24 February 2008

Cooling it with white and green

In a perfect world—the one where I win the lottery and get to spend time visiting all the marvelous gardens I want to see—I’ll get to visit the famous white border at Sissinghurst. I’ve seen more modest white gardens done, and done nicely, but while I love them, especially in the evening, they’re not for me. I’ve talked before about the fog up here, and what that does to white and other pastel flowers.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy white flowers, including in our garden, as well as white variegated foliage, and silver foliage too. White shines on a warm summer evening, or in a shady spot of the garden, and cools things down a bit when there might be a bit too much colour going on. Green and white do make me very happy, whether combined in flowers or in foliage, so there is plenty of it around our garden—just not all in one spot.

Achillea ptarmica ‘The Pearl’ begins blooming in our garden in the heat of late July-early August. It’s planted under a white birch, so it echoes nicely off the snowy bark of the tree. It's a bit of a wanderer, but nothing that can't be managed by digging up and dividing it in the spring.

Most of our clematis are in strong colours, but I do have three with white flowers; the purple-foliaged Clematis recta ‘Purpurea’ (thanks, Nan, for supplying the right species and cv); Clematis terniflora ‘Sweet Autumn’, (photo at the top) and this large flowered cultivar (long since suffering from LoLa syndrome). The flowers look like stars in the deep green (or purple-green) foliage.

It’s no secret that I’m dotty about echinaceas, and while I usually am drooling on about green ones or orange or yellow or even purple coneflowers, the pure white ones make me pretty happy too. This is probably ‘White Swan’ and it’s a plant that does well, though not as vigourously as some of the other cultivars.

Polemoniums also make me happy. This white one flowers for weeks and weeks on end, is fragrant, seeds slightly but not obnoxiously, and is a great plant. I also have two with bicolour foliage, ‘Brise d’anjou’, and ‘Stairway to Heaven’; the latter is actually tricolour because it has shades of pink in the foliage, similar to Nishiki willow.

Scabiosa comes in a host of colours; we have a lovely blue one, but isn’t this white blossom great? It’s in a partly shaded part of the garden, and glows nicely against several plants with gold-chartreuse or blue foliage.

Here are two plants that are great whether they’re flowering or not: Lamiastrum ‘Herman’s Pride’ and a generic pulmonaria. We have several lamiastrum that act as ground covers, but Herman’s Pride just forms this lovely, polite clump in the shade garden under our spruce trees. We have a number of pulmonaria, some with red flowers, others with white, others with light or dark blue, all of which are lovely, but it’s the foliage that rocks my socks. Ironically, I have very few photos of them, because (ahem) I lost a pile of images earlier in the year, so I can’t show the different splashes, spangles and spots of silver patterned foliage. Just wait til this spring!

I was a bit of a slow convert to loving hostas, because I had to see them wellgrown, and wellgrown in quantity (like in this garden, which boasts well over 100 different cultivars) before I really got it and started relishing the rich diversity of leaf shapes, colours and colour patterning. Around here I”ve found that too many people don’t let their plants get large enough before they’re busily dividing them—and many cut the flowers off. Ours don’t get divided until they’re crowded, or until someone wants a pieceof one, and the flowers are as important to me as the plants, especially the fragrant ones.

Viburnums are great, and this has to be one of the nicest: V. plicatum tomentosum ‘Mariesii’, the doublefile viburnum, with its horizontally growing branches, deep green foliage and those snowy white flowers. Ours is young yet, but it’s going to have room to grow because I’m ripping out an annoying and boring yellow potentilla near it, and thinning down an ‘Annabelle’-type hydrangea on the other side of it, so its wonderful shape can be seen and enjoyed.

Mayapples cause me great amusement from the time their nose-like shoots begin poking up out of the soil, until their leaves unfurl and expand. I know there are fancy-patterned cultivars available, but I think they’d be marginally hardy here, where this native species does just fine. It also works well beside a host of hostas, a whilte astilbe, and some sweet woodruff, setting up a patch of green and white plants—but not a border, just a little section.

When we were on our plant expedition to Newfoundland and the southern Labrador coast, we saw many arctic-type willows. This particular one is a bit broader leafed than the species I have in my garden, and tends to grow more prostrate—and yes, it’s coming to join our garden come spring, because I love that grey-green foliage.

In my garden, the coolness of our summers means that tall phlox doesn’t get around to flowering until late August—but then it keeps flowering until into October. This is, of course, the blissfully fragrant and mildew-oblivious ‘David’, which is neat because it’s about the only white plant flowering at a time when most everything else is shifting to the fall tones of rusts, orange, gold, and magenta. Yes, magenta! ‘David’ has been a topnotch plant, and I’m gradually spreading it around the garden to offer its cooling crispness to other sites.

Two more offerings, in the green on green category. A native jack in the pulpit shyly flowers in front of a gold and green hosta—I can tell you a great tale of woe about my hostas and how many of them have no names because I don’t know which ones they are—just that I like them, and should have taken photos and matched them all up long ago.

And finally, a euphorbia that I fell in love with when I spied it at another friend’s nursery—this is Euphorbia ‘Lacey’, bicoloured green and white or greenish yellow and green in its foliage and bracts and flowers. It grows near Lime Glow juniper and a gold plumosa Chamaecyparis, setting up another nice little colour echo—more by accident than design.


  1. My husband has been nagging me to do a green and white container for years. I've always been half-hearted, but I think you've convincede me. We'll see ...

  2. Hi Jodi !
    I am a fan of white in the garden too . After my looking into the Moon Flowers, it is going to be great on my deck too !
    I have "Baby Swan" echinacea and wow ! it is a little beauty ! try it if you can .. I know you will love it too ! I have Fragrant Angel with (adult ? LOL) White Swan and they are wonderful .. their scent is amazing !
    White is amazing visually and aromatically (most times?) in the garden !
    Joy : )

  3. Mmmm, thanks for sharing this selection of white flowers. I adore white gardens and am bringing more of the "white stuff" into my own. Your blog post has really got me going and *thinking spring.*

  4. hey jodi! i've been intrigued by the whole "moonlight garden" idea which is basically a bunch of white flowers. about the only white thing I had in my garden last year was the spirea which has now been poodled and therefore won't bloom this spring. bastard landscaper! great pictures as always.

  5. I love white and green together. I really enjoy seeing them in a shady spot.

  6. It is fun seeing more of your garden. Your garden must seem endless - there's always more of it to show.

    Beautiful photographs and writing as usual.

  7. I really liked your post on 'white and green'. Up til now I've preferred vivid colours, but I'm starting to appreciate white flowers more and more. Especially combined with green in shady conditions. Your photos are great! /Katarina

  8. While being a huge fan of color, I also love white, especially in shade. I've got several of what you've shown here, but unfortunately not the polemoniums. I've tried Brise d'Anjou and Stairway to Heaven several times and they just die on me. And polemonium species plants are native here! They just don't like me.
    Can you believe I don't have a single phlox in my garden? (Creeping, but that doesn't count.) I love the white ones, so maybe I'll have to do something about that.

  9. Whereas your photos of the white flowers look great, I gotta say, I'm not such a big fan of the white. I don't hate them, I don't go out of my way to harm them in any manner, but they just don't do it for me. With all the great colors out there, white just feels "generic."

    I did visit Sissinghurst, and as much as I appreciated the plantsmanship, the white garden didn't do much for me.

  10. What a fun, inspiring survey of garden whites. I would never have the discipline to have a white garden, but I love to see the effects of colour blocks in other more disciplined gardeners' plots.

  11. While I would love to have an all white garden, I would really love to have an all red garden, and blue and white garden, a silver and gold garden, an orange and yellow garden and....well, white might be down on the list with all that color to contend with! Love your whites! They intensify all other colors don't they?!

  12. Wonderful post and photos! One of our first thought out gardens was a white knot type garden, with silver leaf herbs and white flowers, tulips, dwarf zinnias,daisies, among others. It was lovely but the colors started creeping in, first blue, then yellow, then what the heck, come one come all! I am looking forward to seeing your whole garden shots with everthing growing and blooming! It will be when the time is right.

    Frances at Faire Garden

  13. I love green and white gardens. Ironically I have maybe one or two white flowered plants in my garden. Your post made me think I should probably include some more white in the garden. I love your "white plants" although most wouldn't survive in my very hot and dry summer garden.

  14. Were we related in a former life? Viburnum Mariesii is my absolute favorite and the centerpiece of my garden. I can't think of any other shrub that I like better and like you, I'm very picky !

    Have you ever noticed in many famous artists paintings of flowers they usually include some white? Klimt for instance comes to mind. Among vivid colors white grabs the eye.

  15. As my back garden was so shady I loved having white flowers in it. They just pop in the low light. I always like to have white flowers by the front door too so when people come during the evening it is seems brighter, more inviting.

  16. I'm not a fan of white either, unless it is a shade garden. Then it is very peaceful and restful to me.

  17. I want the Euphorbia!! I have plans for lots of Euphorbia in my new gardens. I also love Pholox David. I do like whites and once did an entire garden in white. There is also Wood Spurge in my garden. You didn't have it listed but it's one of my favorites cause in my zone 7 garden--it keeps on keeping on. So as a fan of white, I can understand why your foggy days would have you running for color.

  18. It's really fun to see how others respond to colours in the garden!
    Sue, I haven't tried a green and white container! What a good idea. I will if you will...
    Joy, good luck with the moonflowers. They don't like me--I think they want a little more heat and a little less wind. I must build a wall somewhere...

    Nancy, you're always welcome to come visit. My buddy Layton knows you, and that's all the affirmation I needed.

    MA, we can use a little spring, can't we?

    Gina, your reactions are always a delight. Don't hold back, tell us what you REALLY think of that landscaper.

    Curtis, know the old John Denver song 'Cool and Green and Shady'? That's what green and white remind me of.

    Kate, it's not so much that it's endless...but we do have a lot more space than your average lot, and it's just a bit chaotic in places, but it's also happy.

    Katarina, I too love vivid colours, but I like to experiment and it's always fun to see what new surprises show up in colour combinations.

    Kylee, if you can get it, try Snow and Sapphires--I seem to remember it's hardier than these other two, though they've both behaved fine for me. But this white one is just a white form of the regular Polemonium. I'm surprised about you not having tall phlox, is it mildew that puts you off? David's pretty mildew resistant.

    Jim, I know what you mean--I have lots of every other possible colour too, I think. My resistance to white probably is a throwback to resisting white shirts, white socks, white sheets--I prefer lots of colour, normally. But in small amounts in my garden, I like white just fine.

    HI Marie, welcome and glad you enjoyed!

    Materfamilias, don't think I'm disciplined. I'm far too left-handed/right-brained and rambunctious to be disciplined, believe me....

    Layanee...exactly. One of every colour of garden, and then one of every possible combination of colours...hmmmm, maybe I need more than 7 acres!

    Frances, I like the idea of the white knot garden...the colours would sneak in here, too, for sure.

    Gintoino, that's a problem with white; it doesn't lke wet summers and it looks icky when it gets too hot and dry. Not sure what to suggest because I really don't know about gardening in Portugal!

    Carolyn, that's fun about the Mariesii--you're also the one who loves the Korean fir, aren't you? It's on my list of plants I GOTTA get this year. That's neat about the artists--I know way less about art than you, so I'll have to look for it now that you've mentioned this.

    Lisa, one white flower I forgot is Nicotiana sylvestris. Perfect flower for night fragrance and for glowing in low light.

    Robin, good point about white in a shade garden--it does work better than too much in sun, where it can get harsh, I think.

  19. Actually, I've tried 'Snow and Sapphires' too. I forgot about that one. It died summer before last. I've sited them in two different places and they liked neither. I do have one that has survived. I'd have to go out and look at the tag, but it's the first one I ever bought and it's blue.
    As far as the phlox is concerned, I have no clue as to why I've never planted it. They don't particularly appeal to me in appearance, so there was probably always something else I'd rather have!

  20. I'm not crazy about white flowers because so few of them age gracefully. (I really don't like brown!) However, I do appreciate the combo of green & white. (If you remember from my color post, I included I shot of white Astrantias & green & white Hosta.) I also inexplicably end up coming home from the nursery with white flowers. My last impulse white was Echinacea 'Jade.' Shovel prune that Potentilla - I hate those ugly yellow ones!

  21. Great post....they are all lovely and you have captured them perfectly!

  22. Sorry - I was going to offer a suggestion for ID'ing your Clematis. You should look at Clematis on the Web. There you can search for Clematis by color & they have tons of photos & pretty good descriptions. At a rough guess, I'd say it's probably Henryi or Miss Bateman. Do either of those sound familiar?

  23. lovely photos and interesting post!

    We cant grow Clematis well in Sydney :(.


  24. White and green has always appealed to me but I had better luck with it in Illinois - Texas heat does brown things pretty quickly. You have a lovely array of many shapes and textures, Jodi!

    I'm so impressed with the way you've photographed the white flowers- I try but keep getting only washed-out blobs - very frustrating!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  25. I echo Annie's comment on the photos Jodi. It's hard to photograph white and get good detail. Your photos are wonderful, as are your flowers. I too am looking forward to seeing full photos of your gardens come summer.
    You've certainly inspired me to use more white in the garden. It's gorgeous!

  26. There are such a lot of posts here to catch up reading. And I've started with this one, as I am very fond of white plants. This "love" started before I saw Sissinghurst, but this garden surely made my passion for white/green plants stronger. Your post is wonderful with all the very good pictures.


Thank you for visiting and for taking the time to comment! It might take me a bit, but I will return the compliment whenever possible.
Spammers--need not apply. Because I delete your comments and they will never make it here. Kthxbai!

Search Bloomingwriter

Custom Search