Gardens - Small Gardens

Big ideas for a small courtyard garden

Michael K. Lascelle
Photography by
Janis Nicolay

This Vancouver courtyard garden emphasizes form over flowers

Filling out the mid-height portions of the beds are 'Aztec Pearl' Mexican orange blossom, lily-of-the-valley bush (Pieris japonica) and Viburnum x burkwoodii. Used extensively throughout the garden—due in large measure to the sweet scent it emits in mid-winter—is the evergreen shrub sweet box (Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis, shown opposite, to the right of the plinth).

Combo act

Silver-leafed plants are a common foil in white gardens and are prized as much for their unique textures as they are for the foliar contrast they provide. In Karin Smith's Point Grey landscape, these silver specimens are liberally dispersed throughout the garden among perennials featuring burgundy blooms or foliage. This eye-catching trio of white blooms, silver leaves and burgundy highlights breaks with the traditional pairing of white flowers with green or silver foliage.

Here are just a few of the numerous burgundy and silver plants Karin is experimenting with in her garden:
'Black Barlow' granny's bonnet (Aquilegia vulgaris var. stellata 'Black Barlow' Barlow Series) Blooms May to June. Zone 2

'Powis Castle' wormwood (Artemisia 'Powis Castle' syn. A. arborescens 'Brass Band') Vigorous, finely cut silver foliage makes this sub-shrub a universal blending plant. Zone 6

'Chocolate' boneset (Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate') Blooms August to September. Zone 5

'Obsidian' coral flower (Heuchera 'Obsidian') Blooms June to July. Zone 4

x Heucherella 'Burnished Bronze' Blooms May to July. Zone 4

Carte blanche

Karin Smith didn't set out to create a white garden. While she admits her garden tastes were influenced by her time spent in England, she didn't actually have the opportunity to visit the famous white garden at Sissinghurst. What she did glean from English gardeners, however, was the importance of well-structured hardscaping, plant texture and the fact that white flowers could be incorporated with minimal distraction—essentially, a refined form of landscaping that Karin refers to as "exterior design." With that in mind, here is just a sampling of the white-blooming plants featured in Karin's garden.

'Eddie's White Wonder' dogwood (Cornus 'Eddie's White Wonder') Blooms in May. Zone 5

Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia) Blooms midsummer. Zone 5

Fragrant snowbell (Styrax obassia) Blooms early summer. Zone 5

'Aztec Pearl' Mexican orange blossom (Choisya 'Aztec Pearl') Blooms in spring and late summer. Zone 8

'Lolita' Portuguese laurel (Prunus lusitanica 'Lolita') Blooms in early summer. Zone 7

'Blanc Double de Coubert' rugosa rose (Rosa rugosa 'Blanc Double de Coubert') Blooms from spring through to fall. Zone 3

Wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa) Blooms March to April. Zone 4

'Shaggy' masterwort (Astrantia major ssp. involucrata 'Shaggy' syn. 'Margery Fish') Blooms June to August. Zone 4

White bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis 'Alba') Blooms May to June. Zone 3

White Siberian iris (Iris sibirica 'Alba') Blooms May to June. Zone 3

Great white fleeceflower (Persicaria polymorpha) Blooms July to September. Zone 3

'David' garden phlox (Phlox paniculata 'David') Blooms July to September. Zone 3

Portuguese laurel.

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