THE WHITE GAR­DEN

Country Style - - GARDENS -

ll-white schemes are one of the en­dur­ing clas­sics of gar­den de­sign. When per­fected, the re­sult is a daz­zling ar­ray, with in­ter­play be­tween dif­fer­ent shapes, sizes and tex­tures of white-on-white f low­ers. Lay­ers of in­ter­est also rely on back­ground fo­liage of var­ied tex­ture and form. All-white plant­ings can be sus­tained through the sea­sons. The best plan is to have a new peak ev­ery three or four weeks, built around plants that f lower al­most con­tin­u­ously. Ground­cover plants can range from the small­est spring bulbs — snow­drops if it’s cold enough to grow them — and nar­cis­sus, through to vi­o­las and cush­ions of Iberis sem­per­virens. Stately aga­pan­thus or Lord Howe lilies ( Di­etes robin­so­ni­ana) are al­most in­de­struc­tible. And think of those tough, au­tumn-f low­er­ing bulbs that sur­vive hot sum­mers year af­ter year — ner­ines and white bel­ladonna lilies. An­nu­als can also fit the bill, from alyssum to lo­belia. Come the sum­mer, white marigolds, nico­tiana, white zin­nias and white an­nual salvia can bil­low in the beds, but look equally at­trac­tive in pots or troughs. Taller an­nu­als — cleome, cos­mos, Queen Anne’s lace, snap­drag­ons — can soften any harsh corners and help cre­ate a ro­man­tic mood. With its large sprays of white f low­ers, the mex­i­can tree daisy (Mon­tanoa bip­in­nat­i­fida) is great for cov­er­ing a cor­ner. The two best com­ple­men­tary colours for back­ground fo­liage in white gar­dens are dark green and sil­ver-grey. Clas­sic white f low­ers can look good in our strong light but are of­ten too harsh on their own. A word of warn­ing: too much white may be over­load in a dry coun­try gar­den where the f low­ers can look dusty and muddy. They need to be backed by a strong green from hedges or trees, or placed against grey walls or trel­lises painted sage green or grey. Grey fo­liage can soften any over­load. Tall branches of grey-green globe ar­ti­chokes can of­fer colour sup­port to a mag­nif­i­cent group of Lil­ium re­gale, or a scram­ble of white rose or clema­tis run­ning up the branches of a sil­ver-leafed pear. In a smaller space, com­bine sil­ver- and grey-leafed herbs, such as san­tolina or laven­der, with white an­nu­als; un­der­plant white roses with sil­very lambs’ ears (Stachys byzantina) or an Artemisia ‘Powys Castle’ or ‘Va­lerie Fin­nis’. And what white gar­den would be com­plete with­out a col­lec­tion of roses? Per­fumed and vis­i­ble long af­ter dusk, there is a wide se­lec­tion, from the ubiq­ui­tous ‘Ice­berg’ and ‘Se­duc­tion’, to sweetly scented David Austin roses such as ‘Claire Austin’, ‘Winch­ester Cathe­dral’ or ‘Glamis Castle’. And it’s im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore great ram­blers like ‘Ram­bling Rec­tor’, ‘Wed­ding Day’ and the won­der­ful Rosa brunonii. White f low­ers on trees or shrubs with glossy, ever­green fo­liage are a stand-out. Think gar­de­nias, camel­lias, choisya or the fab­u­lous Vibur­num sargentii ‘Onondaga’ — it’s a look that never goes out of fash­ion. The most inf lu­en­tial of all white gar­dens was that at Siss­inghurst Castle in the UK. Cre­ated in the 1930s by Vita Sackville-west and Harold Ni­col­son, the castle’s stun­ning White Gar­den has been em­u­lated by gar­den­ers around the world ever since.

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The white blooms of these stan­dard roses con­trast with the dark green topiary and hedges un­der­neath.

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