White is Cool

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Butterfly ginger.

Vita Sackville-West’s famous white garden at Sissinghurst Castle isn’t something I aspire to, but in the summer heat, white flowers are deliciously cool looking. Two of summer’s tropical whites are not only lovely but each emits a perfume that makes me want to pull up a chair sit a spell.

They are Hedychium coronarium and Brunfelsia nitida. The hedychium is the famous butterfly ginger, or mariposa blanca, the national flower of Cuba, though it originated a world away in the region of Nepal. It has a rich, sweet fragrance. The brunfelsia, which blooms in masses of flowers all at once, has a wonderful clove fragrance at night. And it is called Lady of the Night.  

White bird.

But there are other white flowers for summer that have the psychological effect of looking cool. I like the


Tahitian gardenias, which smell just as fragrant as “regular” gardenias, as well as white water lilies, white bird of paradise, white bougainvillea and even white (and green) caladiums.

The gingers and gardenias, by the way, are quick to show you when they get hungry. And the gardenias also tend to get scale. That means you have to be a gardener with this one. Use the palm special fertilizer (12-4-12) and either insecticidal soap or a systemic, insecticide, such as Orthene. My experience with white bird of paradise is that it, too, is vulnerable to scale, but it’s as vigorous as all get out.