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There are many white things in this world.

White flowers.

White lightning.

White weddings.

White sport coats (with pink carnations of course).

White lies.

It is also a color, or the absence of color. Let’s not get all philosophical about that. For today it’s a color.

Let’s get back to those white flowers. White, the color of purity. White, the color of angel’s wings. White, the color of Styrofoam. White, the color of boring. I’m just not a big fan of white. Not that there is anything wrong with it. It looks great…….. in your garden. I tend to avoid it like the plague. Really it’s the white flowering herbaceous stuff I can get bored with quickly. Not everything mind you. I have sung the praises of Echinacea ‘Milkshake’ and Hosta plantaginea ‘Grandiflora’ right here in this very blog. But white flowering annuals? Ooooo, I don’t think so Martha. Nasty. And yet, I seem to like many of the white flowering trees and shrubs. I can’t explain why. Or at least I’m not willing to sit and spend much time trying to figure it out. I like them and that will have to suffice.

I have liked Viburnums since I first learned of them in college. This large diverse group of shrubs provides us with some of the great workhorses of horticulture. A particular favorite is Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum. The common name is doublefile viburnum because the flowers and fruit are in perfectly matched double rows along the stems. This plant gets big over time, several feet tall and wide. I think you could trim it to create a very nice small tree. Many cultivars exist but it is still hard to beat the species. The group planted below the Interurban bridge is exceptional.

That siting, so you can look down over the plants was inspired. This viburnum has great structure with its layered horizontal branching. The lacey white flowers will be followed by red berries that turn black and then quickly devoured by birds. In fall the foliage turns deep burgundy before dropping. Here’s a shot in the Southwest Border Garden that gives and idea of how large they can get.

Blooming at the 42nd Street gate is Syringa reticulata, Japanese tree lilac. The large creamy white clusters are fragrant for sure. Whether it is good or bad fragrance is up to the individual nose. These have been used as a small street tree in recent years which speaks to their toughness. I think this plant draping over the brick wall is just lovely.

A great small shrub is Deutzia gracilis, slender deutzia. Here it is creating a fountain in front of the Northeast Border Garden.

Here’s a close-up of the flowers.

These were planted 13 years ago by Chuck Gleaves (our Director of Horticulture at that time), now at The Kingwood Center. They are still under four feet tall.

One of my very favorite trees is Chionanthus virginicus, whitefringe tree. This southeast US native is very happy here in the Midwest. These in the Southwest Border Garden are probably over 80 years old. They are just a few days shy of full bloom in these shots.

And now a tree that bloomed in our gardens for the very first time this week, Magnolia asheii. This is sometimes grouped with Magnolia macrophylla and is famous for blooming early. Charles Tubesing of the Holden Arboretum introduced this plant to me about 20 years ago. I can still see that slide of a three foot tall plant with a huge white flower right at the very tip. I almost missed ours in the Garden for Everyone. I had to use my iPhone.

I could go on but there is only so much time. Just come to the gardens regularly and look around. You really need to anyway. Once a week at the very least.

It’s Friday. And it’s been a long week. I think I’ll have another sip of that white lightening. It’s medicinal you know.

Filed under: Horticulture

5 Responses to “White”

  • avatar
    Kamilah Says:

    Just a guess… Maybe you like the white-flowered trees because they look snow-covered, kind of fairy-tale like? At least that’s what appeals to me. I love flowers of any color on trees. Even green flowers.

  • avatar
    irvin Says:

    I’m a big fan of green flowers too, Kamilah, even on annuals. Don’t think the fairy-tale aspect is it for me.

  • avatar
    kim Says:

    Have you ever seen an all white flower garden? It can be the most beautiful sight (and smell depending on what you plant) especially at dusk. It “glows”.

  • avatar
    Wee Wee Says:

    Marty Robbins hit on me.

  • avatar
    irvin Says:

    I’ve seen pictures Kim but no attempts that stick in my mind. I’m sure they can be quite lovely.
    Wee Wee, you have got to tell the rest of that story. Every detail!

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