previous
  • 10 Seed-Starting Tips
    10 Seed-Starting Tips
  • Building Better Borders
    Building Better Borders
  • Get your FREE Everyday Roses download now!
    Get your FREE Everyday Roses download now!
  • Bold and Beautiful Zinnias
    Bold and Beautiful Zinnias
  • Seed Starting in Speedling Trays
    Seed Starting in Speedling Trays
  • Black Plants Done Right
    Black Plants Done Right
  • 3 Ways to Design with Containers
    3 Ways to Design with Containers
  • Planting the Right Way
    Planting the Right Way
  • Plant Finder: Spring Plants
    Plant Finder: Spring Plants
  • NEW Video Series: There's a Better Way
    NEW Video Series: There's a Better Way
  • 20 Gardenworthy Self-Sowers
    20 Gardenworthy Self-Sowers
  • Pick Plants for Fragrance
    Pick Plants for Fragrance
  • 10 Combinations for Shade
    10 Combinations for Shade
  • Using Containers as Elements of a Design
    Using Containers as Elements of a Design
  • DIY A-Frame Veggie Trellis
    DIY A-Frame Veggie Trellis
  • Indoor Seed Starting Materials List
    Indoor Seed Starting Materials List
  • Garden Design Basics
    Garden Design Basics
  • Go Green on the Patio
    Go Green on the Patio
  • Pantone Color of the Year 2014: Radiant Orchid
    Pantone Color of the Year 2014: Radiant Orchid
  • Rex Begonias
    Rex Begonias
  • How to Grow Mustard
    How to Grow Mustard
  • Homegrown / Homemade
    Homegrown / Homemade
next

Designing a white garden

Q: What’s the secret to success when designing a white garden, and what plants do you recommend?

Bob Lewis, Dayton, OH

Choose plants with contrasting shapes when creating a white garden. Choose plants with contrasting shapes when creating a white garden. Photo/Illustration: Allison Starcher

A: Barbara Blossom Ashmun, a contributing editor who designs gardens in Portland, Oregon, responds: Making a white garden is challenging. With the flower colors all the same, it can easily become monotonous. The key is to provide enough contrast in flower form, leaf shape, and leaf color that the plants don’t blend together into an amorphous blur.

When selecting plants for your design, consider all the various flower types—round, spiked, trumpet-shape, daisy-shape, and panicled. Combining these contrasting shapes makes each plant more distinctive. For summer blooms, place a white peony (Paeonia spp. and cvs., USDA Hardiness Zones 3­–8) beside a white ‘Butterball’ delphinium (Delphinium ‘Butterball’, Zones 3­–7) to juxtapose their round and columnar flowers. During the delphinium’s second bloom period, in autumn, try pairing it with the round flowers of ‘Honorine Jobert’ anemone (Anemone X hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’, Zones 4­–8). Combine trumpet-shape calla lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica, Zones 8­–10) with a panicled white-flowering Crambe cordifolia (Zones 6­–9) for early summer display, or ‘Casa Blanca’ lilies (Lilium ‘Casa Blanca’, Zones 4­–8) in front of spikes of Veronicastrum virginicum f. album (Zones 3­–8) for a late-summer picture. And use the airy white flowers of ‘Whirling Butterflies’ wandflower (Gaura lindheimeri ‘Whirling Butterflies’, Zones 6­–9) and Jupiter’s beard (Centranthus ruber ‘Albus’, Zones 5­–8) as fillers that will flower from spring into fall.

Add shrubs with variegated leaves to bring out the flower color in a white garden. Trailing ‘Emerald Gaiety’ wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’, Zones 5­–9) can be trained to weave between neighboring plants or to climb a trellis, while ‘Confetti’ glossy abelia (Abelia X grandiflora ‘Confetti’, Zones 6­–9), with its white-edged leaves, remains a low-growing evergreen shrub. For tall backdrop shrubs, try redtwig ‘Elegantissima’ dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’, Zones 2­–8) and ‘Harlequin’ butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii ‘Harlequin’, Zones 6­–9) with their outstanding variegation.

Add life to the border with variegated perennials, like succulent ‘Frosty Morn’ sedum (Sedum alboroseum ‘Frosty Morn’, Zones 6­–9) or variegated cranesbill (Geranium macrorrhi­­zum ‘Variegatum’, Zones 4­–8), which look even prettier with a froth of white sun rose (Helianthemum ‘St. Mary’s’, Zones 6­–8) or Santa Barbara daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus, Zones 5­–7) nearby.

White gardens often include silver-leaved plants to add light and tranquility. The gray foliage of  ‘Powis Castle’ artemisia (Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’, Zones 7­–9) and Senecio ‘Sunshine’ (Zones 9­–10) mix well with white-flowering plants. But be careful not to overdo silver and variegated leaves, as too many will result in a restless garden. Above all, the appeal of a white garden is its calm atmosphere, which soothes the gardener’s soul.

From Fine Gardening 89, pp. 88