The White Garden: How we created a show stopping front garden.
This week's blog has come as a bit of a surprise to me really, it's not interiors based but actually exteriors based. It's true that on most weekends, you'll usually find us in the garden. I love nothing more than to get out in the garden and pretend to have gardening skills like Monty Don, (reality is I'm more like his dog Nigel!)
To be completely honest with you, before I met Andrew, I had absolutely zero interest in gardening. The very idea of digging up weeds or going to the garden centre to pick out some compost and pansies was my idea of hell, and don't even get me started on what I thought a garden hoe was! All I wanted to do was sit in the garden listening to Radio 1 and sunbathe with a watermelon Bacardi Breezer (do they even still make those)?
Then from out of nowhere, this man comes into my life, with his terracotta pots and a monthly subscription to Gardeners World magazine. Not only does he know the name of literally all the plants, oh no, he knows the Latin names too. All I knew was this guy was a major plant geek, and I had fallen completely in love with him!
Before I knew it I was in the garden listening to Radio 2, weeding, cutting the grass and planting flowers. I was now actually looking forward to going to the garden centre on the weekend. What was happening to me? Where had the guy gone that couldn't tell the difference between a spade and a fork? Then one fateful spring day it happened, we got the joint RHS membership! It was now only a matter of time before we joined the National Trust, spending our evening's planning which stately home to visit next and remembering which served up the best cream teas.
It was official I had become a grown up and a scone connoisseur! But you know what, I didn't care, I was happy.
A couple of years ago we visited Sissinghurst Castle, in Kent. I instantly fell in love with the place, more specifically I fell in love with the famous white garden. I was blown away by the stunning texture and shapes of all the different flowers, and amazed at how you could create something so amazing by using just white flowers. Created by husband and wife team Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West in the early 1950's, the white garden is not only a beautiful arrangement of white, green and silver planting but is an internationally renowned garden of some significant importance.
I came home feeling completely inspired and wanted to create my own white garden. As we had not long finished landscaping the back garden I knew that was out. So that just left the front garden, which at the time resembled a large weed-filled car park with a couple of dying trees. Oh, and when we had heavy rain it the front garden completely flooded from the run off from the main road, which would turn into a muddy river coming down the driveway and through the garage into the back garden (you can imagine how pleasant that was!) So it was decided operation create our own little Sissinghurst white garden was a go!
When it comes to creating a white garden it can actually be trickier than you may first think. As you are effectively stripping the garden of colour, you need to think about the other elements such as shape, form, size and texture not to mention trying to keep a year round impact.
If you would like to create your own white garden, here are a few helpful tips to get you on your way...
Now before you go rushing off down to your nearest garden centre, think about what time of year it is. Buying lots of spring flowers that are already in full bloom, will give you an instant impact, but, this could prove to be quite costly for you. If we're going into the summer season, they will probably only last you a matter of days. Planning ahead and researching what plants will work in your desired place will really pay off and help keep the wow factor going all year.
2- Think Size
When choosing your plants don't be afraid to go big. For our front garden borders we chose some pretty tall plants, such as foxglove (digitalis purpurea alba) and cow parsley (ammi majus actually, its still an umbellifer but is whiter and more delicate than cow parsley), on there own they look great but put together they give a great contrast in a garden that is dominated by just one colour. Another great plant for height is a clematis, they come in a fantastic range of sizes and looks and because they are climbers. They with give you great height that you can train them to go on a fence, porch wall or just around supports.
Foliage can be add just as much drama as the flowers themselves. Plants like Stachys Byzantina "Big Ears", Fern's, Hosta's and Astelia all have beautiful foliage. One important rule to keep in mind though is,
"right plant right place."
In other words you don't want to put a shade loving plant like a fern in a bed that's in full sun, as it will not last long.
Variegated foliage can act the same way as white flowers. In a white garden, leaves with a green and white mix can keep performing long after other plants’ flowers have gone, keeping the garden looking fresh and light all season long.
Creating a new bed from scratch could work out costly if you just get everything from the local garden centre, but planning ahead, raiding your friends and family's gardens (with permission of course) and growing from seed can really help keep the costs down. Shopping online is a great way to keep costs down, especially for bulbs; buy them wholesale from dutch bulbs and you'll find 100 tulips for around £16, get a mix of early, mid and late flowering, to really extend the tulip season. If you have a green house or the space to grow plants from seed this will save you so much money in the long run and will allow you to change things from year to year at a minimal cost.
As white flowers begin to fade, they can very quickly turn an unattractive shade of brown, so dead heading is essential to keep your white garden looking its best. Once early annual plants have done their job, simply pull them up and fill in the empty gap with new annuals, such as white cosmos or white sweet williams. This will help keep the bed looking fresh and invigorated. Oh and don't forget the weeding, last thing you need is a bright yellow dandelion fucking with the aesthetics!
Creating our white garden has actually been a really fun process for us. We often have people stop and complement us on it. In fact the other day Andrew saw a couple of people taking photos of it. So its slightly bitter sweet that after all our hard work, we're moving in a few weeks, and will have to say good bye to our beautiful white garden, Well we've created it once, so we can do it again.
Thanks for reading...