Summer Whites

white flowers 

I I have planted many a white annual or perennial garden for a client.  White and summer-made for each other.  White reflects heat and light.    It looks cool and crisp in the hottest weather.  Anything white looks freshing. Too sophisticated for sweat. These boxwood spheres got a little dress up from some Lamium White Nancy and white petunias.  I am sure there are those who would think the pots and spheres are enough to satisfy, but these white tutus manage to make a little fun of the heat. 

white flowers

I have a few clients that want white, and nothing else, in their containers.  This year, I applaud their choice.  Though I was perspiring to beat the band when I took this picture, I see no signs of stress in this container.  I am sure anyone growing white mandevillea this year will be rewarded with strong growth and lots of flowers.  They also seen to do well with a little bit of shade. Keep in mind they bloom on new growth, so feed them.  It interests me, how weather can affect our perception of color.  In a cooler season, white can look chilly and remote.  In a very hot year, white provides relief to the eye.    

white nicotiana

Nicotiana loves cooler weather.  To my surprise, my nicotiana at the shop is blooming profusely in our heat.  Maybe how careful we are about providing adequate moisture helps.  

espaliered fruit trees

Susie’s apple espalier has no problem with the heat.  The spring blooms were protected from the April frosts such that she has lots of fruit ripening.  The white petunias are thriving.  Petunias of all types like heat, and soil kept on the dry side.  They certainly seem to be the happiest plants in the container.  Unlike a lot of white flowering perennials, white petunias are tough and reliable.  I do like white echinacea, but I have yet to ever see a stand of them that could compare to the pink cultivars.   

sonata cosmos

I am frankly surprised at our long run of sunny days.  Relentless, this year, the sun.  I have yet to photograph most of our spring and early summer projects-glaring and bright sun is not so friendly to taking pictures.  But these Sonata cosmos and these white petunias handle the sunny glare of this pool deck with aplomb. 

white flowering perennials.jpg

There are a number of great white flowering perennials.  My favorite-the Becky shasta daisy.  So fresh, so willing-so easy to grow.  The white phlox David-very good.  White echinacea-beautiful, but not so easy to cultivate.  White perennial hibiscus-gorgeous, and easy. Cimicifuga racemosa-the white flowering snakeroot tolerates some shade.  There are so many cultivars of white astilbe-all of them shine.  The white Japanese Anemone Honorine Jobert is a favorite.  I like using white foliage plants in white perennial gardens.  Brunnera Jack Frost is a good performer, and will tolerate a fair amount of sun.  Variegated Solomon’s Seal is as robust as it is elegant.      

silver foliage plants

There are those plants whose silver foliage could pass for white on a bright and sunny day.  The vigorously growing Grey Shield plectranthus, a silver trailing artemesia, 4″ pot starts of a white variegated miscanthus, and variegated licorice are a greenish white. 

garden furniture

Garden furniture-there is lots out there from which to choose.  This  contemporary settee upholstered in white cotton duck makes a big statement about summer white.  Devilish to keep clean, furniture with white cushions look great in a garden.        

white container planting

This concrete and gravel sellette made in Paris has an incredibly small planting area. I wouls say 8″ by 8″ by 10″ deep. We planted it with drought resistant, and heat loving white plants.  Angelonia-bring on the heat.  Trailing white verbena and petunias-ditto.  The creeping jenny-my client is a gifted waterer.  I suspect she gives the jenny a little more water than the rest.  Selectively watering plants in a container can produce stellar results.  Very few plants wnat exactly the same conditions.   

White house.  White doors.  I might add the white house and doors are impeccably maintained. White limestone.  White impatiens and white variegated ivy in the white glazed pots.  This is a refreshingly cool look.   

white container plantings 
The right hand sellette looks just as good as its companion on the left.  The creamy white sticks provide some support to the angelonia. The flowers are all simple and ordinary-the look is smashing.

The nicotiana alata blooming at the shop right now-astonishingly fresh and beautiful-especially the white.



  1. I really enjoyed this post and am really glad to have found your blog—I love the white gardens you have designed. The container plantings that you share with us here are just gorgeous and have made me seriously consider doing an all-white garden next year. With the heat we’ve been having in the Northeast, I agree that white flowers and foliage feel refreshing and provide a little reprieve (even it’s only pyschological). I love what white plantings do for heavy shade and dark exteriors as well.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Anna, your letter sums it up. White works hard, and well. This year, I have a new appreciation. Deborah

  2. Tom in NC says

    Deborah. Not much to say, except:Just plain beautiful!

  3. Kimberly Patton says

    Dear Deborah,
    I caught your pin/pic of the double pot planted with white this morning, and I must tell you in reading “about you” here It was as though I had described 90% of myself there! I fell in love with plants very young..fascinated on my g.grandmothers farm with her grapes that glistened in rows taller than I was, and her fields of okra and squash..and helping churn butter on the porch! As a teenager I grew huge Lima bean vines with dried cooking beans which covered our screen patio in Florida.Growing things is so easy in Homestead Florida! My mother worked as lawn maintenance/landscaping supervisor (then)for a private community in Key Largo and eventually started her own company there ..My first summer job was mowing & weeding on a lawn crew! Soaking up every book and picking every brain I could, I soon was giving Mom advice and designing jobs for her.It does come easy when it is what you love! At 20, with my 1 year old in tow at her office, I was managing her 4 crews and 2 landscaping crews, keeping on top of my husband who did our lawn & plant spraying and sprinkler system installation.I later chose to work with a friend with her interiors and patio plants company.Moving to Texas I worked for a San Angelo retail nursery for nearly 20 years, supervising,designing,installing and (what I grew to love most!) teaching and helping other gardeners..You just seem to be a lover of, and good at the same things that reminded me of myself..I have a couple of monikers I am kidded with frequently, …”Plant whisperer” and “Walking Dictionary” most often! I too have so many other interests that I spend a little on one one change up before long.I go from crocheting to pastels to making my “Assemblage Art” here recently, and do need need to finish a quilt & some other “open ends! All I wanted to really say is you have got to be such a cool gal, and if you’re like me you find or see something in plants every day that kind of throws you into a big state of “Awe”! Its so nice to meret you, kindred spirit! And I am blessed to have had a 40 year love for working with what I love! Oh, and BTW, I’ve had a few customers I’vemade these double platers for using 24″ and 16″ low bowls for.And I have used their concrete birdbath bases as the center support for the top bowl when their bowls fell and favorites for “sun” in white ( here in W.Tx!) Are Pent as, white geraniums,bacopa( but I don’t like how it smells!) English Ivy or vinca major for drape,white lobelia,white gerberas,,and I love to pack the pots full and often use fennel or other herbs with interesting foliage and, like you, ornamental grasses for some height..I do fill them full and after a week of settling in they look great! Be well,,best for your endeavors! Kimberly Patton (

  4. Merril Spender says

    We are building and I have been dreaming of a white and green front garden. Loved your article and just what I needed to get some ideas. Due to some injuries and a sick husband, I need hardy perennials and easy care. I love gardening but need to pay more attention to sun and shade areas. Look forward to your next email

  5. Could you list everything in the tall planter with all the whites? I’m obsessed with it! it’s perfection!

Leave a Comment