White Plants are IN and Illuminate Landscapes Day and Night.

By Leslie F. Halleck

“Living Coral” may be the 2019 Pantone Color of the Year, but it’s white that seems to be on trend now. If you haven’t noticed, monochromatic white schemes are showing up splashed across design magazines and floral stylings. White flowers certainly offer up a crisp, fresh feel and brighten up any style of garden design or home décor. White flowers also happen to be a must-have if you’re looking to enhance your night garden experience. Seems like perfect timing, as night gardens appear to be making a trend comeback as “moon gardens”.

White gardens and white-flower floral displays were in full force at many of this year’s home and garden shows. Some of the prettiest featured lush clumps of white tulips, white daffodils, white  muscari, cyclamen, daisies … you name it. I saw white plant selections repeated across many landscape and container displays at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show, and my contacts in the floral industry let me know that many of their customers are “freaking out over white astilbe.” (That probably has something to do with Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle’s wedding bouquet.) White and fluffy is in.

Outdoor living

Outdoor entertaining spaces have become much larger investments for many homeowners – often encompassing full-fledged kitchens, bars, media rooms and much more. Folks are spending a lot of time and money creating the outdoor entertaining and staycation spaces of their dreams. This means more evenings spent outdoors.

Yet, with the evolution of bigger and grander outdoor hardscapes, it’s often plantscaping that unintentionally gets eclipsed once the sun begins to go down. What good are all those beautiful plants if you can’t see them when you’re having your evening cocktail on the patio? The beauty of white flowering plants is that they shine both in the sunlight and the moonlight.

Calm down

White and silver have a naturally calming effect, which is exactly what most of us need these days once we head home from a stressful day at work or after a long day with the kids. While good landscape lighting can help illuminate your hardscaping efforts, strategically placed white-flowering plants really help your landscape come to life at night. Be sure to choose multitasking plants for your night garden – those with flowers that stay open at night and have  good fragrance.

Anchor with shrubs & vines

White flowering viburnum ‘Spring Bouquet,’ oakleaf hydrangea and mock orange are star night-performing shrubs in my night garden. White roses, such as ‘Iceberg,’ create a lush, romantic feel for evening entertaining. Abelia produce masses of small white blooms that will feed a bevy of pollinators. Gardenias offer intense fragrance and Deutzia is a perfect compact pathway shrub.

Evergreen clematis, deciduous clematis, moonflower and climbing jasmine in white can ramble over patio pergolas, arbors and fences.

Perfect perennials

White-flowering perennials such as astilbe, scabiosa, veronica and echinacea offer a bounty of white blooms that pop in the night-time garden. Oxeye daisy holds down the spring season in my night garden and white autumn sage (Salvia greggii) is a workhorse bloomer the rest of the year. Don’t forget herbs such as basil, thyme and chamomile also offer up pollinator-friendly white blooms.

Brighten with bulbs

When customers say they just don’t have any more room for new plants, sell them some bulbs. Most bulbs can be tucked into beds between perennials and shrubs. Snowdrops are a welcome harbinger of spring in the moon garden. I’m also a huge fan of white daffodils, and ‘Thalia’ is a must-have in my garden. It’s a late bloomer with a wonderful fragrance.

I’m becoming increasingly obsessed with pure white muscari (grape hyacinth,) and they seem to be popping up in more and more landscape designs. These tiny bulbs can be tucked into any landscape bed or grown in patio pots. ‘Maureen’ tulips always make a show in my garden, and there’s nothing more stunning than white ‘Immortality’ bearded iris in full bloom en masse.

Bring on the tropicals

There are plenty of annuals you can offer to fill in established landscape beds or containers for a pop of nighttime drama. Annuals such as white cosmos, zinnia and nicotiana are easy-to-seed fillers. Pentas are easy-to-grow pollinator favorites. I’m also in love with the newer white mandevilla varieties that are perfect for more compact patio pots. Potted citrus provide masses of white blooms with intense fragrance. White-flowering brugmansia are impressive specimens that add scale and drama. Cool succulents such as potted night-blooming cereus will bring out the nocturnal pollinators.

Don’t forget foliage

Add some shine to your evening cocktail time with silver foliage plants. Senecios, artemesia and silver  santolina brighten borders and container plantings. Plants with white variegation in their foliage, such as many hostas, will also provide accent in the moon garden or in patio containers.

Four seasons

Be sure to offer moon garden plants that will take customers through the seasons. Ephemeral bulbs, spring annuals, summer blooming shrubs and fall-blooming perennials should round out a good moon garden. We could all use a calm down these days. Moon gardens might just be what your customers need to add a dose of serenity to their daily routine.

Author of the article, Leslie (CPH) owns Halleck Horticultural, LLC, through which she provides horticultural consulting, business and marketing strategy, product development and branding, and content creation for green industry companies.