With the season for adding fresh plants to the home landscape underway, please give a thought to yellow. Granted, it is not the first color most people think about when shopping for plants, especially evergreens, but it is well worth a look.
Perhaps you feel uncertain about yellow because when you have seen it, it meant there was a disease or nutritional deficiency on the plant. That happens, but many perfectly healthy landscape plants bring yellow to the landscape to brighten it up and offer lovely contrast to the overall dark green. Plus, I think, yellow makes you feel good.
Effective use of yellow can be accomplished with small touches. This could mean an edging made of small plants such as a lemon thyme named Aureus, which is very pretty and very yellow. A softer, creamier yellow and green stripe comes with the sweet flag Ogon acorus. It produces narrow, vertical leaves that can reach 10 inches and is also notable for its ability to tolerate damp soil.
A third good one is a carex named Evergold, but at 10 to 12 inches high and wide, it is a bit tall to use for an edge. But it is a good among flowering perennials, especially when a lot of bright summer colors need a calming transition between hot pinks, reds and purples. Evergold is striped creamy yellow with green, and the effect is very sunny.
Larger plants that provide some welcome yellow include the marvelous Sum and Substance hosta, whose large leaves have exceptional presence in a flower bed, and Golden Sunrise spirea. This is one of several yellow spireas in the marketplace, but surely one of the most dramatic. The young foliage in spring is bright yellow and matures to yellow green in summer and then to a copper-orange in autumn. It is a good choice when a plant of 3 to 4 feet is needed in a sunny spot.
I swore off ligustrum in all forms years ago, but a new one called Sunshine caught my attention a few years ago, and has proved very worthy. You would scarcely know it is a ligustrum unless the tag said so. The new foliage is pale green but becomes a lovely medium-to-bright yellow in sun. It grows densely and to about 4 feet or higher, but can be kept low by shearing, since the plant is naturally dense. It does not bear any flowers.
A hedge of Sunshine might be too much yellow all year for some people, but a single plant makes a great accent when mixed with solid green or green with white shrubs.
Nancy Brachey: firstname.lastname@example.org
Q. I want to replace the foundation shrubs in front of my house. The existing hollies have seen better days. Where should I start?
A. Since you plan this to be a DIY project, gather the dimensions of the space you want to replant. Note the amount of sun or shade during the growing season. Take a photograph of the front of the house. Visit garden centers that offer good selections of shrubs and discuss your needs and goals with the staff. I think you will be surprised with the range of choices you have today.