The Midnight White Garden

Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - by Timothy Fraser

At midnight, and just a little before and a little after, the White Garden translates its planting arrangements into an essay in the compositional use of flowers and foliage together with and amongst a feast of fragrances.

Lilum regale

Attention is focused, as the name suggests, primarily on white flowers, with the perspicacious interplay of different shades of green taking a secondary role, while still complementing each other perfectly.

The highly scented regal lily, Lilum regale, is planted amongst the goat’s rue, Galega x hartlandii “Alba”, with its smaller, delicate blooms – the contrast is simultaneously complimentary and subtle – in flower size and form - even though they are both obviously the same colour, white.

The midnight White Garden

Almost hiding in the background, white phlox inconspicuously introduces further understated variety – its flowers neither small spires like the goat’s rue nor floral trumpets like the lily – but rather round, voluptuous mop heads of pure white.

On a practical note, the regal lilies need topping up every other year, as otherwise they seem to diminish in numbers. They require perfectly drained soil – under the opposite conditions, they will rot over the winter – consequently, grit is always put into the planting hole. Many gardening text books advise that phlox should be split biennially because it starts to die off from the centre of the clump. However, our Rose Garden boasts many varieties of phlox, which thrive and continue to thrive, and none of which have been divided for seventeen years. In my experience, phlox is more than content with a liberal dose of compost in the winter months and attentive watering in dry weather – these being the main requirements for a happy phlox.

The goat’s rue, Galega x hartlandii ‘Alba’, being a rather rare variety, was a difficult to source. It was raised from seed five years ago, but nonetheless flowered in its first year – unusual for an herbaceous perennial. A more common pink variety is grown and also thrives well in our Herb Garden.

I think it a pity that this white variety of goat’s rue - with its wonderful display of beautiful, pea-like foliage and its long flowering period (if dead-headed weekly) – is not seen more often in the gardens of Great Britain, and beyond.

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