San Antonio Express News
Sunday, June 16, 2003
by Lynn Rawe
It’s 6 PM. There is soccer, baseball, traffic, grocery shopping– all before you get home. Then you have to prepare dinner, clean up, and, finally, you can relax. We all live fast-paced lives. San Antonio has wonderful evenings, and lots of us enjoy being outdoors. After a hard day, the garden is a great place to relax. Twilight beckons you to enjoy the “Evening Garden.” White flowers are the easiest to see from dusk to dawn. They shine like the stars in the sky against the dark background of green foliage. Incorporating white flowers and foliage into your garden allows you to enjoy your backyard retreat.
The white variety of Vitex, or chaste tree, is an underused plant that more people should use. This drought-tolerant small tree will make a nice addition to any garden. The more common purple variety is found in many Texas landscapes. However, the white variety is a dazzling change of pace for the gardener who wants to be different.
Crepe Myrtles come in a variety of colors, but the dramatic white blooms of the “Natchez” last for most of the summer. The “Natchez” variety is one of the tallest Crepe Myrtles, reaching 20 feet and more. The bark of the tree is also an added delight. Its cinnamon-colored, patchy bark adds interest and visual texture to any garden setting.
Acoma is another white blooming variety that is excellent for smaller areas. This Crepe Myrtle reaches from 6 to 10 feet in height.
Mexican Olive, or Cordia sp, is a beautiful small tree that has showy, white blooms. This plant prefers dry soil, and a tasty jelly can be made from the fruit. Deer, like people, enjoy the sweet taste of the fruit.
There are two roses that are good for your eveining garden. “Marie Pavie” (left) is a repeat antique blooming rose that is drought tolerant, fragrant, disease resistant, and has few thorns. If you have a large area, try the white “Lady Banksia” rose (right). The dark evergreen foliage forms a nice screen. “Lady Banksia” is an early blooming rose that is a vining, thornless variety.
Texture in the garden is important for contrast. Check out “Poris Castle” Artemisia, “White Mist Flower”, Eupatorium, White Yarrow, or Dwarf Fountain Grass, for that fine texture you may be looking for. “Poris Castle” is aromatic, with lace-like gray foliage that is quite drought-tolerant. White Mist Flower may be unknown to many, but is definitely a prize plant for any garden. There are several colors of this plant, but white is a notable variety. Drought-tolerant, it blooms from July until fall. As an added bonus, butterflies love this plant. The White Yarrow, with fern-like leaves, is a native that forms a nice ground cover. This is another nectar-producing flower that butterflies love. Dwarf Fountain Grass has feathery, white seed heads that float gracefully in the wind in tandem with the grass blades. At a height of 3 feet, and a 2 foot spread, it is a great accent for any garden. Let’s not forget about the annual color that can be used in masses to make a bold statement in the garden. White Caladiums add interest, and provide beautiful foliage for the evening garden.
Another, smaller, flower to use is the zinnia. The dwarf zinnia, “Zinnia Acerosa”, is the only white-flowering native zinnia in Texas. It blooms from June until October, and is a great border perennial at a 10 inch height.
There are many more white flowers with which you can experiment such as impatiens, periwinkles, petunias, and verbena. Try a few, and tell your friends. Relax, and enjoy the whites in your “Evening Garden” as they reflect what light there is and provide a striking contrast against the darkness of evening.
Lynn Rawe is the Horticulture Agent, Texas Cooperative Extension in Bexar County.