Those treasured hours between the end of the day and the beginning of night are beautiful moments to reacquaint yourself with your Garden. During this period of magical change, the most extraordinary happenings can occur in the landscape you thought you knew so well. The interplay of angled light and lengthening shadows creates new effects, bringing into the spotlight the very plants that were ignored in the bright midday sun, when only the loudest and brassiest colors garnered attention. As evening approaches, the “moon garden” plants emerge and begin to glow softly, and all of a sudden, pale yellow, cream, and silvery white rule the garden. Flowers in purple, burgundy, red, and even the coveted royal blue are now banished to the shadows.
In the evening, there is a renewed refreshment in the Garden. When the winds soften, the lakes appear as glass, reflecting perfectly the images of shoreline trees, seas of grasses, bright perennials, and colorful aquatic plants. With the sun out of the west, familiar vistas have a new look, with many plants backlit by the dazzling colors from a perfect sunset. Birds chirp or call out as they fly to their roosts. Water birds find this time ideal for fishing, and this “Garden of Nine Islands” is dotted with great blue herons standing tall on the shorelines. Look for them hugging close to the edges of Bird Island, the three islands of the Elizabeth Hubert Malott Japanese Garden, throughout the Great Basin, and along the quiet recesses of Spider Island. Ducks are also visible there, and, off the terraces of the Esplanade, they glide effortlessly across the mirrored waters and return to their evening homes, their tail feathers capturing the light of the setting sun.
Enjoy the Evening Activities
The Garden remains open until 9 p.m. during summer, further reason to discover your own favorite views and vistas during the evening hours. Daytime noises vanish and the Garden fills with the soothing sounds of water and music. What better time to take advantage of good sounds than in the Garden at evening? Monday nights feature the rich, clear bells of Carillon Concerts; on Tuesdays, the romantic Music on the Esplanade puts you in a mellow mood; and Thursdays get your feet tapping and your body dancing to up-tempo beats of Hot Summer Nights. Why not take your walk in the Garden before, during, or after these special events — or any evening during the week or weekend? The Garden Shop and Café are both open until 9 p.m., and you can always enjoy a beverage of your choice while relaxing on the decks outside the Café, which happen to be a favorite spot for watching birds, scenery, and sunsets.
Water in the Garden
The new freshness in the Garden extends not only to the plants, but to the clarity and coolness of both air and water. New, quieter sounds travel across the still lakes — the voices of frogs, toads, crickets, and night birds. Water crashes from the Waterfall Garden into the lake below and the fountains of the Esplanade, Circle Garden, and Rose Garden remind us how precious the sound, and feel, of running water is on a summer’s eve. There are secret sources of water drawing you into hidden niches. The English Walled Garden’s Courtyard Garden contains a wall-mounted cistern with a single spout; the Pergola Garden’s circular pool includes a low bubbler that creates ripples in the shadow of the signature weeping katsura tree; and a soft gurgle in the octagonal reflecting pool of the Vista Garden keeps the water moving gently. Everywhere, benches and seats welcome you to sit and enjoy these evening pleasures.
Fragrant Plants at Night
A stroll to the Buehler Garden rewards with water features and ringside seats to the drama of Evening Island and the Great Basin as the sun dips low. Within this garden are spouting fountains and walls of sheeting water, plus the great bonus of an evening garden — fragrant plants that send out their powerful perfume in the evening. Keep this thought as you venture into darker corners tonight — you will experience a heady mix of intoxicating aromas from plants that now have less competition. The combination of more moisture in the air, plus less wind and direct sun, allows the mysterious fragrance from new and old plant friends to permeate the air. If your own garden is enjoyed mostly at night, these are the plants for you.
The Evening Light
As any good photographer knows, true colors are best captured out of bright light. As the evening advances, dark colors recede, but forms remain true. There is a shift in the tone and gradation of colors, as if a different color wheel operated in the evening, casting new hues on once-familiar flowers. How differently they appear in the light of dusk. The velvety green land mounds of the Malott Japanese Garden rest silently on the smooth lake waters, creating an impressive image of mass on liquid — an image not at once apparent at noon.
Sunsets on Evening Island
Gardeners will thus find their attention drawn to shapes, habits, and the statuesque qualities of plants. During these fleeting evening hours, it is simple to move from one brightly lit section of the Garden to a twilight hideaway of seclusion and repose. But, at the moment the plant world darkens, the midwestern sky comes alive with fire and glory — each sunset a unique point-counterpoint to the deepening garden world below. Right on time, Evening Island becomes illuminated with dramatic lighting, and quietly and majestically says good night to this, your Garden of Evening Delights.