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On Gardening: The color white and the moonlit garden enchanting, magical and full of memories

Norman Winter, Tribune News Service on

Published in Gardening News

Each year as my color design guru son James orders plants for use at his clients' homes, from those that look like historic cottages to palatial garden estates, those on the waterfront to those considered mountainous. The one color I can guarantee will be in heavy use is white.

When spring arrives every year with all of its glorious purples, pinks, yellows and reds, the color guaranteed to catch your eye every time is white. (Of course, a scientist would most likely say white is not a color; it absorbs no other color or wavelength and is pure.)

Pure and unspoiled goes in hand with the bride wearing a white dress, or the nurse wearing a white uniform. It’s like the morning you wake and see the pure white snow on the ground that hasn’t been violated in any way.

Mother Nature does this in the spring forest. The dogwoods seem to glow with their blooms, attracting our attention to the glistening, reflective bracts in an otherwise simple scene of green.

White flowers say planning and precision

White flowers like this year’s new Soprano impatiens not only give definition to shadier areas of the landscape, but also offer a sense of cleanliness and purity. They also give a feeling of planning and precision. In other words, the gardener knew what they were doing by carefully planting white.

When possible, use white bedding plants like Supertunia Vista Silverberry, Supertunia Vista Snowdrift or Supertunia Mini Vista White at the front of the border, along sidewalks or trails to define where the walkway begins. This makes the nighttime stroll in the garden come alive.

Out in the landscape proper the hydrangeas rule like royalty whether they are varieties of the native Oakleaf (Hydrangea quercifolia), the native smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) or the pee gees (Hydrangea paniculata). Could there be a reason they named it Limelight?

Give a vertical dimension with climbers and tumblers


White is the last color to disappear as the sun sets in the evening. If it is a moonlit night, white flowers they will reflect the light all night. Use flowering vines like the Proven Winners new Thunbergia, Coconut A-Peel, or the topical Bombshell White mandevilla to add nighttime interest, as they give a vertical element by climbing Victorian-style tower or trellis. This year’s new Fairytrail Bride, the first cascading hydrangea, can turn an urn into a living piece of statuary in the moonlit garden.

While The Garden Guy loves hot orange, red and salmon, if you walked onto my patio tonight, you would see the Superbena Whiteout verbenas tumbling over the rims of containers and cascading over the rock wall in the distance. This is a verbena for all time, offering vigor and large flowers glistening in the moonlight.

Making the moonlit garden magical

The moonlit garden can be magical with the addition of shrubs with white fragrant flowers. This will be the place where childhood memories are made. Memories of mom and dad, and how life was back then. Proven Winners has introduced the Illuminati series of fragrant Mock Oranges, which will have three varieties with the addition of the new Illuminati Sparks in 2023. Then there are the native Clethra or summersweet, like Vanilla Spice and Sugartina Crystalina, that by the mere mention of their name signals olfactory experience. The shrub that everyone has been talking about, however, is Fizzy Mizzy, a compact fragrant native Virginia sweetspire making its debut this year.

The moonlit garden is enchanting, and it just takes a little planning. The prerequisite is the color white. Every aspect of the landscape can have white included. Here's hoping you will give it a try.


(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)

(NOTE TO EDITORS: Norman Winter receives complimentary plants to review from the companies he covers.)

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