Monday, December 6, 2010

The White Garden

Taking a break from decorating and Christmas shopping one day this week, I sat down to watch a little TV and happened to find a documentary about Sissinghurst Castle.  I was mesmerized by the beauty of this place, especially the gardens created by Vita Sackville-West and her husband Sir Harold Nicolson.  As is always the case when I view fabulous gardens, I long to have something similar in my own garden, although on a smaller and more manageable scale.  I've toyed with the idea of creating my own White Garden, one of the more popular and novel areas created by Vita.  Mother Nature must have read my thoughts, because she obliged by creating an all-white garden for me this weekend.

The weather forecast was for a major snowstorm to hit the Chicago area, while we, about 150 miles south, were to get only 2-3 inches.  As is usually the case, the weathermen miscalculated, and the brunt of the storm hit us instead, blanketing our area with 7 inches of snow by Saturday afternoon.

Suddenly, the butterfly garden that was a riot of color in the summer became a white garden instead.

The once-pink Echinaceas now look like drum majors leading a marching band with their tall furry hats.

The remains of Joe Pye Weed make the perfect dish for a frosty confection.

Less than two weeks ago I wandered the garden in a light jacket, noticing the brown seedheads of hollyhocks.  Now, they, too, are part of the white vista.

My "cupcake" yews look a little better with frosting on top.

Even a remaining patch of weeds out in back looks better in white.

Not everything likes the snow, however.  Dill bows to the force of the Midwest wind.

The forgotten fern stand reproaches me with its frosty foliage.  Looks like it's too late to overwinter these asparagus ferns and geraniums.

I am glad I took advantage of Friday's milder weather to put up the outdoor lights and decorations.  But it's hard to tell right now whether the pine boughs and berry stems I added to this urn created the festive effect I hoped for.

But faring the worst are the garden gnome and bikini-clad Ms. Frog who could probably both use a cup of hot chocolate and some time in front of a cozy fire.

The first snowfall is always a bit magical, though the enthusiasm for it soon wanes as winter plods on.  But the one who never loses her enthusiasm for a romp in the snow is Sophie.  She was excited to accompany me as we made our way around the house and yard, looking for more evidence of the garden.

It wasn't hard to spot the clematis on its trellis.

The hydrangea 'Limelight' now looks more like a snowball bush.

Dried hosta and heuchera blooms are the only other visible remnants of the rest of the shade garden.

In the lily bed, however, the new switchgrass 'Shenandoah' really stands out and against a background of white, finally can be photographed to show its lovely structure.

A garden filled only with white blooms may sound rather boring, but Vita Sackville-West's famous White Garden depends on contrast, especially green and silvery foliage, to create a dramatic effect.

While the evergreens provide plenty of green here, the most dramatic contrast is the color red as seen in the tiny berries still covering the flowering crabapple trees.

Say what you will about burning bushes, they do look good in the fall and just as good in the early winter.

Their red berries make the most noticeable contrast of all.

I'm not sure I'll ever attempt planting a white garden--I like color too much.  But judging by the cold forecast for at least the week to come, my Winter White Garden may be here to stay for awhile.


  1. Your winter white garden looks gorgeous Rose. I love the majorettes, cupcakes and snowball bushes. They are living up to their nicknames. I bet you needed hip boots with the drifts that were bound to accumulate with that much snow. Sophie looks happy to have a new white playground to romp in. We had only a dusting of snow. A half inch at most. I tried a white garden once. It didn't last. I just like color so much more. Try to stay warm.

  2. Very good - it's possible to have a white a garden with no planting at all in the northern climates! Lots of nice photos - I like your gnomes the best :)

  3. Hi Rose, A garden does most certainly look magical when covered in snow. The detail is amazing....I love red berries against the pure white background.

    It would be so fun for Sophie and Nella to play together in the snow. Nella loves labradors and fact most large dogs that have a gentle disposition.

    I am glad you were able to watch the Tv programme. Sissinghurst is wonderful.....and the white garden quite serene.
    I personally think white with intense colour dotted between is the better option....that is just a personal preference.

    Have fun in the snow.....and Happy Christmas to you and yours.

  4. Rose, I can't say that I envy you having to deal with the white stuff, but I do love that new garden look you've achieved. And I miss the look of burning bushes against the snow. If you get tired of shoveling, you know where to go for a break.

  5. It sure is pretty! To go to bed and wake up to a winter wonderland is such a magical thing!

  6. The first snow is always magical. So glad Sophia likes to romp in the snow...mine do too. You got some really great photos of the snow on your plants...especially like the Coneflowers with their tophat of snow. I have Shenandoah as well, just put it in this summer. Hoping for great things from it next summer.

  7. You captured the white garden so beautifully Rose - Sophie looks very much at home in the white stuff! I absolutely love that one shot with the hanging red berries.

    Guess where I'm headed tomorrow - Maui! No snow there - stay warm Rose!

  8. Hi,

    Snow is indeed very pretty... The novelty soon wears off though as we recently discovered in the UK as we've been hit very hard by snow over the past week or two.

    But it does definitely bring a new dimension to many plants, especially dead seedheads.

  9. I have to say the snow really does give the garden a whole new look. Love the look of the greens & reds against it especially. My dogs love a good romp in it too, lol. Stay warm. :)

  10. Lovely pics all of them! We are having strong wild winds and rain in east coast canada, I'm thanking heaven it's not snow!

  11. ahhhhhhh these photos are just wonderful to look at but I really miss the colour green now. I'm under 18 inches of snow here in central Scotland and the infrastructure like trains, roads, buses and air are in chaos here.

  12. The beautiful white snow, it insulates and makes for a beautiful silence.

    The yews really collect snow, don't they? I love that photo and your cupcake comment. Last year we put lights on ours and they ended up so full of snow that the lights were no longer visible.

    Big dogs always seem to enjoy the snow and then they like to bring what collects on their fur into the house. Sophie is a good friend to you, isn't she?

    Snow makes such a pretty picture when it decorates the pine trees and it is always a pleasant surprise to find red berries against the white snow.

    I'm willing to bet that your white garden is every bit as enchanting as the one Vita Sackville-West created.

    No snow here, but my perennials would like some soon to keep them warm through the winter.


  13. While all of your garden looks lovely in white, I adore your magnificent oak! I've always admired the lace effect of snow against the dark, gnarly branches.

  14. It's so FLUFFFFY! I almost tried to lick the screen when I saw your delicious frosted cupcake yews! What great early winter photos.

  15. So that's where all the snow went! I love that Shenendoah in the snow...everything looks beautiful in a perfectly seasonal way.

  16. i see the snow fairies made it to you as well :) beautiful white garden indeed!

  17. Wow, you got quite a bit of snow, didn't you? I loved seeing all those plants under the snow. Looks magical, at least to this southerner who rarely sees it, ha! btw, Sissinghurst is one of those gardens on my must-see list... someday.

  18. Enjoyed your take 'on white', dear Rose. I have a feeling, since still fall, you will post more of this 'magical' wonder :)

  19. Hi Rose! You and LC (Conrad's Gardens) are thinking along the same lines... with this snow and white gardens. :-)

    You have received quite the snow already, haven't you? I DO love to watch it fall... the beauty of retirement, I guess. If I don't HAVE to go out, that is. :-)

    Happy December and getting-ready-for-Christmas! Stay safe!

  20. A magical transformation. Really beautiful.

  21. Lisa, Boots are definitely a necessity here these days. Originally I was going to turn the new flowerbed into a white garden, but I'm like you--I just like color too much.

    Cyndy, This was the easiest white garden of all:) I had planned to bring the gnome in to store him for the winter, but now he's frozen in place.

    Cheryl, I'm having serious second thoughts about the idea of a white garden--I, too, like color too much. Maybe one day I'll get to see Sissinghurst--it's not too far from you, is it? Sophie and Nella would have a ball in the snow!

    Sherlock Gardener, Thank you! The best part is I didn't have to do any of the work:)

    W2W, I'm already tired of this cold--in the teens or below this week. Sunny Florida or Arizona sounds pretty good to me right now. Does anyone ever miss shoveling snow?:)

    Tina, The day before I was putting up Christmas lights outside with the sun shining--quite a change the next morning!

    Janet, 'Shenandoah' is the first grass I've planted here, which is probably hard for others to believe. I had a hard time choosing which grass, but its light summer rosy tips won me over.

  22. Janet, that was supposed to read "LATE summer..."

    Amy, Hawaii sounds like paradise right now--enjoy!

    Liz, It doesn't take long for me to tire of snow, too. The UK has really been hit hard, as I've seen on the news. Hope you're staying warm!

    Racquel, Red and green are the best contrasts to snow. I like having snow for Christmas, but then I'd be happy if it all melted away:)

    Kathy, Rain and wind doesn't sound very pleasant either--just so it doesn't freeze!

    Rosie, I've seen the news as well as some blog posts about all the snow you've had. Stay warm!

    Donna, Thank you for these sweet comments. A friend of mine recently remarked that I talk about Sophie as if she's my 5th child:) She has been a special companion since I became an empty nester. I'm sure you'll get your share of snow before the season is over!

    MMD, I'm glad you noticed the oak--doesn't it have a marvelous structure?

    Laurrie, I hope you don't lick the yews--your tongue might get frozen:)

    Rose, The weatherman kept saying this snow was going to be the worst in Chicago...once again, they were wrong:)

    Rachel, The snow fairies were very busy last Saturday night.

    Jean, Snow is prettiest in someone else's yard:) I have a long list of "must-sees", too.

  23. Joey, The magic of snow wears off as winter goes on:) I'm sure we'll have more of it yet this season.

    Shady, I will have to check out LC's post--thanks for the tip!

    Plantilicious, Thank you, and thanks for stopping by.

  24. Rose girl I just went out this morning in my jacket and boots over my questionable night wear to take some snow garden pictures too !
    I love how Joe Pye looks and the cupcake thought of your yew has me craving one now (bad you ! haha) My yews are in the Xmas tree shape so they don't drive me nuts with cupcake thoughts ? haha
    Sophie is having a great time with all that fresh smelling snow : )
    Doesn't everything look amazing with a coat of first snow ?
    BUT .. mid January I will start with cabin fever and say not so nice things about snow then .. so I better enjoy it now ? haha
    Beautiful snow garden girl !
    Joy : )

  25. You must admit that snow makes some really good garden pictures. Your photos are superb.
    Still don't like walking on the stuff though!
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  26. Dear Rose,
    You received a lovely snow. I am wishing for snow.....I want to make snowmen!
    When ever we have a snow event the birds come to the deck and perch up near the windows for warmth!
    I enjoyed your snow photographs so very much and am looking forward to taking some myself soon.
    I love the way Mother Nature gardens!
    Happy Snow Days, perfect time to bake cookies.

  27. Wow... this is uncanny! Mother nature really did give you a blanket of white! Thanks for visiting my blog... Larry

  28. Wow – nice snow! We only got an inch or so in our first storm. It’s such a change from your last post with the wildflowers. Sophie looks a bit nonplussed. Nothing is nicer than red berries against snow as this time of year –so festive. Lovely photos!

  29. Your place looks a lot like ours. We also got hit by a snowstorm when they were only predicting "flurries" LOL!

    I love the red berries against the snow. And that poor little gnome! Sophie looks quite happy, romping about.
    You have a magical faerie garden, where's Frostie?

  30. Snow is always so pretty.
    Love the clean purity of fresh fallen snow.

  31. Beautiful photos of your snow white garden Rose. I love the contrast of the red berries against the snow. So nice to see lovely Sophie enjoying herself too.

  32. Your garden has been transformed into a winter wonderland! The snow looks that much more lovely with the color contrast of the red berries.

  33. PS I love the description of the yews as frosted cupcakes. :)

  34. Rose, The first snowfall is magic~here in Nashville we often long for snow and then wish it would go away! I know my natural garden would show off itself better with snow on top of it! Love your photos~I love how grasses look in the snow! gail

  35. I am wondering where all our snow is and I can see you have it all.
    For the mountains, we have had very little snow this year. Maybe we will catch up in March.
    I liked your "white" garden. It looks very serene.

  36. Rose your white garden is certainly magical with all the snow!I am enjoying the snow fall here in my woods knowing that in 10 days I shall be back in AZ enjoying the sunshine and the desert flowers once again!You took some awesome photos of the snow white!

  37. Joy, Thanks; I've been wanting to either pull out the yews or give them a severe pruning, but maybe next year. We're due for another big storm tomorrow, so my garden will be even whiter.

    Maggie May, Yes, it does look pretty in pictures, but I'm tired, too, of having to put on layers of clothes and boots just to go outside.

    Sherry, I filled the bird feeders yesterday again before the next snow--I hope the birds start visiting here.

    LC, I meant to add a link to your blog--your White Garden is fantastic!

    Sarah, We had such a drastic change in weather here--fall one day and extreme winter the next.

    Wendy, The garden faeries have been very busy here, but I think even they have been too cold the last few days to do much:)

    Patsi, The first snowfall is so pretty...when it turns to gray mush, not so much.

    Songbird, Sophie has really enjoyed the snow--lots of hidden "treasures" underneath it:)

    Sweetbay, Yews that look like cupcakes are not a good thing, but the "frosting" helps. The red berries are my favorite, too.

    Gail, I think I'll be adding a few more grasses next year--I agree they really look lovely in the snow.

    Rosey, I think we got our fair share; I'm sure you'll have some white stuff before winter is over!

    Anna, I just checked the temps in Arizona--70's today and in the 80's tomorrow. Wish I were headed there for Christmas, too!

  38. Hi, Rose!
    Does your doggie love the snow? My big boy is in seventh heaven with all of our snow. Me, too. {I suppose I shouldn't confess that since I'm a gardener.. but I do love a break in the action.}

    Hope you're having a marvelous holiday week.

    Much love, Kate

  39. Your white garden looks so beautiful Rose!

    The geranium made it in in time here, but we have identical ferns still out there. I was actually still wondering if I could salvage them (but probably won't try.)

  40. What beautiful photographs! Your landscape is a glory. I hope its not too cold to go outside and enjoy.

  41. Hi Rose,
    I haven't personally spent one whole winter in a temperate country, so I can't imagine how it feels like. However the images you've captured makes winter rather glamorous to a tropical gardener like me.

  42. Hi Rose! You mentioned on my blog that you enjoy seedheads. Yours sure look great in snow! Yes, you have a nice white garden. Your photo of the white with the red berries reminded me that I forgot to go down the block this afternoon to see if the cardinal I saw on a branch of something with red berries was still there after bringing our sleeping grandson in from the car. It would have made an awesome photo.


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