Using the Color White in the Garden

One of the new plants on the “runway” during the 2014 Spring at the Inn event last week was a new magnolia from Bailey’s Nurseries in Newport. First Editions® Centennial Blush™ star magnolia has a lovely pinkish white, fragrant bloom. The plant is described as “rock solid’ for USDA Zone 4 gardens, which makes it a great choice if you want to use white in the garden. “White is always in style,” said one attendee.

White blooms brighten the shades of green in this bed.

White blooms brighten the shades of green in this bed.

So true. While gardeners often think about pinks, reds, purples and even blues in the garden, white is one of the true “power colors” to use in your garden. (Interestingly, orange is another one, though in a different way.) Why white?

Just as in clothing and home décor, white goes with everything and enhances most things. Whether it’s the pinky white blossoms on a spring-flowering shrub, like the magnolia, or a fruit tree blossom or a fluffy edging of alyssum around a perennial bed or the drama of a tall white lily, white plants complement almost every other plant and color.

Bark and garden art offer other ways to add white to the garden.

Bark and garden art offer other ways to add white to the garden.

Second, white brightens dark spots. If you have a shaded area, plant a hosta with white edges or hydrangea with its bright white blooms. Lamium ‘White Nancy’ is a popular groundcover in shaded areas because its white flecked leaves bring light to the ground. ‘Jack Frost’ brunera is another popular white-foliaged option.

White adds serenity and pulls a scene together. You can plant an entirely white and green garden to create a zen feeling. (Sissinghurst Castle in England is home to the famous white garden designed by Vita Sackville-West.) The monochromatic tones allow a visitor to relax. White gardens shine at night, too, and, if you can get it to grow, moonflower (Datura) opens only at night and emits a sweet fragrance. Very romantic.

This season, if you have a bed that seems blah or overpowering, consider adding the color white to the garden design.

—Mary Lahr Schier