07 May 2009

GARDEN GATE: The Understated Elegance of White Flowers

The other night, walking home from yoga, the white flowers in front of my house held their own in the moonlight. Lovely and lacy, the white blossoms seemed to glow, while other colors tend to disappear in darkness.

At the nurseries and greenhouses, I'm tempted by all the juicy colors, yet I'm fairly obsessed right now with white flowers. Some years ago, I got the bug for an all-white garden. I didn't yet have the discipline to blanche the entire landscape, but in the secret garden I did experiment with a circle of creamy white roses and boxwood ringing the bird bath. I loved the rich simplicity of the palette, so I pursued the vision.

In the last couple growing seasons, I've gravitated more and more toward plants with white blossoms. Of course, due to all the foliage, it's not really an all-white garden, but more a green and white garden. Since the brick of my house is so dark, the white flowers really pop in contrast. The beds in the front include the following white-flowered plants: pansies, tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, coneflowers, shasta daisies, candytuft, Buck roses. At the moment, the cherry tree blooms, too. Today, standing beneath it, getting a love-apple-growing lesson from my neighbor Darrell the Tomato Master, the cherry tree showered us with white confetti petals.

White flowers go with everything. Like a crisp white shirt, they make everything seem fresher. The green and white soothe, and the discerning eye can examine the different colors of white. Rather than the big burst of color impact, I've come to appreciate the forms and textures of the white flowers.

And the fragrance. Though the hyacinths have come and gone for this season, fragrant white Buck roses and a white peony are on deck.

Yesterday, while working in my garden, a young man stopped. He was dressed in spattered painter's clothes. He introduced himself and said he'd noticed my garden, and drove around the block to see it again. Then he asked if he could pick one of the tall, showy, white tulips in front of my house "for a very special female" in his life. How could I resist such a romantic impulse?

A garden isn't only for the delight of the gardener, but for all who pass and appreciate its beauty.


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