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A Colour Expert with an All-White Garden?

Ever since I installed my white garden shortly after we moved in (circa 2013), I have received so many questions asking why Maria Killam, the OG true colour expert, would prefer a white-on-white garden?

Maria, if you really love colour, why do you have an all-white garden?

It just seems somehow contradictory to my interior colour advice, which goes something like…

It’s a fine line I ride. 😉

A language for neutrals

On the one hand, I’ve invented a brand new language for neutrals, called a System for Specifying Colour. And I believe that one day this system will be the way the entire world chooses colour – paint colour, hard finishes, furnishings, decor, textiles, and more. 

To be clear, this is a system, not a theory. I haven’t re-invented the science of colour. Instead, what I’ve done is created a language for describing the most useful neutrals so that anyone can learn it, and then turn around and choose colours successfully for everything in their home.

It really is a game-changer for choosing colour in your home or a client’s home (if you are a professional). Only two workshops left in 2021.

And on the other side of “Colour is Happy,” I preach advice like installing white subway tile and primarily white or cream finishes for your bathrooms and kitchens will help you achieve the most timeless look.

But wait, I’m not finished. My advice doesn’t stop here.

Colour is timeless

When it comes to decorating, I once again turn back to colour. Because colour truly is way more timeless than the trendy neutral.

So, don’t be afraid to choose a colourful sofa, add colour to your neutral living room, or even wear colour and own it!

 It’ll make you happy.

All-white garden

So then why, after all of the above colourful advice, is my garden white-on-white-on-white-on-white?

Well, here’s the reason.

For years before I had my own garden, I dreamed of all the flowers being white.

I love how clean the combination of just green and white looks in a garden. And, I do add a bit of colour occasionally.  Many of you know that yellow is my favorite colour so, sometimes you’ll find it in my garden too…  but most everything else is WHITE!

My yellow roses are here

Here’s something else. The existing vinyl siding on my house is a pale (pinky) taupe. So, the garden colours that would look good with taupe aren’t as numerous and really none of them would look as good as white. All these white flowers just relate to the white trim.

Before

Spring morning

Summer morning with the sprinklers on

Have you ever seen a white garden in the evening? I also love the way a white garden appears to glow at night. It is magical.

What about a garden in your favourite colour, yellow?

It’s true… if my house were a different exterior colour, I might entertain a yellow garden. And my favourite garden designer, MaryAnne just sent me this range of yellow plant material. Sigh. So beautiful! 

Stick with a single garden colour

And part of what makes this yellow garden inspiration and my all-white garden is the idea of just choosing one hue to work with – instead of multiple colours. Combining a single colour in your garden creates a bigger impact on your curb appeal.

I’m curious… are you someone who chooses a colour scheme for your garden too? Does it change what colour of mulch you choose? Does anyone coordinate your plantings with your front door colour? Let me know in the comments below…

Remember how my white-garden-realization inspired my first rule of design: boring now equals timeless later? Since landscaping isn’t my expertise, I behaved just like some of my clients do in a tile store. 😉  Even I, Maria Killam, fell victim to thinking that I needed to add in all the colours to my new garden – before MaryAnn reined me in. And I’m so glad she did.

Just like when I say (over and over again) to keep your kitchen finishes simple… Following this simple, boring rule can save you from choosing a kitchen backsplash you don’t love, for instance. The countless options of tile are like colourful flowers – screaming for your attention – each one more colourful and full of pattern. And that’s when it gets crazy and you end up with a look in your kitchen that you aren’t in love with. Don’t worry, I’m here to rein you in, too.

So, that my lovelies, is why I have an all-white garden. 

A favor?

I am honoured to be on the board of an amazing organization that exists to encourage and develop leadership, mentoring, education and networking opportunities for professional women in the home and furnishings industries.

WITHIT –  The Women’s Leadership Development Networking Non-Profit

As a non-profit organization, WITHIT needs your help to continue growing our objective to recognize, connect, and support women in the industry. To mentor, teach and encourage those who aspire to grow their leadership, while providing the opportunity for networking and the support needed in our careers.

Please help me support this important cause that I am passionate about and purchase tickets for our annual fundraiser!  

There are so many prizes you can win!

Get tickets here!

Related Posts:

500 White Tulips for Mother’s Day

All-White Exterior Makeover

A Timeless Blue Exterior: Before & After

 

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25 Comments

  • Sue says:

    Yes!! I insisted only white flowers for all of our landscaping. It’s crisp and clean, and year after year when they bloom I fall in love all over again. But we do have 2 planters on the porch and each spring we plant a few impatiens in just one accent color. We have never done yellow but you just inspired me for next year!

    1
  • Kay says:

    Our house is a pale clear yellow with white trim and gray roof and stone steps and patio. We have a lot of white, but have also planted blues, purples, and pinks. The pink makes sense because of our numerous peony bushes, which were planted when the house was built. They are my favorite flower. Almost everything planted is a perennial, so we have lots of time when there’s a lot of green with a bit of color scattered here and there. I love our garden.

  • Bette says:

    Yes! I coordinate my plants to my front door. But even more important, and obsessive, is coordinating the colors of the two cars that will be parked in my driveway for the next decade. This drives (no pun intended) my husband insane, but it matters!

  • June says:

    My late 70s daylight ranch house is BM Chelsey Gray. Trim is BM Cloud White. I’ve never been a gray fan, but the painter was pushing for a decision. Never will I let myself be pushed like that again… A white door was too blah. I used big boards to test several shades of red and decided on one. Still didn’t look “happy.” Now it’s lime green. It’s happier. We do have some lime green grasses and plants. The white bench on the porch (actually, just a big slab of cement) has pillows with white, cobalt blue and lime. Still don’t like my gray house, but a teenager jogging by said, “I like your house–it’s the nicest in the neighborhood.” That was sweet!

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  • Netty says:

    Oh my! Such beautiful views from your yard, Maria!

    Question: You wrote that the pink beige siding is existing…do you have any plans to paint/change it? And so the white garden will go with just about any siding you choose, or do you like your pinky beige siding and plan on keeping it. Just curious about you intentions because a whole garden is not an easy thing to replace! 😉

    ~Annette

    • Maria Killam says:

      Interesting when I read this I immediately thought “hmmm. . . change my siding, I never think about that’, no I don’t love it but it’s not a deal breaker for me either and I never really think about it because I’m too busy admiring my garden. I think my interior and exterior is do overdecorated already and I don’t plan to live in this house forever so unless someone gives me sponsored siding, I have no plans to replace it. . . good question though! Maria

  • Sarah says:

    I love an all white garden but I also crave a little bit more color so I plant white, blue, purple, and green. A monochromatic garden is so elegant.

  • Amber says:

    I love foliage, so I have a fair bit of chartreuse and burgundy/black leaves in the garden. Because of this, I’ve kept the flowers all white.

    On the whole, I like to limit myself to three colors in gardening, so I can experiment with different kinds of plants, and a tight palette keeps things from looking too busy.

    1
  • Brenda says:

    I joined the Vancouver Rose Society in 1989 and since then have amassed 150 rose plants in my garden along with many, many perennials and shrubs. So, my garden is a riot of colour every year and always has something new and interesting popping up every month. My house was blue and is now a taupe Grey colour with black windows and railings. It’s a smallish older house and neighbourhood in Coquitlam and somehow the garden seems to fit the area. I never once considered the matchy matchy thing and went seriously into the gardening thing. The garden is my sanctuary and was even more so through early Covid and today it’s full of big gloriously colourful dahlias! But, I have to say, your garden is very lovely, well planned and very calming.

    1
  • celestial says:

    I live in a 1914 farmhouse that is white with black trim, as is the detached garage and screen house. White would simply never show up very well here so I have a variety of foliage and flowers. I love chartreuse against the black and white so I have lots of hosta, sweet potato vine and coral bells in chartreuse all around. My bathrooms and kitchens are white but I have to have a lot more variety in my outdoors. I must be doing something right because we have been on home tours and garden peeks. I love my purple wisteria, allium, false indigo, asters, my pink flowering almonds and tuberous begonias, and my red sedum.

    I think your gardens are perfect with your house color and trim and the rationale for white flowers makes a lot of sense for you. (I really loved when you disclosed that you originally wore neutral clothing for your job until someone commented that a color consultant should wear COLOR, and you then transitioned to colorful clothing; you explored the truth in what that person said and acted accordingly). Your garden doesn’t have to prove any point except to offer you peaceful solace and it does that with white flowers.

    1
  • Haha-ha, I’ve always pondered this. Maria Killam, the queen of colour has an all-white garden. And yet, it makes sense. Classic and timeless and you won’t grow bored, it won’t go out of style. Such a pretty garden that will be forever pretty!

  • Ellie says:

    When it comes to my garden I’m a colour explosion kind of person 😄 My garden plantings are all carefully chosen with bird life, bees, and butterflies but mainly bees and birds. So I have vibrant purples, yellows, blues, reds and pinks to attract my little winged friends.
    At my last house I had aspirations for a green and white garden after seeing the white garden at Sissinghurst, but due to my love of gardening and plants I lacked the discipline to stick with only white flowering plants.

    3
  • Margaret says:

    White is a color too!! Just the lightest one.

  • Margaret says:

    White is a color too!! Just the lightest one.

  • Lorri says:

    Well, white gardens have been a thing in landscape design forever.

    I like both colorful gardens and white gardens.

    I think white gardens are easier to make more striking looking, whereas colorful gardens need a lot of thinking.

    1
  • Holly says:

    Maria, I’m stuck with decorating around the pink quartz landscaping stone that I’ve had for the past 25 years until I decide to change the stones. 20 years ago we put up the 2 panel shutters from Lowes in the color Cranberry and I so badly want to paint my shutters and door Hale Navy but I’m afraid there will be too many colors going on if I do. We’ve got quite a bit of stone around the front and side of our house and the reason I didn’t get the mulch is because I believe there at the time was only one color mulch around here; orange. I’ve never cared for it so my husband brought home stones from the quarry and the pink quartz was the prettiest one.

    For the life of me, even after reading your eBooks and comparing the samples, I’m having a hard time figuring out the undertone of my vinyl siding. I don’t know if it’s a taupe, green beige, or green gray color. I originally thought it was taupe tone but its not quite right, too light and maybe too brown. I swear I see green in it and my husband and daughters do not. If anyone reading this blog has GEORGIA PACIFIC CLAY siding, and you know the color of it, PLEASE share with me! 🙂

    I’m obsessed with roses so I have a bunch of 5 star knockout roses in shades of pink and red, yellow lilies, pink and white azaleas and pink rhododendrons. Of course they are all different shades of pink and red. Weirdly enough, I really love the white azaleas the most.

  • Jennifer says:

    Beautiful gardens!

    My garden is still a work in progress, but I’m primarily choosing white for blooming plants. That way I can change the color scheme in annual planters each year (by the front door, on the patio etc). One year I might choose bright colors, another year pastels. I wanted to maintain this flexibility.

    Our home is an updated cape cod with warm gray paint and white trim.

    There’s nothing like a garden to soothe the soul and lift the spirit, even better when the garden is designed in harmony with the setting / surroundings. It is wonderful though, that even when it’s not, the natural beauty of the plants and flowers always shine through.

  • Anne Elise Hudson says:

    I still remember designers in my husband’s Landscape Architecture classes moaning about placing a pink dogwood against a brick house. NO, NO, NO! Pink dogwood against a white house – yes. White dogwood against a brick house – definitely. So context is everything.

    And do not forget all that lovely foliage in your white garden…it is really white and green.

    1
  • Colleen Peterson says:

    I live in a log home with off-white chinking and a red roof. My garden is ALL white and a bit of red so as to coordinate. It lends needed contrast to the brown logs. The white in the garden relates to the white chinking and makes the logs stand out and pop! Love my white!!

  • Ryan Fleming says:

    Hi Maria,

    I really love most of your posts and advice on color. I have to say though, that focusing purely on aesthetics when discussing landscaping just hurts my heart. We eliminate tremendous amounts of habitat with every piece of development. Every decision we make about what we do in our yards effects the ecosystems in which we live. We have gotten to a point where every square inch of our yard matters. We all want our yards to be aesthetically pleasing but we need to be making decisions that are best for the world in which we live. We need to be planting native plants that will support as much habitat as possible. Multiple native species that will provide habitat at all times of year. These two ideas are not incompatible but some self discipline/self-sacrifice may be required in order to contribute to a habitable future.

    With your wonderful abilities, if you turned your skills towards helping people blend aesthetics with environmentally friendly landscaping you could make a real difference in the health of the world in which we live. People need to understand that we cannot afford to treat our yards the same way that we treat our houses. We have to consider how to integrate ourselves gently into the landscape. If we do not attend to this, we are essentially installing green concrete-a yard that looks alive but is in reality is quite sterile.

    Thanks again for all the wonderful information that you have provided over the years.

    4
  • KJG says:

    I think Ryan makes some very good points, however this is a suburban lot and Maria’s beautiful landscape looks very healthy and stable, with plants clearly chosen to thrive in their specific location on the lot.

    We’re now establishing landscape on small acreage and the goal is to use natives only on 90% of the property. Closer to the house we will transition to a more “gardened” look. I will not use much intense color and plan to coordinate some of the plantings with the front door color which will be darker orangey red.

    But, please, please do your research and avoid plants that no matter how beautiful, are aggressive, or worse, invasive or noxious in your area as they spread easily and can be very destructive of native habitats! Maybe you can contain them, but will the next homeowner know to do so?

    • Natasha says:

      Native gardening is more than possible in suburban lots. It is possible to garden in a more formal “tidy” style but using native plant materials.

      Gardens need to beautiful yes, but functional as well, and in nature, that means supporting an eco system. Using plants that are native means native insects will eat those plants, and then our native birds will eat those insects, and on it goes.

      No lot is too small or too suburban to join in!

      5
  • Fra Na says:

    Maria I love your garden and seriously considered it but I love blue.

    We live on a green belt that has only native plants. Our yards are quite small, in fact mostly patio except for a couple of planting beds. All of my pots are white or different shades of blue. All flowering plants are white or blue (although many blue plants lean towards purple).

    Our home is a French style so the front planting beds are planted with a low hedge of white bobo hydrangeas and then filled with lavender that reminds me of Provence. In spring it is full of white daffodils and purple alluims that are planted among the lavender. On either side of the entrance are tall blue pots planted with miniature Italian cypress and lots of white flowers cascading down.

  • Tara Dillard says:

    Since before Christ, serious gardens consider color in trinities. Green-Brown-White is the most used color trinity across many centuries. Your garden included.

    Fence topped with lattice, mulch, dirt between stepping stone path, siding, roof, each read brown garden spectrum, lattice panel hammered onto side of outbuilding too.

    I like how bold you are with the white. Especially in a small space.

    White is a difficult color to use in small spaces because white jumps forward. Owning a space.

    If your white lattice fence were painted a faded historic green, perhaps ca. 1402 Italy, that part of the garden will expand. Your garden could be shot and look like great acreage.

    Learned, on the job, white trim at the roof, pulls the roof down. Paint trim at the roof, about 4 shades darker than siding, and the roof will rise. Promise.

    Love deeply, comments about pollinators. Gardens are ALL about the pollinators. Night lighting is quite harmful to pollinators. What nite light you need, make it as low wattage as possible. I no longer use the light fixtures at my front door, instead, a pair of lamps on antique table at front door, 7 watt bulbs.

    Your sweeping lawn, at front, is ready for whipping low hedging, across where lawn meets concrete. Leave an opening on axis with the front door, creating an enfilade. The more enfilades a garden has the better a garden is. Plus you’ll be creating the magic of cross axis with focal points.

    Better, this pulls attention away from the current weight of the ‘service court’, aka the driveway.

    Have always loved the white in your garden, popping against its majority green. Greens we don’t get in middle rural Georgia, with hi temps, long droughts. Hahahahha, deer, armadillo play their havoc too.

    Across 3+ decades designing gardens, Green-Brown-White is my favorite. Oddly, Green-Brown-White is the FASTEST color scheme to make a new garden look much older. Every time I do a Green-Brown-White, the exact shades are unique to the house, the person, their clothes, their art work, their interior color choices on walls/cabinets/floors, their exterior siding. And, great news, a subsidiary color is chosen. Again, from amongst the previous sources. Most often the subsidiary color is from art on the walls.

    Another reason for Green-Brown-White you’ve shown in your precious sharing of your nephews and dog in your garden across time. When they are shown in your garden they shine, they are the happy & loving focal point. Intimate. Garden design as proscenium for LIFE. That is what I love most about your garden, your life in it. Takes a bit of thought getting there, worth every tidbit.

    Truly, brava to your WHITE !! You’ve nailed it. In great joy. It is your, HAPPY. And ours as you let us bear witness with the passing years.

    Garden & Be Well, Tara

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