calling more loudly and its lovely to sit in the garden listening to them as well as watching the bats.

    Hope your exams went well.

    Victoria - the trees at the side of the house are to the west, so I enjoy their silhouettes too. The photo was hand held at 1/20th sec, so I'm very chuffed at how well it came out, thanks :)

    Linda - I have some solar powered lighting - it adds a gentle glow to the garden without being obtrusive. I like the sound of your strings of lights :)

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  5. So glad you like the book, Michelle, and thanks so much for writing this. Been a bit of a chilly summer for sitting out and enjoying the evening garden so far this year, but here's hoping for a few balmy ones as summer wears on x

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  6. Lia - it was my pleasure as I enjoyed the book. I've been wrapping up warm and wine has been replaced with coffee to warm my hands as I enjoy my evening garden :)

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  7. I thought that the plant list was the most inspiring part of Lia's book - both imaginative and informative . Hope that we have some balmy nights soon to sit out and enjoy those magical hours.

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  8. Hi Anna - yes the plant list is very good - lots of practical hints and tips in there too.

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