Friday, March 2, 2012

 I'm Dreaming of a White Garden

I first became enchanted with the idea of a white garden after reading about the one that poet and garden writer Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson created at Sissinghurst Castle in England, beginning in the 1930s. Sissinghurst's garden is one of the best-loved in the whole of the United Kingdom.

Vita Sackville-West (1892-1962),above,  in 1913

Below are pictures of the beautiful white garden at Sissinghurst

I have been thinking about and planning, in my head at least, a white garden for many years. I’ve planted many white shrubs and flowers, but never with an overall plan. Maybe this is the year I will make it a reality.

By day, white flowers are a pleasing and unusual picture. But at night they are enchanting. The shapes of the flowers stand out as if they were shimmering lights.

A white garden comes alive at night. It is full of magic and mystery. Walk among the white plants and notice that they take on an eerie glow in the moonlight. Listen to the crickets and cicadas, the katydids and tree frogs. If you’re lucky you’ll see a busy hawkmoth and other nectar gatherers. And if you’ve chosen fragrant plants, ah, well that’s a little bit of heaven here on Earth.

My white garden will include:
Deutzia shrub
Mock orange shrub
Confederate jasmine
White lily
Winter honeysuckle
Four o’clock
Trumpet daffodil
Nicotiana (started from seed, as they are rarely, if ever, offered at local nurseries)
Moonflower – no white garden would be complete without this vigorous vine. A lamppost or arbor is a must. Again, must start from seed.
Japanese Iris
Impatient (shade garden only)
Rose (Iceburg)

Strategically placed among the plantings, I would like a few acccents: statuary, urns with flowers flowing over the sides, a gazing ball.

Have you ever planted a theme garden? If so I'd love to hear about it. I will report my results back to you at a later date.

The thought of a white garden under the moonlight makes me wax poetic!
Already with thee! tender is the night
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Clustered around by all her starry Fays;
But here there is no light.
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways
I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit tree wild;
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast fading violets covered up in leaves;
And mid-May's eldest child,
The coming musk rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of files on summer eves.

John Keats, from Ode to a Nightengale


  1. What a wonderful thing to read so early in the a.m. after a terrible storm day yesterday in AL.
    I too love white flowers and you must include hydrangea, both Annabelle and Oakleaf. In the wonderful month of May and with a bright moon, the sight is breath taking - my favorite time and want to stay outside all night.
    You must include Halcyon hosta which has a beautiful white bloom. Great article!

  2. Please don't encourage her... she'll hate watering the garden in July...

  3. I usually have nothing to comment on flowers and gardens, as we lack them both.
    Our garden is a yard, and in the past years it has also been a pasture for my horse Hampel.
    But - when I read your interesting post about white gardens, my heart bumped.
    We h a v e a white garden too.
    There are a lot of white bird cherry trees surrounding the yard, we have white rose bushes that bloom at Midsummer. We also have ( the latin name ) spiraea Grefsheim, then there is another species of a tree ( don´t know what´s it name ) and daisies. All of these are white.
    A great thing is, that all of the trees and bushes bloom at a different time, so there is always something white on our yard.
    White is great, I would not have it any other way : ).

  4. I am very familiar with Sissinghurst gardens as we use to live near them.

    Two themed gardens I have been involved with are a Zodiac garden,and Blind scented one.

    Agree you need to lift the garden with large pots,urns (what about white Agapanthus in a giant urn)maybe a brick path.
    White Delphiniums are devine in gardens.

    Happy gardening. Ida

  5. Thanks to all for your comments:
    Edith: Yes, hydrangea! I should have included that. You are an expert hydrangea grower and yours are magnificant. What a wonderful idea with the Halcyon hosta. I'll be sure to look for one.
    Claus: You are so right that I dislike watering when the summer comes. But if I plant my white garden I'll just have to do it!
    Mett: Your white plants sound lovely. Having them staggered to bloom throughout the season is a great idea. I'll have to keep that in mind as I draw up my plans.
    Ida: How lucky you are to have lived near Sissinghurst! Am sure you have seen the gardens. I hope to visit it one day. The Zodiac garden sounds intriguing, and the Blind garden as well. I am mad for fragrant plants. Agapanthus is perfect for my urn. Delphiniums ARE divine but alas, they don't thrive in my hot and humid summer climate. We substitute Larkspur for a "similar" effect.


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