Planning A White Garden

May 23, 2014

This week I have been pulling together plans for a white garden to be installed this summer at a client’s home.   I have been adding a lot of white to my own garden lately as I think it is such a great way to brighten some of the shadier areas in a sophisticated way.  But this garden is in full sun and will be more of a classic cottage floral feast.

A white garden obviously includes lots of white blooming plants but I think it is important to not forget the other elements that will make the whole thing come together.  This is my basic recipe for pulling one together:

White garden plants inspiration from rochelle greayer @ pithandvigor
Start With The Background Structure.  

When I’m looking to fill space and provide a backdrop in a white garden, I look to easy shrubs like Hydrangea ‘Limelight’, Buddleia ‘Inspired White’, and white blooming varieties of Spirea (all prolific bloomers).  In this case I am also adding in a Sweet Autumn Clematis to climb over an adjacent railing.  These shrubs  will be the biggest plants and will ensure that something is always saying “I am a white garden”.

Add In The Evergreens

The next big thing to go in are the evergreens.  My project has a number of existing plants that we will be re-arranging.  We have some Buxus ‘Graham Blandy’ which are the tall skinny boxwoods, as well as a handful of mid-sized mounded boxwood and a dozen small globe boxwood.   Normally I would add something else like perhaps a pretty blue/silver Picea pungens ‘Montgomery’ or other evergreens, but we are trying to re-use as much as we can here so I am sticking with what I already have. Evergreens not only give shape and structure in the winter, but bright white looks oh-so-good with its back against lush green.

Layer in the White Bloomers

There are millions (I am not exaggerating) of options for white blooming plants.  Look for the word ‘alba’ on types of plants that come in many colors — this will generally indicate a white flower.  But this is by no means the only way to find white blooming plants a walk through the garden center or any handy plant reference book will fill yout head with options.  Just to get you started, here is a list of white bloomers that I am using in this garden (I’ve noted where we have strategically gone for something almost white – I think this is a nice way to add interest to this type of garden…IMO a wink of purple and blush of  pink add charm).

  • Alcea rosea Charter’s Double White
  • Alcea rosea annua ‘Lemon
  • Dianthus deltoides ‘confetti white’
  • Dianthus ‘Fancy Knickers’ (it is an annual and it will help to fill in for the first year)
  • Digitalis ‘Pams Choice’ (it has a little purple mixed in with the white for some relief)
  • Liatris ‘Floristan White’
  • Iris ‘Immortality’
  • Peony x ‘Duchess de Nemours’
  • Peony x ‘Shirley Temple’ (it is light pink but again, we aren’t being purists on this project….)
  • Leucanthemum ‘Banana Cream’

white garden plan bloomers and texture by rochelle greayer at www.pithandvigor.comFinish With Textural Stars

A white garden needs a final touch to bring it to life.  These are the plants who, when set among all the white bloomers, add texture and a breath of something a little different.  My favorites are always grasses and in this mix I am using two old standbys  – Pennisetum alopecuoides ‘Red Head’ and Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue‘.  Don’t worry, the combination of red and blue with all the white will not come across like some sort of all-americana garden…but rather, the sophisticated shades of the grasses will gracefully add just enough contrast. On top of the grasses, this garden is also getting a handful of silvery Stachys – kids live in this place and these ever-soft leaves never fail to be a hit with this demographic.  Silver is a great addition to a white garden, generally achieved through silver leaved plants – you get the color in a nice mass but generally you don’t have deadhead.

If you want to check out some more white garden ideas (from modern to traditional) take a look at this pin board: Garden Style: White Gardens

images – Proven Winners

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Proven Winners.  I am not an employee of Proven Winners and all opinions are my own. See the other posts in this series


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  1. Rachelle says:

    Don’t you feel that like there is no true black flowers there are no true white flowers as well? They all seem to have undertones of yellow, pink, blue, purple… I’m thinking this is for a zone 6 garden given the plant selection? Flowers with an undertone of yellow against building structures painted shade of blue or even some grays will appear more yellow than when seen against a background of shiny green box? Surely one of the best ways to highlight a white garden is to plant shrubs with variegated white and green foliage (variegated dogwood, euonymus, etc.) rather than count on something white being in bloom at any given moment?

  2. rochelle says:

    Sure Rachelle…..nothing is absolute and there are a million shades of white and black. And you make a good point, yes, of course, adding in variegated foliage is another way to bring in white to a white garden – absolutely. Personally, I am not a big fan of it and use it rather sparingly (or not at all) due to this personal preference, plus I am happy to take on the constant succession of flower challenge (it is my weakness).

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