White gardens are a wonderful way to brighten up a partly shady spot in the landscape. They can be quite graceful. White gardens should be located away from other more colorful gardens so their effect can be fully realized. Also, dark evergreen backdrops contrast sharply with the white theme and help flowers within the white gardens stand out.
There is the possibility of monotony, however, in white gardens so they should be designed to take advantage other plants characteristics such as size, form and texture as well as the many different shades of green foliage. After all the dominant color of most gardens, including the white garden, is green. In the white garden, the shape, color and texture of the foliage become much more important characteristics and help keep the garden interesting. Juxtaposing a plant with finely cut foliage, such as a maiden hair fern, against a larger leafed rhododendron, is an effective way to draw the attention of one’s eye. Specimen trees or shrubs with unique shapes, such as dwarf variety evergreens, also capture the attention of garden visitors.
Variegated plants, such as the variegated boxleaf euonymus (Euonymus japonicus ‘Microphylla Variegatus’), brighten up the landscape and add splashes of white to the garden. Silver and gray foliage, such as that of lamb’s ear and artemisia, also works well in the white garden as they provide a transition between the white flowers and various greens of the garden’s foliage.
Garden structures are also a great addition to a white garden (in fact, any garden) as they allow you to grow vines, ivy and climbing roses which provide an interesting vertical element.
Plants for Year-Round Whiteness
There is an array of plants which can make your white garden a year-round joy. Snow drops, tulips, daffodils and other bulbs start off the growing season offering the earliest of spring’s blooms. A mix of early, mid and late blooming perennials can provide the garden with white flowers from spring through the fall. Annuals, though they last only one season, continually bloom throughout the growing season.
Trees and shrubs also play an important role in the white garden. The early blooming star magnolia (Magnolia stellata) offers large, stunning flowers while various varieties of white blooming cherries and crab apples have abundant flowers and are great additions to any garden. Both the Korean spice viburnum (Viburnum carlesi) and the Cummingham white rhododendron (Rhododendron x ‘Cunningham’s White’) are spring blooming shrubs with showy white flowers. There are a variety of white blooming hydrangeas which flower from mid summer through the fall. Climbing hydrangea and oak leaf hydrangea, for instance, offer long lasting flowers.
When planning a white garden look beyond flowers to a plant’s bark or berries. For example, the white birch (Betula papyrifera) offers the garden its white bark all season, though it may be most visible in winter after its leaves have fallen to the ground. White berries aren’t common but there are a few shrubs which have them. White winterberry (Ilex serrata leucocarpa), for instance, is a deciduous shrub which grows to 10’. Its green summer foliage turns yellow in the fall. Clusters of white berries form in the fall and last throughout winter.