The long, dusky evenings are here. And the magic of simple, seasonal food enjoyed together outside, turning into long twinkly evenings and intimate conversations under the stars, any old night of the week.
And as sure as the barbecue’s all about the food, the evening in the garden, whether two people or twenty, is all about the vibe. And the plants you have in your garden are a key element. They add shape, energy, a sense of the natural, and play with the light.
Add depth by going for plants that not only look attractive but give off an aroma in the evening, filling the air with delicious, heady whiffs that cause the release of serotonin (the happy hormone) in humans.
The good news about creating a garden vibe is that you can achieve something magical in any sized garden. Side returns, shared spaces and balconies can all be easily transformed. Get some height with either a pergola (if you have a large garden), parasol, wall, washing line, basketball net–you get the picture. This creates a central space to hang the lights around and pull the focus into a specific area.
If you have a crowd coming, try and factor in some breakout spots, so private chats can continue elsewhere. A couple of cushions, near a twinkling light is all you need.
Where does the aroma come from?
It’s not just the flower that can produce fragrance. Leaves, roots, buds, bark, seeds and fruit: including rosemary leaves, ginger root, clove buds, cinnamon bark and citrus fruit can all give off scent.
The reason? Evolution. Over thousands of years, some plants worked out that moths hunt at night, using scent rather than visual cues, like colour, to find food. It’s why many of these species have pale flowers. The lighter the colour, the more they stand out in the moonlight.
It would seem your garden is feeling romantic, before you even get out there with your candles.
The best aroma-rich plants for east London
Jeremy Hindmarsh, the Senior Planting & Garden Designer at Lancaster’s Home & Garden in E17, suggests the following species are easy to grow in east London. Not only are these plants attractive, but they pack a punch in the evening when they unleash their aromas, evoking memories of Summer walks near English hedgerows.
1. Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum)
2. Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)
3. Night Scented Phlox (Zaluzianskya ovata)
4. Pinks (Dianthus)
5. Night Scented Stock (Matthiola longipetala)
Plants use pollen to reproduce, but it’s not a large contributor to the production of aroma. Hayfever sufferers can find the beauty in plants with interesting foliage such as ferns, ornamental grasses and those with bold structured foliage, like Fatsia Japonica, which will give your space an instant, tropical feel.
Go for natural fibres with outdoor rugs of coconut husk and rattan furniture to keep things earthy and natural. Let the flicker of candles in jars on the table create a twinkling focus, but widen the scene with fairy lights entwined in foliage, hanging from your elevation point or balcony edge. And avoid having to go inside by having cool boxes outside for drinks and water, with blankets in case it gets chilly.
You can’t beat a warm Summer evening where friends keep turning up, the night goes on and on and late lingerers gather, ever closer, in soft- lit corners. Just add plants to enhance the experience and let nature take its course.
Estates East Team
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Lancaster’s Home & Garden in Wood Street, E17 are offering Estates East clients 10% off their first purchase, on completion of a new property or rental contract. Just take the card from your Estates East Completion Pack when you go. They’re also lovely to talk to and seek advice from, about all things garden.