Alabaster roses, milky lilies and snowy lilacs are dreamy, romantic flowers that are as practical as they are beautiful. And they look great this time of year in the garden.

Share story

ALABASTER ROSES, milky lilies and snowy lilacs are flowers of dreams, memories and imagination, the most romantic of monochrome palettes. These whiter shades of pale are practical as well as beautiful. Now that we’re at the solstice, the time of year when twilight lingers longest, white flowers light up the garden late into the evening.

Todd Waddell, owner of Bountiful Home and Nursery in Edmonds, is hard at work creating a white garden at his home in Shoreline. When he returned to his old home a few years ago, he picked up a chain saw, hacked back the overgrowth, chipped it for mulch and started over.

“A tenant had lived in the house, and the garden was a mess,” Waddell says of his extreme renovation. All he kept of the old garden were a couple of dark-foliaged plants like a ‘Bloodgood’ Japanese maple and Diablo ninebark to serve as foil to the white flowers he already was cultivating in his mind’s eye. Waddell planned his new front yard in memory of a dear friend who loved white flowers.

The center of the garden is now a circle of grass, representing a ring of life, surrounded by the vitality of white layered on white. Waddell set off this extravaganza of paleness by painting his fence black to make the white flowers pop. Tall black containers filled with white parrot tulips and white variegated euphorbia are set into the beds for accent, and he painted his house a rich-colored taupe with black shutters and white trim, an effective backdrop to all the white in the front garden and parking strips.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks

The white flowers come and go through the seasons. For continuity, structure and background, Waddell planted plenty of boxwood. Tall, silvery cardoons in the parking strips help anchor the garden. ‘Eyeliner’ lilies, with their huge white flowers speckled and edged in black, grow up through the burgundy leaves of a smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’).

Does he plan to keep on planting white as he rounds the corner of the house?

Waddell lights up as he explains his plans. “Around back is going to be a gentlemen’s garden, a study in denim and tweed, with blue and brown foliage and flowers,” he says.

Waddell is inspired to create this tweedy garden by his friend Barbara Libner, the artist responsible for the beautiful potted plantings at Ravenna Gardens at University Village. Libner came up with the scheme for a class project and gave Waddell her blue and brown plant list for his birthday. “I’m still removing stuff from the back garden and collecting slips,” says Waddell happily.

But for now, it’s white and more white.

“I buy every white pansy I see,” says Waddell.

The white garden blooms through the seasons in white heather, oakleaf and ‘Annabelle’ hydrangeas; London Pride saxifrage; and meadowsweet (Filipendula spp.), which Waddell calls “a total showoff.”

Other favorite flowers include the white Japanese anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’, a vigorous spreader that he gives the run of the parking strips. He cultivates Iris foetidissima for its white striped foliage, and has even been known to cut off the yellow flowers so as not to sully the garden’s pale palette.

“I’m energized about gardening again,” says Waddell. “All the white feels relaxed and clean and slows me down after a 10-hour day at the shop.”

Where, no surprise, he’s stocking lots more white-flowering plants.

“This garden has been a labor of love,” says Waddell. “Even on gray days, the white garden looks fresh and inviting.”