summer

This $6 Gardening Trick Is the Secret to the Most Magical Summer Nights Outdoors

published Jun 8, 2023
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White hydrangeas from Trader Joe's on outdoor coffee table with string lights in background.
Credit: Shifrah Combiths

When we moved last year, one of the hardest things for me to say goodbye to at our old house was our backyard. It was large and landscaped, dotted with our favorite bushes and trees placed within the graceful curves of flower beds that lined the back of our house and our fence line. 

The first phase of our landscaping was planted two years after we built the house, so we got to watch the plants grow alongside our children. The second phase came after we built an addition on the house. Our wonderful neighbor Miss P designed them for us, coming and marking off the organic lines of the flower beds before sod was installed. She also helped us split plants we already had to make borders for the beds, and was a valuable source of knowledge about everything else we added. Gardening with Miss P was one of the special ways we bonded as my family’s backyard came to life. 

So, leaving our yard and all those plants was unsurprisingly emotional. But even though I couldn’t bring my sparkly sunshine ligustrum, stunning deep pink hibiscus with blooms bigger than my head, or the towering crape myrtles whose branches hung heavy with snowy blooms that seemed to cool those sweltering Florida summer days — I still carry all of Miss P’s gardening lessons with me. 

One of them helps to make summer nights outdoors even more enchanting: white flowers. Miss P taught me that choosing white flowers for the porch, patio, or garden means you can enjoy them more at night, when they glow far more dazzlingly than other colored flowers. Because white is such a contrast to an inky night, they pop against the darkness and come alive in a way they never do during the daytime. 

Credit: Shifrah Combiths

In our old house, I planted gardenias adjacent to the back porch, where we could see (and smell!) them at night. I haven’t been able to plant more permanent bushes at our new house yet, but I purposely bring white flowers, such as a vase of creamy hydrangeas, outside whenever I can. And that’s the thing — you don’t have to have flower beds to enjoy the beauty of white flowers at night. Even a simple jar of daisies does the trick. 

For these gorgeous blooms, I went to Trader Joe’s and picked up their three-stem set of hydrangeas, which also come in stunning blues and greens. (Pro tip: Trader Joe’s is the cheapest grocery store for high-quality flowers.) If you’re not near a TJ’s or want an arrangement that lasts longer, these faux hydrangeas are a good option.

Being outside at night with white flowers is a special kind of magic, and makes summer nights prettier than ever. Just sitting on our porch as the heat cools and the fireflies twinkle — it’s a simple joy that puts a cherry on top of a season full of fun, celebration, and humidity.  

Find in stores: Trader Joe’s Hydrangea 3-stem, $5.99