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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Entries in white flowers (3)


Fifteen Low-Growing White Flowering Plants


After reading last week’s post about a white and green garden, a fellow blogger asked for recommendations for low-growing white plants.

Using a cut-off point of approximately 12 inches, I have compiled a list suggesting those plants wherein most, but not all, will grow reliably in my zone of USDA 4 [equivalent to Zone 5 for Canadians].

Readers who would like to supplement the list that appears below with additional suggestions for white-flowering plants, that grow up to 12 inches tall, but suitable for warmer climates, are invited to submit recommendations in the comment section at the foot of this post. I'm certain that my fellow blogger will be most appreciative.

Plants that are considered to be aggressive or self-seeders have been omitted from the list of fifteen; however, rock-garden plants that spread or sprawl almost-to-eternity are included because, when they bloom, they are breathtakingly beautiful.

Like most plant lists, this one provides names of those that might be unsuitable for some eco- climates. Therefore, technical details for each should be sourced online to determine if one’s growing conditions are compatible. A plant name with an asterisk* indicates that it has not yet been tested in my garden.

Most of the suggested plants flower in spring or early summer. However, the three plants, Achillea ptarmica Ballerina, Armeria maretima, and Rosa chinensis all have a remarkably long bloom period.

Achillea ptarmica Ballerina 12-18 inches

Anemone canadensis* 15 inches

Arabis caucasica 8 inches

Arenaria Montana 2-4 inches

Armeria maretima alba 4-6 inches

Aruncus aethusifolus 8-12 inches

Bergenia Bressingham White 12-16 inches

Campanula carpatica White Clips 6-12 inches

Dianthus deltoids Alba 8 inches

Dicentra Ivory Hearts 10-12 inches

Geranium sanguinem album 10-18 inches

Phlox subulata white 6 inches

Pulmonaria Sissinghurst White 12 inches

Saxifraga arendsii 4-6 inches

Rosa chinensis white [miniature rose] 12-18 inches


Gardens White as Snow

What is it about white flowerbeds that upset me so? Many years ago, while reading a book about English gardens, I came upon the white garden room at Sissinghurst. Immediately, I turned the page. The image was too painful to contemplate. In later years, I read glowing reports from fellow garden bloggers who had visited there and I could never appreciate what they experienced.

Some years ago, while surfing the net, I discovered an image of a white cottage, landscaped with stark, white flowerbeds and offset with green foliage. It was a striking photograph; but I would not want to visit such a home. I found it cold. My gardens need color.

Recently, I noticed that a prominent Detroit-based garden designer graced the entryways of her clients’ grey stone front homes with flowerpots filled mostly with white flowers and lush green foliage. Her compositions were elegant, neat, and serene. The height of sophistication, they were a brilliant addition to the clients majestic houses. However, I wouldn’t want them at my front door. They made me sad because they lacked color.

Whenever a client asks for a white and green flowerbed, I cringe. The topic came up again this season, as it invariably does every year, and my knee-jerk reply was that it wasn’t suitable. And then it happened. Out of my mouth came the words: - Your tenants won’t like it because it will remind them of snow.  As I heard myself speak, I gained instant self-understanding and, after so many years, finally realised why I had forever objected to white gardens.

fymusic.caHere in USDA Zone 4b, winters are brutal and the sky is interminably overcast. More snow falls on the City of Montreal than on any point in the Canadian Arctic.

Most winters, drifts of snow will reach our chests to impede us, while a disagreeable, cold, dampness that freezes our extremities will settle into our bones to chill our bodies. Waiting for aboveground public trans-portation is akin to physical abuse, walking to work challenges our immune system, and driving a car can be treacherous. Many suffer from influenza, and others cough and itch from the dry, indoor air that heats our homes. Boots, scarves, gloves, and hats are not fashion accessories here; they are essential tools of survival.  It’s easy to understand why no one, especially I, would want a summer garden that is a reminder of winter.


Dicentra Spectabilis Alba is Graceful and Elegant’s human nature to remain silent about children who conduct themselves exactly as we wish and to complain incessantly about those who misbehave. It’s the same in gardening. Plants that perform as expected without fuss are appreciated without comment. Yet, we can never stop complaining about problem plants until we rid them from our garden.

Similar to children who misbehave, problem plants constantly occupy our thoughts and deflect our attention away from other plants that give us no cause for concern. This observation came to mind today, as I was strolling through the flower beds and noticed how the tips of my Dicentra spectabilis Alba [sometimes called white Bleeding Hearts] were emerging from the earth. What an elegant perennial this is – even while nature is partially hiding it from view. Why is it that I never stopped to notice this eye - pleasing gesture of spring? Why have I never shared this beautiful perennial with my readers? Here is a neat, reliable, and graceful plant that is in bloom more often than it is not and it beautifies my part-shade garden without ever complaining. Surely, it deserves an honorable mention! I had been aware of its existence for many years, I never thought to grow white Dicentra simply because it was, um, white. My love for colorful flowers is paramount, so it is understandable that I would not seek out any flowering perennials that were devoid of color. Other than using white Phlox paniculata as an accent and white Hydrangeas for their fluffy texture, white flowering perennials were hard to find in my personal flower beds.

One spring, while my wife and I were driving down from Montreal to visit our children in Boston, we stopped at a rest area. [I make it a point to seek out Vermont facilities because the State offers complementary coffee to its visitors]. There in a picnic ground flowerbed, I saw white Dicentra in bloom for the first time. Wasn’t this supposed to be a part - shade plant? Yet, here it was in a full sun garden with sufficient evidence that later blooming summer plants would soon hide it.

This mature perennial had originally been planted as part of a triangular composition of three, all of which had now grown together to create a massive clump. It was stunning to look at -  it was bride-like in its whiteness, elegance, and sophistication. The gentle arch of its stems, spraying delicately - hanging white heart-shaped flowers, looked like a crafted work of art. There and then I decided to add it to my garden, even if it was a white perennial. By the way, pictures cannot do this plant justice. One has to caress it with the naked eye to truly appreciate its delicateness.

Originally, I planted my white Dicentra in sun just as I had seen it in Vermont. That was a mistake because I gave it full prominence without the opportunity to be later shaded from the heat by summer blooming perennials. In its own inimitable way, it let me know that it could not sustain its growing conditions and went limp. Therfore, I moved it to a part shade garden where, clearly, it is now very happy.

dicentra spectabilis alba white flower farmAlthough I am very excited to see new plant growth in the spring, I have never been effusive in my postings about any emerging perennial, that is, until today when I noticed the tips of Dicentra spectabilis Alba poking out from the earth. The very light green plant buds, only two inches tall, were awash with a white tint that created a visual experience that can only be described as heart – thumping. I knelt down to closely observe the ethereal color story playing out before my eyes and suddenly remembered that it is pleasurable moments like this that might keep me gardening “forever”.