Sunday, August 18, 2013

Cool whites in the summer garden

Cool white blossoms seem to take the temperature down a notch in hot summer gardens.

This native white autumn sage (Salvia greggii) has done very well for me the past three years.  With a hard pruning in late winter and a light pruning mid-summer, it blooms on and off all year.  Bees love it. Easy to find at Austin nurseries.
White salvia greggii

Cape leadwort (Plumbago auriculata) is a South African native.   The white version is more difficult to find than the blue, but it's worth the search.  Some white cultivars to look for: 'Alba', 'White Cape', 'Escapade White', 'Monite'.
white plumbago

Here's an oddball you won't see everywhere: button eryngo (Eryngium yuccifolium).  I picked it up at a Wildflower Center plant sale, thinking it was the blue-purple variety.  It wasn't.  It's an interesting specimen piece, but I wouldn't plant a bed with it!
 Eryngium yuccifolium var. yuccifolium

Another white bloomer for the Central Texas plant collector is white Turk's cap (Malvaiscus arboreus var. drummondii). The white does not spread as readily as the red, alas.
white 'Turk's cap'

In the herb garden, garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) send up white flower stalks for the bees and butterflies.  This is the first year for this two-year old clump to bloom.  It's had virtually no supplemental watering.
Garlic chives in bloom

Blue and purple are considered cooling colors, too, while red, yellow and orange are considered warm colors.  After this hot spell, I'm rather wishing all my bloomers were white!  What's cooling you down in your garden this summer?  Leave a comment and let me know.

Words and photos © 2009-2013 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.


  1. I also love white. The white S. greggii has become one of my favorites just for the reasons you describe. I used to have a white turk's cap--I loved that plant! I moved it and it didn't survive the transplant and I haven't seen it in local nurseries since. Sniff.

    1. Someone said they found two white Turk's cap at the Natural Gardener last week (and bought both). So keep looking!

  2. I have a pass-a-long garlic chive in a pot that I need to plant. Any advice on growing conditions here in Central Texas?

    1. Plunk it in the ground and water it every month or two or whenever the thought crosses your mind. Honestly, I can't think of a plant that needs less care. My herb circle is not connected to my drip irrigation system and is rarely watered. The clay soil there has been "amended" twice in seven years (once with Hill Co Garden Soil in 2006 and once with Sylvan Formula this spring). Come to think of it, my chive was a passalong, too!

  3. I'm jealous of that white Turk's Cap - just gorgeous.

  4. I love your cool whites, especially the turk's cap. Vita would be proud of your choices.