Plants For a White Garden

Plants For a White Garden

On 1
st August the white Rose should feature on any self-respecting blog. It is Yorkshire day and this is our emblem.


For me a garden needs a series of themes and contrasts. Showy annuals, intense herbaceous borders, seasonal planting and elegant shrubs are important features. When planning a ‘restricted colour garden‘ as in the white garden you are really planning for subtle contrasts and breathtaking clarity that is both calm and soothing. Grey foliage and variegated leaves will take their place amongst some of the purest or showiest flowers. To make a point and emphasise neutral colours a pure self colour may be introduced but there are shades of white and don’t forget buds, sepals and stamen bring shades of colour.

White Rose of Yorkshire

Why White is important

  • White helps to display other colours to their best advantage.
  • It brightens and relieves other shades
  • White flowers alongside grey or variegated foliage brighten dark corners
  • It can give a feeling of coolness to sun drenched patios
  • White is elegant and often seen as pure, chaste, fresh and unsullied
  • White is fashionably aesthetic and invokes atmospheric images.

Daisy Roots
White by Design

  • Select an area with an appropriate dark background to set off the flowers
  • Choose an area of isolation that avoids creating competition – a walled area is ideal
  • Location, location, location, avoid too much sun and allow it to glow even in poor weather
  • Texture and form are important in a garden and can be picked out by choice white plants and flowers
  • When designing think about the whites required for all the seasons
  • Focal points can be sharp and varied choose good specimen plants
  • White foliage can provide a framework for other plants
  • White reflects well in a still pool
  • Scent of white flowers can be intense and used to highlight other senses
  • White flowers repay close examination and draw and retain attention

For White versions of common plants, white stars and foliage

White versions of common plants

  • Lobelia erinus ‘White Gem’
  • Honesty alba
  • Foxglove alba
  • Muscari ‘Album’
  • Cosmos bipinnatus
  • Poppy orientale ‘Perry’s White’
  • Campanula ‘Snowdrift’
  • Viola wittrockiana
  • Hebe albicans
  • Yarrow argentea ‘Peter Davies’

Stars of the White Garden

  • Cardiocrinum giganteum The giant Himalayan lily from a bulb
  • Handkerchief tree Davidia involucrata
  • Nigella named after the great white gardener ‘Miss Jenkle Alba’
  • Water lily Odorata Alba and Liliums regale and longifolium
  • Cistus rock roses
  • Clematis evergreen armandii
  • ‘Apple blossom’ Chaenomeles quince
  • Turks cap lily Martagon album
  • Cytisus albus the Spanish broom
  • Choose your variety of Philadelphus, Rose, Narcissus and Viburnum
  • The humble Snowdrop and the Snowflake


The undoubted star of the white garden was Gertrude Jekkll
A pre war garden designer Gertrude Jekyll worked with architect Sir Edward Lutchens in the UK and North America. She wrote 12 books and many of her gardens have been preserved or re established from detailed plans that were left behind. She was interested in naturalistic planting and the Arts and crafts movement.

Her name is much associated with the development of textured borders arranged and grouped in individual colours such as white gardens or ‘gold’ borders composed entirely of material in various shades of yellow and orange.

Examples of her gardens such as Hestercombe (Somerset) and Upton Grey (Hampshire) have been restored, as have parts of her own much-loved garden at Munstead Wood in Surrey.

Book Cover
Gertrude Jekyll’s Colour Schemes for the Flower Garden

Book Cover
The Gardener’s Essential Gertrude Jekyll

Stars of Contrasting Foliage for a White Garden

  • Dogwood Cornus alba variegated
  • Hosta fortunei ‘marginatoalba’
  • Black bamboo
  • Helleborus argutifolius evergreen
  • Blue Festuca grass
  • Lavender and cotton lavender
  • Senecio and Stachys grey foliage

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