The White Garden

Phlox paniculata DavidQuestion: I’d like to put it an all-white garden near my patio. Do you have any tips for the design?

Answer: If you do a lot of relaxing, dining or entertaining on your patio in the evenings, a white garden is a fabulous choice. White flowers and foliage will show up better than any other color at dusk, and they create a restful, romantic and pleasantly eerie mood.

Here are the major things to remember when choosing and placing plants for your white garden:

White isn’t always white. A “white” flower may contain traces of cream, pale pink or blue, which will become much more noticeable when it is placed next to a truly pure white flower. To keep all whites looking their best, use green or silver foliage plants between the “off” whites and the pure whites. Traces of other colors within the white will be most apparent during the day.

Create contrast with form, size and foliage. Your white garden will lack the interest that comes from different colored flowers playing off one another. Be sure to use plants of different shapes and sizes, different flower forms and foliage in different shades of green, blue and silver to add depth and character.

Make sure there is a strong background behind the garden. A deep green hedge is perfect for setting off white flowers. A dark-painted wall or fence will also do the trick. Avoid pale or (obviously) white backgrounds, into which the white flowers would fade.

Shown: Phlox paniculata ‘David’, a pure-white border phlox. Image courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder. (Click the link to read PlantFinder info on growing ‘David’ phlox.)

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15 thoughts on “The White Garden

  1. These are all shade or part shade choices:
    Ghost fern (more upright than Japanese Painted Fern)
    Pulmonaria – white spotted foliage all year & nice flowers
    Rue Anemone/ Anemonella thalictroides (ephemeral)
    Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ spreads very slowly – gorgeous foliage & flowers
    Anemone sylvestris – nice groundcover, blooms twice a yr in my garden
    One can have too much white… contrast with all green leaves like fragrant Hosta ‘Venus’ or ‘Royal Standard’
    or Asarum Wild Ginger, looks great with everything.
    Heucheras – many have white flowers; all have gorgeous foliage

  2. I plant Caladium in my white shade garden, the large green and white leaves add woinderful pop. I have a white Hellebore, Diamind Frost Euphorbia, white Bleeding heart, white asiatic lilliesand a green white stripped ribon grass. All do well in the shade.

  3. For a bit of structure and interest, try a bottlebrush buckeye
    (Aesculus parv.), native to woodlands of the east.
    A real show stopper when in bloom, will last for several weeks, with 10-15″ white feathery spikes. Use as a showy specimen, or in groupings. Also has a fine yellow fall color. Not recommended for full sun. Will grow as wide as tall- 8′ x 8′ or more. Also a butterfly/pollinator magnet!

  4. Mock Orange is white but for a short time. For the shade use one of the many hosta that are mostly white. White bleeding heart, again white but somewhat short bloom season. Dusty Miller for good texture works well.

  5. Beside some of the above mentioned, I have planted white balloon flower, “Incrediball” Hydrangea, white potentilla,and white geraniums in my sunny garden.

    • White Glads are a tall, lovely addition. There are also some white W/ stripes of violet that are just beautiful at night. Here is to getting the most from our gardens!

  6. I have Phlox David, and it s lovely, it spread nicely and has a lovely sweet fragrance. I grows nice and tall so it may be nice in the back for height.

    • Try nicotiana alata, white borage, feverfew tetra strain (these three can be grown from seed, and come back every year from seed sown),lilium Casa Blanca,lilium regale, white heliotrope, white lisianthus. I grow all of these, and maintanance is minimal. If you can throw in a small white rose that would be nice.

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