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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Jun 29

The White of Night

Posted on June 29, 2018 at 1:03 PM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

It was pushing midnight last week when I heard loud squawking from the henhouse. The Rhode Island Reds and Buff Orpingtons are always snug in their coop long before the witching hour, and these squawks were beyond their usual friendly clucks. I ran out the back door yelling at whoever was disrupting these feathered friends’ slumber. Whatever disturbed them departed without much harm, aside from the disgruntled hens.

night garden
 Garden by moonlight
Despite the rush to protect my charges, I saw that the garden seemed to glow in some sections, even with the waxing phase of the moon and starlit skies. As I scanned the bright areas I noted it was the white flowers tucked within the flower beds that caught my attention. The large white blooms of the peonies, stately iris and spires of yarrow stood out as if a spotlight were shining on them, while the golden California poppies, red blanket flowers and purple pansies seemed to huddle in the shadows. The view was impressive!

White in the landscape: It is the binder that highlights and blends the cacophony of other colors we bring to our gardens. There are so many beautifully colored posies that we tend to overlook the simplicity of white flowers. Yet how can we forget the magnificence of white roses, symbolizing purity and innocence? Or the fragrance of star jasmine? Matilija poppies, dianthus and lilies can also capture the faint glow of starlight and draw us out into the cool summer evenings to partake of their beauty. And don’t forget the silver-white leaves of some lavenders, dusty millers, silver sages, artemisias or lamb’s ears—most of which are excellent low-water-users.

While on the topic of white, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a famous monochromatic garden I had the honor of visiting years ago while in England: Gertrude Jekyll’s white garden. The bones of the landscape took shape with spires of white birch trees—my guess is they were Betula utilis var. jacquemontii, which have the whitest of white trunks. White climbing roses clambered up arbors, and white foxglove adorned the planting beds. The stark white against the stone walls and lush greenery was a sight to behold. Thinking back on that garden and my epiphany from last week, I would love to visit that garden once again, only this time in the evening. The fragrance coupled with the ambiance of reflected white would be stunning!

May I suggest adding a touch of white throughout the garden to mimic that effect? Be certain to choose flowers of fragrance to really capture the experience.

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