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