Sign In | Create an Account | Welcome, . My Account | Logout | Subscribe | Submit News | Staff Contacts | Home RSS

By the light of the silvery moon

May 3, 2019
By JOYCE COMINGORE - Garden Club of Cape Coral , Cape Coral Daily Breeze


The purity of an all-white blooming garden is best viewed at night. A 90-year-old woman was approached as she gardened late in the afternoon and asked about her late-day activity. She explained, she liked gardening in the dusk to escape the heat of the day. She had all white blossomed fragrant plants to cheer her onward.

Now, I use to think that way, but here in Florida, the mosquitoes come out at dusk. Our rainy season starts in June and all the open containers fill with those squiggly things called mosquito larvae. They seek the warmth of human bodies to fill their need for blood. I understand body fragrance attracts them, also. Whatever it is, I am very attractive to them, so I learned to avoid late evening gardening. But that is the very time for an all-white blooming garden to flourish. Sitting and enjoying the fragrant view is something else, priceless.

We are privileged to have an all-white garden here locally to enjoy. Mina Edison, at her Edison Estate, left us her Moonlight Garden formed in 1920. Ironically, it is to be enjoyed without one of her husband's greatest achievements, electricity. Located behind Edison's tiny office built by Henry Ford to fill the void left when Ford picked up the original 1886 laboratory that stood for 43 years, relocating it to Ford's Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. Mina decided she wanted a serene, small, rectangular reflective pool in the void created by the move, a place of peace and contemplation. It was to reflect the moon and stars, which is why there is no fountain creating water movement in the pool.The pool is surrounded by trellises accented by magenta bougainvillea and beds of fragrant white flowers that shimmer in the night. A trellis on the office's side facing the pool was covered by Queen's Wreath and jasmine.

Moonlight gardens became popular in the late Roaring 20s when people had a greater awareness of the moon's influence in their lives. An area planted with white and silvery flowers that glow after dark gives us an evening of romance and peace. This is why it is a popular place for weddings and painting classes.

Nightshift pollinators are moths and bats, while the sun is up flowers use color to attract insects and birds as pollinators, at nighttime white and fragrant flowers are important for attracting pollinators. Moths far outnumber butterflies and they handle the nightshift work of pollinating. Moonlight gardens are a utopia for them. Bats aren't really the bad guys. You've seen too many movies, although Sesame Street has a Count Dracula, so, bat awareness starts early. Our area has no vampire bats but plenty of beneficial ones (hanging around).

Bats are the only flying mammals, belonging to the family Vespertilionidae, and their main menu is insects. They eat up to 100 percent of their body weight worth of insects every night, consuming nearly 1,200 in an hour. The main reason to care about bats -- tequila and chocolate. We do also have mangoes and bananas. Bats don't promote rabies in any higher ratio than any other animal, and they don't drink blood. Relax on your patio, drink a margarita, nibble chocolate, knowing the bats are eating the pesky insects.

Dorothy Frances Gurney's poem often posted in gardens is so true; "You really are closer to God's heart in a garden than any place on earth." The great thing about moonlight gardens is you can't see all the weeds at nighttime, you only see the white and silvery flowers and the reflection of the moon. The magic of the garden comes from the calm and peace, the quiet and serenity you are filled with when you are there. In the early 1920s, there was little urban light competition with celestial light helping to promote the popularity of moonlight gardens.

It's felt that Mina Edison created the garden in 1929 as a part of the Women's Movement and women getting the vote. She was a big proponent of the garden club movement. Mina entertained there and they both relaxed together there. A news conference was held there for President-elect Herbert Hoover. Mina deeded the property to the city of Fort Myers in 1947.

Mina's Moonlight Garden was replicated as an American showcase during the Royal Horticulture Society's annual Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, July 7-9, 2017 in England. It brought home a Royal Horticulture Society Bronze Medal.

I see "Little Gem" magnolias blooming now, my Fiddlewood by the driveway attracts bees and me with its fragrance, White Crinums, Confederate Jasmine climbing poles, white moonflowers, spider lilies, Jamaican Caper, Walter's viburnum, Citrus when it blooms. Night-blooming Jasmine is overwhelming but lovely twinkling out from its shrubbery. It is noted as the strongest scented plant in the world, but it is not a true jasmine. Belonging in the nightshade family along with tomatoes and potatoes, it takes the top prize for overwhelming the garden.Queen of the Night is its title. If it's white and fragrant in the evening, let your nose be your guide when choosing your garden plants.

The Edison and Ford Winter Estates are open daily 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at 2530 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers. To connect with the estates, call 239-334-7419 or email At 10 a.m. May 10 there will be a program about the Moonlight Garden and on May 17, there will be a Moonlight Garden Tour at Night. Contact them for details if you are interested.

Remember to thank a tree, maybe a Bridal Wreath Frangipani. You can even hug its whole upright frame.

Joyce Comingore is a Master Gardener, hibiscus enthusiast and member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



I am looking for:
News, Blogs & Events Web