White In The Garden

white (5)My current garden is all about the snow, and not much else.  16 inches of snow has managed to turn everything in the landscape ground plane into a collection of wind whipped white blobs. On the roads, dirty white.  In the shade, blue white.  In the sun, blinding white.  It’s enough white to keep me blinking.  Unlike this once in a blue moon snow fest, white in the garden is a crisp and fresh color choice.  The white umbrellas in this picture-refreshingly white. I took this picture on a blisteringly hot and overcast July day.  The white umbrellas look as cool as can be.  I could imagine how they would reflect the heat once opened. White in the heat of the summer means respite, as white reflects heat.

white (1)A white house could be coolly contemporary.  A whitewashed shingle style house, with white trim, and white window boxes is a traditional architectural expression one might find in any city.  A white farm house, or Greek revival house is an architectural classic.  The White House-a national treasure.  White appeals to many, and looks great in widely divergent circumstances.  All white-stark, even chilly.  White washed-soft.  Paint color books seem to have more versions of white than any other color-funny, that.

July 23, 2013 (13)I have several clients who are enthusiastic about any  plant, as long as it blooms white.  And clients who favor white container plantings.  White gardens of necessity feature lots of green.  White foliage indicates an absence of chlorophyll.  Nearly all white foliaged plants have enough green to permit photosynthesis to some degree.  Any white garden is truly a green and white garden.  Green and white-a glorious color combination. Some white flowered perennial and annual cultivars are weak growers, but there are enough vigorous white plants to round out a planting palette.  In  the early spring, white hellebores, snowdrops, crocus, daffodils, and tulips.  The white leaved brunnera Jack Frost has a gorgeous white frosted leaf, and amazingly,  tolerates a lot of sun.  Magnolia Stellata, Magnolia Ivory Prince, Venus dogwood, white crab apple “Snowdrift”-there are so many choices of white flowering spring blooming trees.

white-petunias.jpgWhite petunias may be pedestrian, but they deliver.  This container gets barely 4 hours of indirect sun a day.  I would call that willing. Early season white perennials-I am picky.  Geranium lancastriense alba, anemone sylvestris, white variegated thyme, white siberian iris and white foxglove so well for me.  Plant choices are entirely based on what does well for me.  White poppies-so so.

white-geraniums.jpgWhite geraniums are beautiful.  That said, geraniums are heavy feeders.  They need to be deadheaded.  Their blooms are spoiled by rain-they need a daily once over.  What you have time for should guide your choices.

white-daisies.jpgThe wilding oxeye daisy, leucanthemum vulgare, is a favorite of mine.  I like its messy habit, and I don’t mind the seeding.  They are short and sweet.   Daisies are a flower form near and dear to my heart.  Shasta daisies, and boltonia are also white flowering daisies that are vigorous to boot. White cosmos are so beautiful-as is Queen Anne’s Lace.  I welcome gooseneck loosestrife in the garden, as long as it has a little shade and somewhat dry conditions to slow down its spread. Some white flowering plants ask for lots of room-sometimes more room than I have available at home.

white-hibiscus.jpgWhite flowering hardy hibiscus are very well behaved.  When they are happy, they form large clumps that bloom late in the year.  I have a special affection for late blooming white flowers.  My spring season is so busy at work, I barely have time to enjoy my garden at home. My Limelight hydrangeas might be my favorite late blooming white flowered plant.  I have 2 blocks of plants that are 12 years old.  They never fail to enchant. Late summer and fall perennials – including the hibiscus, white phlox,platycodon, and white Japanese anemone – these are crown growing perennials that are well suited for my garden.  I have a small urban property.  I limit my spreading white flowering plants to those plants that cover the ground.   Sweet woodriff and sagina can spread wherever they want.  Campanula carpatica alba is beautiful, but not long lived for me.  White peonies-breathtaking in the late May garden.

Sally-Holmes-roses.jpgI consider the rose Sally Holmes to be a white rose, though the buds are a warm peach.  These white flowers provide welcome relief to all of my pink roses.  I am partial to single white flowers.  The most magnificent of all the white single flowers-a mature sweet autumn clematis vine in full bloom.

white-Japanese-anemone.jpgPlanted between my roses, the white Japanese anemone, Honorine Jobert.  It may be my favorite flower.  Some years are better blooming than others, but it is entirely hardy.  Along with the asparagus and boltonia, they represent in spite of the roses.

Venus-dogwoods-blooming.jpgThough I doubt I would ever personally subscribe to an all white garden, I like what white flowers do for a garden.  They read from a distance. They are especially beautiful at dusk.  They shrug off a wearying heat.  White makes every other color so much more vibrant.  Cool, crisp, and fresh-that would be white.


White Trees


Some years ago I landscaped a gated community in our area.  I put all my visual bets on groves of scotch pine, and Himalayan white-barked birch.  Pinus Sylvestris and Betula Jacquemontii-sounds like an engagement announcement to me.  Both trees like sun, and perfectly drained soil.  The birch likes cool moist soil; a placement in a lawn panel that gets regular water.  The Scotch pine-placed ever so slightly out of range of the overhead irrigation-in drier locations.

Both species are doing just fine, but no doubt the Himalayan is the looker of the pair.  The whitest barked of all the birch, that white bark is evident at a very early age-unlike other species that have to grow up into the white. The striking color of this bark puts it on my dance card of white trees I  like to waltz around with.  Very susceptible to the bronze birch borer, they need care-just like everything else that is so worth the trouble.  

White flowering trees make the spring landscape spectacular.  The magnolias first up, the apples, the Bradford pears, the crabapples-the list of white spring flowering trees is considerable.  They bloom before they have foliage.  Take a minute to think about that phenomena.  Asleep all winter, they burst forth with their show like they have 10 minutes to live. This year the blooming was especially heavy.  I am not a big fan of Bradford pears, but my favorite thing about them is when their topmost branches start to green up, while the rest of the tree is still in bloom.  A gorgeous spring phase.

My dogwoods are coming on strong now. Cornus Florida-when they are good, they are excellent, and when they are bad, they are horrid.  I have one tree in the grove with 2 flowers-go figure.  They fade from fungus over the summer. They perpetually look wilted, and unhappy.  But today, I have no complaints.  The flowers keep me coming back for more. 

I have a particular interest in single flowers, for whatever reason.  Bloodroot, white hellebores, dogwood, white annual phlox, white pansies, daisies, Peony Krinkled White, white poppies, Nicotiana alata, Japanese anemones-you get the idea.  White single flowers are especially beautiful.  So simple, elegant, and satisfying to the eye.

The Venus dogwood is no doubt the most spectacular white flowering tree on the planet.  A cross between the Pacific dogwood, Cornus Nuttalli, and Cornus Kousa, it has the great characteristics of each, in addition to great hardiness, a fast growth rate, and the most spectacular white flowers I have ever seen.  The trees at the shop were in bloom a full month last year, start to finish.

The foliage is large and lush.  They do not fruit to speak of, which doesn’t turn me away from them much.  I like that I can place them in full sun in my zone, and see them thrive.  You can see the size of the trunk in this picture; even an immature tree puts on quite a show.

I typically buy them as 1″ or 1.5″ caliper trees in 25 gallon pots.  This makes it easier for a home gardener to plant them-although  those pots are terrifically heavy.  Even at this early age, each tree will sport upwards of 300 flowers.  Though magnolias can be every bit as willing to bloom, they are fussy about weather conditions.  In a warm year, they may drop their flowers in an instant.

The willingness to grow vigorously and bloom heavily for a long time makes “Venus” my favorite white tree. The trees at the shop are small, and quite green right now; they have inherited that later bloom characteristic from the Kousa parentage.  If you like dogwoods, a Venus will greatly extend the spring bloom season beyond Cornus Florida time. The Venus season is just about to begin.

This was my red white and blue view the other day.