Text and photos ©Nancy J. Ondra
Of all the color combinations in my garden, yellow with green is one of my favorites. Built around a long row of golden elderberry (Sambucus nigra ‘Aurea’), the curved borders that evolved along my driveway turned out to be a great place indulge in all sorts of yellow flowers and foliage. It wasn’t until months later, when I took the picture at the top of this post, that I realized the excellent color echo of the road sign in the background. The strong yellow of the ‘Zagreb’ coreopsis in the foreground is almost a perfect match, though I think rudbeckias would be even better.
As much as I hate to admit it, there is such a thing as too much yellow, as you can see below.
That was my attempt at creating a garden based on all-yellow and yellow-variegated foliage, with only a little green. After just a few weeks, I could see it wasn’t working and started tucking in some burgundy. Finally, I moved out about a third of the yellows and added more purple, orange, and red; it looked much better, but then it was hardly a yellow garden. I find the first photo much more pleasing; even though there’s much more green than yellow, the two seem to balance out.
Creating individual yellow-based combinations has proven much easier than all-yellow borders. Below is one of my favorite pairings in a morning-sun-and-afternoon-shade spot: golden-leaved raspberry (Rubus idaeus ‘Aureus’) with leopard plant (Farfugium japonicum [Ligularia tussilaginea] ‘Aureomaculatum’).
And in a full-sun spot, the greenish centers and clear-yellow petals of ‘Prairie Sun’ rudbeckia looked very pretty with the chartreusey blooms of dill and hare’s ear (Bupleurum rotundifolium), shown below.
I have mixed feelings about some other “yellow-and-” experiments. Below shows one trial combination of yellow and silver-blue foliage. The centerpiece is ‘Axminster Gold’ Russian comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum), next to a small clump of ‘Yellow Form’ flowering maple (Abutilon pictum). To the right of the comfrey is Melianthus major; to the left of it is ‘Silver Falls’ ponyfoot (Dichondra argentea); and above it is ‘Dallas Blues’ switch grass (Panicum virgatum).
Sometimes I look at that combination and really like it; at other times (and when I saw it in full sun), it was just too washy. (Plus, the switch grass ended up being far too tall, making it way out of proportion to its companions.) I have the same mixed feelings about this vignette from the same part of that border, taken from a slightly different angle: in between the variegated comfrey and the silver ponyfoot is yellow-green ‘Lime Rickey’ heuchera.
I think the forms are interesting, but I just don’t know about the colors. And yet, I kept trying. Below is silvery ‘Powis Castle’ artemisia with ‘Angelina’ sedum (Sedum rupestre).
And here is Tiger Eyes sumac (Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’) with powder blue ‘Lacinato’ kale. At some level, I must like the effect, but when I try to reason it out, I’m at a loss.
Increasing the intensity of the blue definitely helps. Below are blue grape hyacinths (Muscari) with ‘Gold Mound’ spirea and red peony shoots.
And next, ‘Ultramarine’ forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvestris) with the same golden spirea. These I definitely like!
Below left is another blue-and-yellow beauty: Clematis integrifolia rising out of a pool of golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’).
On a similar theme, here’s variegated sweet iris (Iris pallida ‘Variegata’) with ‘Sunshine’ dogwood (Cornus sericea subsp. occidentalis).
Of course, I haven’t been able to resist creating some higher-contrast yellow pairings, as well. More on that in Not-So-Mellow Yellow.