White isn’t so much a color as it is the lack of a color, but it is very useful in the garden nonetheless. White flowers have a way of looking cool and serene on a hot summer’s day, they can complement and set off darker colors, and they are a must for any garden that is usually viewed in the evening or at dusk. Moon gardens they are sometimes called, and probably not many of us actually go out to look at our gardens at moonlight, but plenty of us only get out to the garden in the evening after a long day at work. There are many terrific white flowers for the garden. Here are some of my favorites.
Erythronium ‘White Beauty’ (‘White Beauty’ trout lily). This large flowered selection of a species native to western North America has the most elegant flowers I know—perfect white lilies dancing on long stems over large, mottled leaves. What could be better? And those pale blooms just glow in the shade garden.
The Carolina silverbell (Halesia carolina, Zones 5–8) is a native tree that deserves to be grown far more often. When it blooms in the spring, it is clear how it got its name—each branch is lined with perfect little white, bell-like flowers.
Often white flowers are delicious scented, because they are pollinated by night-flying moths. That is the case with this wild petunia, (Petunia axillaris, annual). This is one of the parents of modern hybrid petunias, and unlike most of its more brightly colored dependents, it boasts a sweet scent that is mild during the day and so powerful it will fill the whole garden in the evening.
Iris tectorum (Japanese roof iris, Zones 4–9) is usually purple, and while I love that, I have to say the pure white form is possibly even better.
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