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Gold and Yellow: The Glitter of Gardens

While I’m sure there’s one out there somewhere, I have never personally encountered a yellow-themed landscape. Yet alba, red, blue, and even black Goth gardens are almost becoming commonplace. The reason is that a display of solitary yellow blooms or a concentration of gold foliage would simply wash out visually in the summer sun, as these hues are meant to complement adjacent darker tones, be it foliage or flowers. By way of example, I bounce Euonymus fortunei ‘Moonshadow’ throughout my front garden with its striking gold inset variegation, as it brings out the best in adjacent plants whether it is low-lying Blue Star Creeper (Isotoma) or the blazing red blooms of Azalea ‘Hino Crimson’ in flower.Euonymous fortunei 'Moonshadow'

Other gold-leaved shrubs utilized in my landscape include a solitary Golden Bay Laurel, a small grouping of Spiraea ‘Magic Carpet’ and some hardy fuchsias (Fuchsia magellanica ‘Aurea’) brightening up the base of my backyard laurel hedging.

Golden Garden Design

When it comes to the many gardens I design, I often use yellow coreopsis as a foil for burgundy foliage or blue flowers. Two of my favourites are Coreopsis verticillata ‘Zagreb’ and ‘Moonbeam’, with the brighter ‘Zagreb’ working well with English lavender or Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’, while the paler ‘Moonbeam’ is a universal blending perennial in either hot or pastel colour schemes.

Golden Weedy Perennials

Even somewhat weedy perennials such as Lysimachia ‘Golden Alexander’, Mediterranean Spurge (Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii) or Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) can highlight or silhouette the perennials planted immediately in front of them to great effect.

Golden Ephemeral Perennials

The same applies to rather ephemeral perennials such as yellow lilies, which are best paired with long-blooming varieties such as Veronica ‘Royal Candles’ so that that colour combination is assured.Veronica 'Royal Candles' and Lilium 'Tiny Bee'

Golden Foliage Shrubs

A short list of useful golden foliage shrubs to consider for highlighting would be Berberis thunbergii ‘Aurea Nana’, Cotinus ‘Golden Spirit’, the newer Cornus alba ‘Neon Burst’, or if you need evergreen coverage choose Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’ or the Japanese Euonymus ‘Aureo-Marginatus’. These should be widely separated and paired with rich green foliage, burgundy leaves, or even blue-needled conifers to provide that spark of interest that draws attention to the garden space.

Gold-Leaved Trees

On a larger scale, gold-leaved trees are a great way to break the monotony of a green belt or an overbearing cedar hedge. Those with more space can consider Robinia ‘Frisia’, Gleditsia ‘Sunburst’, or the Norway Maple Acer platanoides ‘Princeton Gold’, all of which hold their colour quite well. If you can wait for autumn, then few trees rival the pure golden-yellow of Ginkgo biloba in the fall and there are also many dwarf varieties available. Another good choice for smaller spaces is the Golden Fullmoon Maple (Acer shirasawanum ‘Aureum’) which generally turns a lovely burnt orange in autumn.

Yellow-Flowering Trees

For flowering trees look no further than the yellow-blooming Magnolias such as ‘Yellow Bird’, ‘Elizabeth’, and ‘Butterflies’, with the latter being the best for smaller landscapes. And nothing says spring like the bright yellow racemes of the Golden Chain Tree contrasting beautifully against a clear blue sky, be it the weeping ‘Pendulum’ or the more upright Laburnum x watereri ‘Vossii’.

Other Golden Gems

Truth be told, there is gold foliage or yellow blooms to brighten any area, be it Dicentra ‘Gold Heart’ or Variegated Hakone Grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) for that shady corner, climbing Golden Hops (Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’) to cover those weathered fences, or even a shot of fragrant incandescent yellow blooms on bare stems for that dull winter garden from the Witch Hazels Hamamelis mollis or ‘Arnold's Promise’.

Just remember that a little goes a long way, so use the yellow-flowered and gold-foliaged glitter of perennials, shrubs, trees, and vines sparingly and enjoy that beautiful contrast.

All images Copyright 2023 MK Lascelle

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