Dig It – October Tips from the Secret Gardener

Moonflower (Karen Roussel)

The annual UK-wide event to record moths – Moth Night – is currently taking place (from 12 to 14 Oct). This year’s theme is ivy which, as it flowers late in the year, provides a lifeline to moths and butterflies when other nectar sources are unavailable. If you have a patch of flowering ivy in your garden then pop out with a torch in the evening and see if you can find some lovely autumnal moths such as the Pink-barred Sallow, Angle Shades, Green-brindled Crescent and Red-green Carpet. Pollination by moths will also create the black ivy berries which provide winter food for birds. 

So as well as ivy, what could you plant for moths? Taking inspiration from the beautiful Harvest Moon on 5 October you could plan to create a ‘Moon Garden for Moths’. Moon gardens contain plants which are best appreciated at night and usually have white or pale-coloured – often fragrant – flowers or silver foliage which glow in the moonlight. This combination of plants and fragrance can make a very relaxing space and increase the hours you can enjoy your garden.

What to plant

Convolvulus Hawk-moth (Keith Baldie)Flowers that have evolved to attract moths as pollinators are often shades of white, lilac or pale pink so they can be seen at night and they emit their scent more strongly after dark.

Flowers which open in late afternoon or evening and release their scent include Evening Primrose Oenothera spp., Tobacco Plant Nicotiana alata and the annuals Four O’clock Plant Mirabilis jalapa 'Alba' and Moonflower Ipomoea alba, which is a climber with large trumpet-shaped flowers.

Some spectacular immigrant species such as the Convolvulus Hawk-moth can be drawn to feed on the long, tube-shaped flowers of Tobacco Plant N. alata ‘Sensation Mixed’.

Other scented flowers include Night Phlox Zaluzianskya ovata, Night-scented Stock Matthiola longipetala, Sweet Alyssum Lobularia maritima, White Lavender Lavandula angustifolia 'Arctic Snow’ and the climbers Jasmine Jasminum officinale and Honeysuckle Lonicera spp.  

/files/white-campion-dean-morley.jpgIn the border you could just chose white versions of favourites such as Cosmos bipinnatus 'Purity', White Campion Silene latifolia, White Valerian Centranthus ruber 'Albus' and Coneflower Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’.

Remember to include plants with silver foliage such as Lamb’s Ears Stachys byzantina along with shrubs with white flowers such as Buddleia davidii ‘White Profusion’ and White Hebe Hebe albicans.

Try and choose a variety of plants that will be in flower throughout the year. Start planning to make over a corner of your garden so you have a moth heaven in time for next year’s Moth Night.

Happy Gardening!

The Secret Gardener