Any colour, so long as it is white

Misquoting Henry Ford, it sometimes seems I am obsessed with white flowers. I have a part of the garden where only white and yellow blooms are allowed and white flowers keep popping up all over the place. I know that part of the reason is my fondness for fragrant flowers and so many white flowers are scented, using olfactory seduction after dusk to attract pollinators. Perhaps it is because, devoid of dazzling colours, the form and shape of the flower is better displayed. The curvaceous lines of a zantedeschia spathe are so beautiful because the bloom is white. Coloured zantedeschias may be more exciting but they are not more beautiful.

I don’t have many climbers in the garden yet – I need to erect more supports and provide more shelter. But growing up the main arches at the head of the garden are two ‘Starlight Symphony’ roses, Rose of the Year 2019. It is a short climber with healthy growth and lots of semi-double, lightly fragrant flowers. I love the flowers but they do get battered and bruised and tend to fall apart when fully open – which those of a more positive disposition might call ‘self-cleaning’.

They are making some height now but I wanted something to scale the arches more quickly, if only for summer, so decided to grow another old friend that I haven’t grown for ages, the variegated Japanese hop (Humulus japonicus ‘Variegatus’). This is an annual twining climber that is similar to the native hop and has very rough stems, which help it climb but can scuff skin. It is native to large parts of eastern Asia but is banned in some areas of the USA because it can become invasive. The variegated form comes true from seed and is easy to grow and very attractive.

The foliage is boldly splashed with white and although it is a bit too much like ‘birdsh*t’ variegation for me to really approve I have to say that I really like it. It will easily scale 3m in a season. I sowed the seeds, two to a pot, in March in gentle heat (above 18c) and the seeds germinated well and the seedlings romped away. I put them in various places but those that have done best were planted at the base of my ‘Starlight Symphony’ roses.

I am not sure if I have been really clever, because the white variegated leaves blend so well with the flowers, or really stupid. The brightness of the leaves does mean that you don’t notice when there are no rose blooms but, on the other hand, you don’t notice if there are some open roses.

I think it would be far better with a pink or bright red rose.

The good thing is that, like any annual, this mistake or stroke of genius will only last a year. There is time for a lot more growth from the hops this summer. Next year I will be more adventurous and let it ramble up something with more vibrant colouring.

4 Comments on “Any colour, so long as it is white”

  1. Paddy Tobin
    August 7, 2022 at 7:43 am #

    That hop is certainly very striking.

  2. Mitzy Bricker
    August 7, 2022 at 11:35 am #

    I like white flowers too. You are right, though, they are a bit hard to see with variegated leaves.

    Blue Rock Horses Frederick County, Virginia

    • thebikinggardener
      August 7, 2022 at 11:37 am #

      I can’t argue with that! Something to work on for next year 🙂

  3. tonytomeo
    August 7, 2022 at 5:19 pm #

    OH MY! WHITE is my favorite color! No one seems to ‘get’ it! I sometimes write about it.
    Yes, I get a bit of flack for it, even though I do not try to impose my preference for white professionally, and I really do believe that many flowers are better in other colors (such as bougainvillea and crape myrtle). These are some of my sillier posts about white.

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