The friluftsliv trend has come to our gardens – these are top night-scented plants to make you stay out longer

Explore the friluftsliv trend in the garden this summer by adding a sensory dimension with plants that release their scent at night

outdoor dining table at dusk lit by candles and lanterns
(Image credit: Westend61/Getty Images)

The friluftsliv trend has made its way into our gardens this summer – and we can't get enough of its night garden aspect. Friluftsliv, like its indoor counterpart hygge, is a Nordic concept, but it's all about unwinding in nature rather than staying indoors. Its lesser known aspect is enjoying nature at night. This summer, friluftsliv is making its way into our gardens, and creating a sensory night garden is a big part of the trend. 

Night gardens or moon gardens are perfect relaxation spaces, and can be created in conjunction with garden party ideas for a more easy-going, tranquil way of enjoying the garden in the evening with friends and family. Night-scented flowers and shrubs are a key element of a moon garden and, as Shannen Godwin, spokesperson for  J Parker’s, puts it, 'with a bit of guidance, anyone can enjoy a summer lit under the moon and bathed with sweet fragrance from lovely garden flowers. This will help create a safe space that can become their outdoor sanctuary.' 

These are the top five night-scented plants to consider if you want to start your own friluftsliv-friendly night garden. 

1. Parijat, or night-blooming jasmine

Nyctanthes arbortristis, Night-blooming jasmine

(Image credit: Gurcharan Singh / Alamy Stock Photo)

The Nyctanthes arbortristis is not, in fact, a jasmine, but it looks similar and emits a powerful, white floral fragrance only at night, dropping its flowers by morning, for which it earned the nicknames such as the 'Sad Tree' or the 'Indian Mourner.' It is native to India and therefore not hardy, so is best grown as part of your container gardening ideas if you live in a climate with cold winters. It is extremely drought-tolerant and highly suitable for planting in hot climates. 

2. Night-scented phlox

Night scented phlox

(Image credit: Peter Vallance / Alamy Stock Photo)

These white-purple flowers may be small, but the fragrance of Zaluzianskya capensis is powerful, with notes of honey, almonds, and vanilla. Perfect for garden borders, this tender flower is low-maintenance. 

You can grow it as an annual, but if you grow it in a pot, prune at the end of the summer, and overwinter in a frost-free area – it will come back every year. 

3. Evening primrose

Small-flowered Evening-primrose Oenothera cambrica Taken In Croxteth Hall Walled Garden, Liverpool, England, UK

(Image credit: Sabena Jane Blackbird / Alamy Stock Photo)

The evening primrose is a hardy perennial that not only releases a sweet fragrance over dusk but also adds a dash of bright colors. The flower predominantly comes with bold, bright yellow flowers. The fragrance can have citrus or honey facets depending on the type. 

4. Angel's trumpet

Angel Trumpet, Angel's Trumpet Tree or Datura, Brugmansia arborea, Solanaceae

(Image credit: Florapix / Alamy Stock Photo)

This plant is a little trickier than most because it is poisonous (avoid around children or pets), but the fragrance is amazing so can be worth taking those extra precautions. At night, the Brugmansia suaveolens emits a strong scent that is as complex as an expensive perfume. Best grown in containers as it's non hardy.  

5. Night-scented stock

Matthiola longipetala ssp. bicornis. Night scented stock.

(Image credit: Christopher Burrows / Alamy Stock Photo)

Heady, sweet, and spicy, the fragrance of night-scented stock flowers is the floral scent to end them all. Once a staple in nineteenth-century gardens, these graceful annuals are well worth rediscovering. Hardy up to zone 8. 

Even if you plant just one of these plants in your garden this summer, in a border or in a pot as part of your patio gardening ideas, you'll add an intoxicating sensory dimension to your night garden that will be worth staying out for. 

Anna Cottrell
Anna Cottrell

Anna is a keen urban gardener, with David Austin roses and Japanese acers among her favourite plants. She moved into the world of interiors from academic research in the field of literature and urban space a couple of years ago. She's always been interested in how people make houses into homes, and how our concepts of what's stylish change over time.