I once had a garden containing only white plants. It was small, about 8 feet in diameter. It contained a small pure white azalea, spiky white campanula, white old-fashioned impatiens, (not the new guinea type), and a green ground cover with white flowers, called lamium. There was an old stump in the middle of the garden that stood about 2 or 3 feet tall, and the garden was circular, under some tall oaks. It didn’t get a whole lot of sun. In the spring every year came the only color: a mass of tulips, sometimes apricot beauties, sometimes dark purple ones, gathered in the middle. It was low maintenance because of the shade; not much weeding was needed.
The garden was an easy joy for me; a joy that you don’t have to work hard for. People used to ask me about it, curious as to why I would choose only white in the garden for most of the season. I told them it was relaxing for me to look upon only white. Relaxing and enthralling at the same time. When I moved I lost that garden, but am contemplating creating another one.
White provides brightness and contrast, and makes other colors in front of it stand out. Wouldn’t an all-white garden have a pure, starry quality, and glow in the moonlight? White can be vibrant and also relaxing. We don’t want to stop looking at our gardens just because it has gotten dark outside. Twilight in a white garden would be intriguing and mysterious. I am studying how to create a moonlight garden, and have filtered my white plant favorites down to five white plants that not only would glow, but that also would not ask too much of me. These each have other features to recommend them as well, mainly fragrance:
Phlox paniculata ‘David’: pure white, an enchanting smell, and up to 5 feet tall. They’ve been in my other gardens for 20 years maybe, and they are an old friend. They only failed a couple out of those 20 years, when groundhogs ate them down.
Calycanthus ‘Venus,’ a sprawling shrub with glossy green leaves that starts blooming in July and goes on for at least a month, pumping out large magnolia-like white flowers with a pink center that smell like pear and grape combined.
Kalimeris mongolica or Mongolian aster: from club member Penny H., growing to 3 feet tall and displaying white airy fairy flowers with yellow centers in a cloud, in September and October. These gave me new faith in asters. Before having these I had only tried those purple ones commonly sold in stores that got brown at the bottom and died. This one is a completely different experience.
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight,’ an award winner for many reasons. A panicle hydrangea that always blooms from July through winter, and is tough as nails in any location and drought tolerant. Old-fashioned beauty in stunning white flower clusters.
Azalea exbury ‘Northern Hi-Lights’: These renewed my faith in azaleas. Those little ones I kept buying kept dying over the winter, so I gave up on azaleas for years. I finally tried these, hardy down to zone 4, grow to about 5 feet. Giant white flowers with yellow centers. Fragrance as strong as a lilac, but different, more lemony. One plant scents a good half acre of my yard in May.
I am not just enthralled with these plants. This is precisely how I feel about them: They make me so happy that I feel I have secretly gotten away with something because I have been allowed to enjoy them in peace. I haven’t been taxed on them or made to obey rules about them, or have had to suffer much on their behalf, by putting much effort into growing any of them. “Too good to be true” would I guess be the phrase. Don’t tell anyone how good these are, or someone will certainly try to ruin our happiness.
A white garden is a particular sort of beauty that a gardener needs. I have chosen these plants, now to see how they glow….