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white rose

White gardens or moonlight gardens have a special glow in the evening.

Recently, I met some friends for a long-overdue visit. As we spent time outdoors chatting about this, that, and the happenings of the last few months, of course, we talked gardens.

We talked about outdoor plants, indoor plants and cut-flower bouquets. A comment about always sending his wife arrangements of white flowers led me to wonder about gardens of primarily white blooms.

White gardens create interest with the mix and texture of the plants. Yes, the blooms are special, but so is the foliage. Think all white blooms are alike? Well, remember the last time you bought a gallon of ceiling paint and the wall of swatches — white flowers are the same.

What we think of as white flowers often contain shades of cream, pink, even blue and green; this leads many to create pale gardens. These gardens are equally lovely and more forgiving, while offering a much wider selection of plants.

A few things to think about when placing white garden plants. A dark backdrop will make the whites, silvers and greens stand out. A hedge of dark green, a stone wall or a painted fence will enhance the color. The pale colors need a framework to be at their best.

Consider offering this garden a bit of shade. All day sun can be harsh for many of the silver- and pale-leafed plants.

Use shrubs and other foliage to separate the colors so that creamy white is not beside a snowy white. Variegated leaves of hosta and Solomon’s Seal can help add lightness to the space. A silvery stem or leaf will make the whites look whiter. Japanese fern, lambs ear, lungwort, or even annuals such as dusty miller can work as a separator.

White gardens or moonlight gardens have a special glow in the evening. Think about their location. You will want seating nearby to take in the serene and peaceful feeling of this garden. Including fragrance with gardenia or roses will add to the ambiance.

It’s a good idea to start small when beginning to create this design. As the garden grows, you can expand the whites and introduce new textures, shapes and colors of greenery into the space.

I love adding container plantings to my garden beds. Using a soft white or gray planter will add to the feeling of lightness in the garden area.

Vita Sackville-West designed the world-famous and widely copied white garden on Sissinghurst Castle’s grounds in England. Although I have yet to visit this garden in person, through books and photos, I can use her ideas to create a white garden on this side of the pond.

As king and queen of your own castle, here are a few planting suggestions for creating a moonlight garden on your estate — or like me, one that is tucked away in a little corner garden bed.

  • Shrubs such as rhododendrons and small dogwoods can offer a base; then add perennials such as bleeding hearts or peonies. Get early color from spring bulbs such as snowdrops, crocuses and tulips.
  • Summer choices include clematis, hydrangea, Shasta daisies, coneflowers and foxglove. Annuals provide constant blooms through the summers. Think about adding astilbe, anemone, camellias, geraniums and impatiens to the mix.
  • Wherever you decide to create your white garden, embrace the texture and colors of greens; use the pale blooms to bring calm and relaxation to your space.

I try each evening to find the moon before bedtime; now, I will add a view of the moonlight garden. Designing this garden is a chance to test your creativity, add a dash of English charm and enjoy your results in a simple, yet elegant setting.

Jane Powell is a longtime West Virginia University Extension Service master gardener through the Kanawha County chapter. She is the communications director for a community foundation and a volunteer with several nonprofits in the community. Find her blog, “Gardening in Pearls,” at gardeninginpearls.com. You can contact her at janeellenpowell@aol.com.

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