Staten Is­land home to all-white gar­den con­cept

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - TRAVEL - By Beth J. Harpaz

NEW YORK — First come the snow­drops, peek­ing through the snow, then as things warm up, helle­bores and cro­cuses, fol­lowed by gera­ni­ums, pe­onies, anemones, camel­lias and many more. But there’s one thing all the flow­ers in this par­tic­u­lar gar­den have in com­mon: They’re all white.

This white gar­den is part of the Snug Har­bor Cul­tural Cen­ter & Botan­i­cal Gar­den, lo­cated on Staten Is­land in New York City, just a ferry ride away from Man­hat­tan. It was in­spired by a fa­mous gar­den in Eng­land, the white gar­den at Siss­inghurst Cas­tle in Kent, a Na­tional Trust his­toric site. But you don’t have to own a cas­tle or be a pro­fes­sional gar­dener to ex­per­i­ment with an all-white theme. White is a great colour for home gar­dens too.

The Siss­inghurst gar­den was cre­ated by writer Vita Sackville-West and her hus­band, Harold Ni­col­son. SackvilleWest hatched the ro­man­tic vi­sion for the colour scheme in 1939. Orig­i­nally, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Trust, the white gar­den was filled with roses, but over time they were re­placed with white glad­i­oli, irises, dahlias, anemones and other flow­ers. The de­sign in­cluded for­mal walk­ways and jam­packed, wild-look­ing flower beds. The colour scheme in­spired a fad for white gar­dens around the world.

The gar­den on Staten Is­land does not use the same plants as Siss­inghurst be­cause “our sum­mers are hot­ter and our win­ters are colder here,” said Greg Lord, direc­tor of hor­ti­cul­ture at the Snug Har­bor Botan­i­cal Gar­den. But it does use a wide va­ri­ety of plants, in­clud­ing alliums, sum­mer snowflakes (leu­co­jum), ca­mas­sias, crambe, gera­ni­ums, pe­onies, roses, sweet bay mag­no­lia, veron­i­cas­trum and phlox. In the fall, there are peren­nial Ja­panese anemones with sin­gle and dou­ble blos­soms, and camel­lias — a va­ri­ety called win­ter’s wa­ter­fall that blooms right through De­cem­ber.

The mix of shapes and sizes in­cludes cas­cades of wis­te­ria blos­soms, hardy or­ange and crepe myr­tle trees cov­ered with white flow­ers, tiny prim­roses and tall asters. The gar­den has three sec­tions: a large rec­tan­gu­lar flower bed, an area with seat­ing and trees, and a bor­der. For home gar­den­ers who’d like to ex­per­i­ment with white, es­pe­cially those with limited space, Lord rec­om­mends plant­ing close to the house. “At night, the white flow­ers will show up and look in­cred­i­bly beau­ti­ful,” he said.

In­deed, white blos­soms — whether in a win­dow box, planter, raised bed or big yard — seem to glow in twi­light, re­flect­ing what­ever am­bi­ent light they hap­pen to catch from win­dows, street­lamps, can­dles and the like. The lu­mi­nos­ity is es­pe­cially nice on sum­mer evenings when folks hang out in porches and yards.

That high visibility fac­tor is “also nice for peo­ple who work dur­ing the day,” Lord said. “They come home in the evening, and that’s when they’re look­ing at the gar­den.”

White gar­dens are far from monochro­matic. Flow­ers may be creamy, pale or bright white, and grey and green fo­liage helps show the hues off. Box­wood edg­ing and other broadleafed evergreens can help de­fine and bal­ance the del­i­cate white, Lord said.

For those who care to visit, there’s a lot more to see at the Snug Har­bor Botan­i­cal Gar­den than just the white gar­den. Other fea­tures in­clude a Tus­can gar­den, or­na­men­tal veg­etable gar­den, sen­sory gar­den, shade gar­den, and its best-known sec­tion, a Chi­nese Scholar’s Gar­den with Asian art, a koi pond and a plum tree that blooms each year just as win­ter turns to spring.


Helle­bores flow­er­ing in the white gar­den at the Snug Har­bor Cul­tural Cen­ter & Botan­i­cal Gar­den in Staten Is­land, N.Y.

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