The White Season

What I term “The White Season” in my gardens will soon be coming to an end. I hate to see it go, because I find it so calming and elegant, so bridal and virginal. After the riot of spring bulb colors, there’s something peaceful in drifts of white blooms so I’m enjoying it while I can; before the daylilies take over the show. Since there are so many white flowers in bloom at this exact same time, I suspect Mother Nature planned it. Along the roadsides the Queen Anne’s lace is already in flower, along with the wild raspberries, honeysuckle and several unknown shrubs. It’s also the case in my gardens. In the Deck Garden shown above, the “May Queen” shastas that have been the stars for weeks are starting to brown and droop. Within the next few days, they will all be cut back, making room to plant the zinnias and cosmos that will replace them. The white show will be over.

Of course the star of the White Season is the venerable Elder who grows at the corner of our driveway and the sidewalk, perfuming the air for days and just being a huge bouquet of salad plate sized umbels. It makes my heart glad when she comes into bloom. I take time to thank her each day for her glorious effort. Soon some of her flowers will become elderflower cordial. One can’t dawdle in the harvest, for the tiny flowers are briefly there, so quickly are they pollinated to become berries.

The Mock Orange provides a bit of white once the white alliums were finished in the Front Island, but now the feverfew is coming on like a snowstorm. There are short “Silver Princess” shasta daisies as well just opening, and a white tradescantia in the more shaded area. I’m toying with the idea of spray painting those drying allium heads white. I’ve seen it done in other gardens in bold colors with great effect, so why not white?

The last viburnum to bloom is in the North Island on the right. There’s feverfew here as well. It is welcome everywhere, as I cut it heavily for bouquets, and often it will rebloom in late summer. This year, white hollyhocks add some balance to the white effect and I’m very pleased with them. There are some white portulaca waiting to be planted in this area, probably yet this afternoon to bring the eye down on the left side.

The sun is just rising, making the trees in the background look gold, as though it were already autumn! Even though it is a bit dark in the foreground, the white daisies bring the potager’s exterior border to life. The coreopsis on the right side of the gate just opened this week, foretelling a dramatic change in the border’s color scheme in the near future. The peaceful white will soon be gone, replaced by orange celosias and zinnias, tiger lilies and daylilies.

Inside the potager’s gate there is lots of white at the moment, but soon yellow will take over as the dominant flower color here, too. These little white pea blooms may be small, but when there are hundreds and hundreds of them on the pea fences throughout the potager they make quite an impression. But, when the peas are finished those fences will hold cucumbers, squash, or melons, all with yellow blooms.

Nearby the volunteer cilantro plants in the potager’s border are covered with delicate umbels of white, as are the parsley and cutting celery that wintered over. All are wonderful filler for bouquets, but once they are cut, they are done, and the yellow and orange calendulas at their feet will be much more noticeable.

Valerian is one of my favorite flowers, with its heady perfume and stately stalks. It pops up here and there in the stoned area between the Lady Cottage and the greenhouse. I leave them, even if it means having to step around them until their blooms are done, then out they come to clear the pathway. But while they are here, they are wonderful, filling the air with scent as I sit on the bench to shell peas.

Directly across from the valerian, on the far south side of the potager the double white clematis is just finishing. There is a sister on the other side of the arch that has already dropped its final petals of the year. Colorful sweet peas will take its place on that side, and the “Polka” orange climbing rose will take over the show on this side. Stepping through the south gate, more white is there to view.

The Cutting Garden’s “May Queen” shastas were the first to bloom. I’ll be cutting most of them today, and although there will be white cosmos to take some of their places the colors will be mostly oranges, blues and yellows after this. Happy to report the bunny fence is still working (knock wood!)

And, lastly the white blooms on the blackberry row promise a good crop of luscious berries this year. These flowers won’t last long, but while they do, I enjoy them as do the bees. As soon as the berries begin to show a bit of color, the bunny fence will become the bird defense. Hopefully by then, the babies in the Cutting Garden will be big enough for the bunnies to ignore.

It’s been extremely hot and humid here, especially for early June. It feels more like late July. The high temperatures are hurrying things along. Plants are doubling in size, peppers go from pea-sized to golf ball sized nearly overnight. There are finger-sized squash already, and the garlic scapes MUST be harvested! No more time to linger at the computer. There’s lots to be done before the heat is overwhelming! Have a great weekend. Happy growing!


About carolee

A former professional herb and lavender grower, now just growing for joy in my new potager. When I'm not in the garden, I'm in the kitchen, writing, or traveling to great gardens.
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11 Responses to The White Season

  1. Jo Shafer says:

    What a delightful post, Carolee! It was almost like reading some of the great writing journals of Elizabeth Lawrence or Penelope Lively. After that triple-digit heat wave a little while back, my perennial bed are rather a mess, waiting for me to get to work in the early mornings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • carolee says:

      Thank you for the lovely compliment. I haven’t read Penelope Lively yet…it’s on my list! It was a humid 97 degrees yesterday. I’m holding off on any more planting until it’s a bit cooler. Otherwise it means dragging hoses near and far to keep newly planted babies alive…..


  2. Jo Shafer says:

    My Valerian is a deep rose color, so I was surprised when you wrote about your whites. Well, they are both.


    • carolee says:

      They are two entirely different plants, and not related. I grow true valerian, the herb that helps one sleep, is tall and has white, fragrant flowers. You grow red “valerian”, more often called Jupiter’s beard or technically Centranthus ruber, not actually a valerian at all.


  3. March Picker says:

    Very beautiful, Carolee, and I do love white in my garden as well. There, it’s almost a bit of calm before your orange storm! 😉


  4. Going Batty in Wales says:

    Somebody remarked to me yesterday that Spring had been so late it collided with the start of summer meaning that both May and June flowers are out together. The Cow Parsley (Queen Anne’s Lace is a much nicer name for it – I must remember to change my habits!) is still out but so are the first roses and the foxgloves. White flowers do make a good foil for the brighter colours as well as being lovely on their own.


    • carolee says:

      We have Queen Anne’s Lace and Cow Parsley both blooming now as well. The Cow Parsley is much taller, has larger leaves and flowers, and doesn’t smell as much like carrots as the Queen Anne’s Lace. Cow Parsley flowers are more the size of dill or elder…


  5. J.Q. Rose says:

    I love a white garden in the evening with the moonlight reflected in their blossoms. Great photos!


  6. Peg says:

    Very beautiful pictures! I can see why you love the white, it is very calming. Waiting on the heat to hit us, it has been unusually cool here (except for one 100+ degree day).


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