When you think of white in the garden you might think of the classic White Garden at Sissinghurst in England. Vita Sackville-West created this iconic section of her garden to light up the garden at night. She thought it would light the way when moving from one building to another. It does work a bit that way. I also had a neighbor in Seattle that only used white in her garden. It also would show well at night and always looked well put together and a bit elegant.
Here at Old Goat Farm that would be way to constrained for even just a part of the garden. Here color seems to run amuck. We do use white though, particularly in the shadier parts of the garden. I noticed recently how these principles seem to work. On a warm evening, while sitting in the garden at dusk, I noticed the greens starting to meld together, the dark colors fading and the white coming alive.
This was partly intentional. I knew that the lighter colors would show up better at a distance so I tend to plant white and yellows in the beds farthest from the house. I knew I could see them without being right out in that part of the garden. In spring we have a great display of daffodils. The white, Narcissus thalia, are in the bed directly out the window and way out by the back gate. They do show up nicely. I use the white edged hostas and the silver leaf willow for the same reason.
This warm evening made me realize just how many white plants I had used so they would show up in the garden in darker spots that are normally hard to fill. I used Aruncus diocese, goats beard, toward the back of some of the large borders. It is a very large plant with huge white blooms and a northwest native. Another large caning shrub that comes peaking through the trees is Deutzia gracilis, a member of the hydrangea family. Another shrub that stands out for me is Kerria japonica picta, the variegated Kerria. Although the flowers are yellow, it’s an early bloomer then the rest of the year the shrub has heavy white variegation. My all time favorite white blooming shrub is Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’, mock orange. I know it is blooming even before I can see it. The fragrance is amazing. The flowers are also the largest of the Philadelphus.
A perennial that has self sowed through the garden is Astrantia major, masterwort. This pincushion flower cast little flecks of light throughout the garden. A little border ground cover that stands out is Saxifraga ‘Maroon Beauty’. The plant is a reddish tinted ground cover but has large white flowers that last for about a month. When it is in bloom you don’t even notice the plant, just the flowers.
I’m sure there are many more white plants in the garden but these are just a few that caught my eye from my chair in the garden. For the others I would have had to get up and as lovely as this spot is, that wasn’t going to happen. If your garden is looking a bit dark, head toward the light.