Garden Spot: Brighten your yard with a serene white garden

CorrespondentJune 21, 2013 


  • Try this

    Jason Holmes offers this suggestion for a container white garden that can tolerate sun or shade: Alocasia (large, bold-leafed elephant ear with white veining), white New Guinea impatiens (big, bold white flowers), euphorbia Diamond Frost (tons of dainty white flowers), dichondra Silver Falls (trails out of the pot; silver foliage echoes the white color).

  • See the winner

    What: Sarah P. Duke Gardens

    Where: 420 Anderson St., Durham

    When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday

    Admission: Free

    Info: 919-684-3698 or

Serenity, peace and happiness are among the feelings that the color white invokes. Time spent in your flower garden can also conjure up those qualities. So what could bring out more of those feelings than a white garden?

White plantings of different heights, textures and shapes adorn the half-acre Page-Rollins White Garden at Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham. Take a walk here and get inspiration for your own garden. Duke Gardens recently received the 2013 Horticulture Magazine Award for Garden Excellence. The American Public Gardens Association makes this award to a public garden that exemplifies the highest standards of horticultural practices.

The Page-Rollins White Garden is just one of the specialized gardens at Duke. Some of the inspiration for Page-Rollins came from the garden at Sissinghurst Castle in England. The white garden makes perfect sense there, where the days are cloudy and overcast, says Doris Duke Center gardens curator Jason Holmes. White stands out on those dark days.

In this part of the world, however, a white garden can brighten a shady space. My backyard, with two large sycamores, a maple and magnolias, is very shady. A white garden would brighten the area, Holmes says. Additional white plantings would complement the sycamores’ white bark and the creamy white magnolia blossoms.

A large space isn’t necessary. A white garden works well in a container or a courtyard, a half-acre garden or the area around your deck. White flowers really stand out and can be very fragrant.

The white garden can lend interest to the garden at dusk. Some flowers are at their peak at dusk or early morning. Moon vine and angel’s trumpet bloom at these times and are pollinated at night by moths.

If you think color is missing in these white gardens, think again. Add silvers, which mimic white. Include light-bluish hues, such as ‘Blue Ivory’ hosta, and bluish-gray disks of Silver Dollar eucalyptus.

The white garden can bloom year round but it varies in intensity from season to season. It shows off best in spring and summer. Annuals, perennials, bulbs and tropical plants are available to fit a white garden.

Holmes enjoyed the challenge of choosing plants not just for the color but with fitting names. For example, white mullein Wedding Candles, is fitting in light of all the weddings held at Duke Gardens.

And when choosing plants, factor in that those white peonies might have red streaks, and white roses might be pink in bud form or they might age to a peach. The gardener can decide whether that’s OK. A true white rose is the White Out, which blooms from April to November.

Consider these seasonal suggestions:

Now showing: Native Hydrangea arborescens Annabelle. Summer snapdragon – angelonia Serena White, an annual, blooms until first frost. Nettle-leaved mullein Wedding Candles blooms now until November. Flowering tobacco, nicotiana Jasmine, sweet-scented, opens in evening hours, blooming in profusion now. Clethra alnifolia Hummingbird, a native, is small and produces spires of white flowers, extremely fragrant. Garden valerian, 3-5 feet, adorned with white panicles of flowers. Rose campion – white-flowered form, leaves very soft and plush, almost like lamb’s ear, in full flower now, a great old-fashioned plant.

Winter: White Lenten roses. Small woodland bulbs, such as Siberian squill Alba. Snowdrops – Galanthus. White winter-blooming iris. Pansies. The Page-Rollins garden is flanked by white camellias, which are late-winter to spring bloomers.

Spring (especially May): Foxgloves mixed with allium Mount Everest create an interesting combination of shapes and forms.

Fall: White-flowered chrysanthemums. White-topped kale. White-flowering dianthus, pansies and Johnny jump-ups. These plants mix well with the summer annuals that flower until the first frost, which often does not occur until late October to early November. In addition, Camellia sasanqua Mine-No-Yuki is a fall-blooming camellia.


News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service