Welcome to my zone 9a habitat garden near Houston, Texas.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The white garden

Most gardeners have probably heard of Sissinghurst, the castle and the gardens in Kent in the United Kingdom. The gardens were planned and established in the 1930s and later by the poet and gardening writer Vita Sackville-West and her husband, diplomat Harold Nicolson. The grounds were arranged into distinct garden rooms with different themes. Perhaps the most popular of these is the White Garden.

Imagine establishing a garden with such a limited palette. All the flowers must be white. The only other color is the green of the foliage. How would you create interest in such a garden and keep it from being boring?

Texture is certainly one answer. Different types of foliage and flowers, delicate and fernlike to large and stiff, different shapes and sizes in plants and even different "shades" of white all can create a feeling of variety and excitement and keep the eye moving to different spots around the garden. Of course, it helps if you are Vita Sackville-West and you REALLY know what you are doing.

But even in a garden that isn't all white, white can be an important accent, a focal point to draw the eye. I started thinking about the whites in my garden and decided to take the camera out and see what I could find.

This loropetalum 'Emerald Snow' seems a bit confused. Its normal bloom time is late winter and spring, but here in the middle of autumn it is putting out a few blossoms. It would definitely fit in a white garden.

As would the little Blackfoot daisies.

'Hot Lips' salvia probably wouldn't be allowed admittance to the white garden. After all, her blooms start out cherry red and slowly turn white. Only at the end of their bloom cycle are they entirely white.

'Bleeding Heart' clerodendrum is just the opposite. The blossoms start out pure white but then slowly open up to reveal the red "bleeding heart". Vita probably wouldn't have permitted it in her white garden.

White vincas might make the cut. I haven't planted vincas in my garden in years, but long ago I did and every year since they have reseeded, sometimes in very unexpected places in the garden.

'Ducher' rose certainly passes muster for a white garden. I added this one to my garden this spring and it has spent all summer and fall in a big pot. Sometime this winter I have to identify a planting bed for it. It has bloomed well even in the pot, but I know it will be much happier in a bed where it can stretch its roots.

Earlier in the year, I would have been able to find a lot more white around the garden - crinums, spider lilies, some daylilies that are creamy white, even a white kalanchoe - but this week my whites are few. However, looking for them gave me pause to think about what it would be like to have a white garden or to have different "rooms" in my garden with different themes.

This is hardly an original thought. I know many accomplished gardeners create garden rooms. It's just a germ of an idea floating around in the empty space between my ears at the moment, but maybe that's the way Vita's White Garden started, too.

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