This Year, Grow A White Garden

Author: Meera, January 4, 2018

Vita Sackville-West, prolific English author, poetess, and avid gardener described her now-famous white garden at Sissinghurst in Kent as a garden of gray, green, and white. She wrote a column about it in the Observer that was published January 22, 1950 and republished in 2009. See,



Vita Sackville-West hoped her experiment would be successful. Still, she opined that a garden can look well enough on paper but can fail “after you tuck your plans into the soil.” You can only hope it will turn out well.



Bacopa's small white flowers blooms from spring through fall

Bacopa’s small white flowers blooms from spring through fall



Indeed, her garden succeeded as she had hoped. It has garnered worldwide fame as the “white garden at Sissinghurst,” one of the most visited areas of the castle gardens. Her vision for it was quite simply a fairly large bed divided into halves by a paved walkway that ended with seating for visitors to sit facing the garden. Rising at their backs would be a really high hew hedge.



White blooming roses are beautiful under moonlight

White blooming roses are beautiful under moonlight



She envisioned many fragrant and ravishing florals sticking up through gray-green foliage. Her chosen blooms for this white garden, best experienced beneath a full moon for its appearance and scent, included dozens of tall trumpets of white Regale lilies,  peonies, and irises, in hues of white to the palest creamy yellow.



In creating her garden, Sackville-West was manifesting a hoped-for result. She considered her garden as an amusing exercise and encouraged others to experiment in their gardens as well, according to their own “taste” and “opportunities.”



If you’d like to create a white garden, search for plants in white-blooming varieties and choose some for their fragrance: cleome (attracts pollinators), dianthus, primrose, evening stock (a scented annual whose fragrance intensifies at twilight), lily, phlox, night-blooming jessamine (possesses an intoxicating scent), tuberose, geranium, and white rose.


For gray-green foliage under these plants, tuck in lambs ears, snow-in-summer, or artemisia (this genus has between 200 and 400 plants). Or, use the plants Sackville-West chose for edging–specifically, Dianthus Mrs. Sinkins and Stachys Lanata).



White geranium

White geraniums are easy to grow



For a small space, why not create a circular bed. Plant a fragrant, white rose, perhaps Claire Austin, named for the English rose breeder David Austin’s daughter. In a circle around the rose, plant yarrow with silvery-gray foliage. In the next layer (furthest from the rose and shortest) use bacopa, alyssum, or other white edging plants to create the  outermost circle around the yarrow. The trio of layers in constant bloom creates a lovely bed with the appearance of a fairy ring–dramatic under the moonlight.






If you enjoy reading about gardening,  keeping bees and chickens, and other rural topics and you like a good mystery, check out my Henny Penny Farmette series of cozies, including A BEELINE TO MURDER, THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE, and A HIVE OF HOMICIDES.



All available online and in bookstores everywhere

All available online and in bookstores everywhere






Enrich your reading pleasure by putting on your muck boots and stepping into the world of Abigail Mackenzie and her coterie of friends in charming Las Flores, California where the local movie theater still serves up homemade pastries and locals gather at the only watering hole in town, the Black Witch.


Besides offering a cozy mystery to solve, these books are chocked full of


1. Delicious recipes


2. Farming and gardening tips


3. Facts and tips for keeping bees and chickens


4. Tidbits of farm wisdom




My newest nonfiction books include:


More than 150 rituals for sound mind, strong body, and meaningful connections to the people around you

More than 150 rituals for sound mind, strong body, and meaningful connections to the people around you



Anyone can find peace, clarity, and focus...all it takes is a moment

Anyone can find peace, clarity, and focus…all it takes is a moment





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Rooting Plants in Water

Author: Meera, March 29, 2014

I’m a compulsive clipper of plants, knowing that many will send out new roots if placed in a container of water on a window sill.  It’s not uncommon for my window sill to fill up with glass jars of cuttings.


With my precious clippings in water, I change the water often to keep it from becoming stagnant.


Among the plants that easily root in water are begonia, coleus, English ivy, geranium, grape ivy, philodendron, pothos, African violet, avocado, and sweet potato.


Several varieties of herbs also root in water: basil, catnip, various kinds of mint, pineapple sage, and watercress.


Bulbs, such as paperwhite narcissus, amaryllis, and hyacinth can be forced to bloom and will also produce roots. Place the base of the bulb on stones or marbles in a dish with water so that the bulb’s base sits on the water’s surface. The roots will grow downward, so you must always ensure there is adequate water.


Take care when putting your cuttings into soil so as not to damage the fragile, newly formed roots. Once you see how easy the process is, you might find your window sill filling up with cuttings in water, too.


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Plants for Sun Rooms, Solariums, and Conservatories

Author: Meera, December 29, 2012



The pool in the Miami sun room provides moisture for orchids

The pool in this Miami sun room provides moisture for orchids, ferns and even tomatoes


My husband and I grew exotic flowers in and around our Miami, Florida home. We had a sun room that sheltered a swimming pool in which I swam laps in every day. The space seemed near perfect for growing orchids in cycles of perpetual bloom. They loved loved the heat, light, and moisture provided by the pool and a fountain we installed. We also had an angel trumpet tree (Datura arborea) in the front of the house, adding drama and a luscious scent to the entry area.


But with the freezing winter temperatures on our Northern California farmette, such plants would not survive unless grown in a conservatory type of room with lots of warmth and light.


Since buying the farmette, my hubby and I have toyed with the idea of building such a space, also known as sun room, greenhouse room, tea room, and solarium.


A major consideration besides money and materials would be the direction the room would face. For our farmhouse, the direction (also known as “aspect”) could be north where the patio is already located or if positioned at the front of the house (where we had planned to create a wraparound front porch), the sun room or conservatory’s aspect would face south.


Camellias such as this Camellia japonica produces attractive blooms and foliage

This Camellia japonica produces attractive blooms in early to mid spring and would do well in a cooler sun room


A north-facing aspect permits plenty of light but less heat. In a cooler conservatory or sun room, we’d use more foliage plants such as camellia, begonia, geranium, anthurium, Australian bottle brush, fuchsia, ficus, gardenia, campanula, hypoestes , and various types of ivy and palm. We could also grow Cymbidium orchids that like dappled shade during summer but bloom in the dead of winter.


A south or west direction ensures intense light and heat and would allow us to grow  more flowering plants (especially ones found in the subtropics and tropics), including exotic orchids.


My husband grew up on a Caribbean island and loves orchids. The cymbidium orchids do well enough already outside. We put them in protected areas on frosty nights. But many of the exotic orchids require light, heat, and, in some cases, additional moisture.


We know Phalaenopsis, odontoglossum, and slipper orchids would thrive in a conservatory room that faces south or west as would many other plants such as hibiscus, jasmine, nephrolepsis, passion flower, plumeria, and African violet, to name a few. Also, many hybrid rhododendrons that profusely flower for long periods can be grown in containers in a warm environment.


I’m really an outside garden girl, but a conservatory room with a lot of interesting architectural detail and gorgeous blooming plants could make me want to spend more time indoors. It doesn’t matter to me whether it faces north or south. But dare I bring up the idea of adding a pool?

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