July 4, 2010

Early Summer Whites

The lawn is full of white clover, in drifts everywhere.  My neighbor hates clover and eradicates it as a noxious weed in his lawn.  I like it.  Not just because it adds nitrogen, but because I think it looks so sweet.
There are so many highly freighted opinions about turf and what constitutes an appropriate lawn in the suburbs.  It all comes into play: environmental stewardship, neighborly cohesion, aesthetic tolerance, wild weeds versus manicured carpet, groundcover alternatives..... sigh.  I just like white clover in the lawn.  The bees do too.

The white yarrow in the garden looks clean and fresh.  Alchillea can look dusty and tired in a mixed border.  It really belongs in a desert setting with rocks and hardscape around it, or in a big meadow.  But the white in the border looks crisp and it perks up the paprika colored yarrow next to it.  The shrubby yellow St. Johnswort blooms look on.

Physostegia virginiana 'Miss Manners' has frilly white bells riding up a strong stem.  It's called Obedient Plant because the stems are stiff and will hold whatever angle you bend them into.  But I think of these pretty white flowers as obedient because they look so demure, like the good girls in kindergarten who always wore dresses and behaved.

Physostegia can be aggressive, but 'Miss Manners' is not, and it doesn't spread.

But another white flowered plant, Lysimachia clethroides, is very aggressive.  It's called gooseneck loosestrife, and my neighbor dug up a clump and gave it to me because "she had so much".  Well yeah, it's a thug and it spreads by runners.  Not wanting the same problem in my garden, I plopped it in a container where I really like it.  Don't the little arching blooms look like geese? 
My neighbor's clump forms a big gaggle of curious geese in her garden and does look striking, but where to put mine so that they won't overtake everything?

The Shasta daisies are out.  These are 'Becky' and I love their bright white unapologetic, simple faces.  They define the words "summer" and "happy" and "innocent".

I planted Ceanothus americanus, New Jersey Tea, this spring.  It's very little, but blooming in small white pompoms already.  In a few years this will be a taller shrub, covered with white snowballs.

And here's a subtle white flower I just discovered: Anemone virginiana, or Thimbleweed.  It doesn't look like much, but the strongly vertical stems, clear white rose-shaped blooms, and fuzzy green thimbles that persist after the petals fall, all work to make this catch your eye next to a stone wall or birdbath or other structure with some mass in the garden.

Later on in the season the Clethra 'Hummingbird' will bloom in a fragrant white explosion of spires.  And the Rose of Sharon 'White Chiffon' will put out big fancy white hibiscus blooms.  And there will be white panicle hydrangea and Nippon daisies.

But for now I'm enjoying a fine Fourth of July: early summer whites in my garden, a brilliant blue sky above and a red strawberry daiquiri in my hand.


  1. Hi laurrie, I absolutely love the summer whites! Just had to add a pot of white geraniums to my side garden and it just pops there.

    Enjoy your holiday! :)

  2. The goose is loose under our apple tree where not much else likes to grow due to all the shade and dryness. I control it by pulling it out by the hands full. It can be aggravating but I can, have kept it in bounds. I like all of your summer whites. Do you have the tall garden phlox that smells so good? It would work into your white scheme very nice.

  3. I love white in the garden all the time, ok, maybe not winter white, lol. One day maybe I will havew a white garden a al Vita Sackville-West.

  4. Garden Ms. S, there really is something clean and fresh about white in the height of summer.

    Lisa, I love "the goose is loose"!! I'm glad you can keep yours in bounds.

    Deborah, Whiteflower Farm (not far from us) has a stunning all white garden anchored by two giant white wisterias... what a sight!

  5. Your garden looks fabulous. None of the crispy variety of perennial that seems to have graced my garden after two weeks of 100 degree weather. Thanks for the info on gooseneck loosestrife - I just saw it at a botanical garden and didn't know what it was. I love clover too - -perfect for making flower crowns and for searching out the four leafed variety.


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