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Cool Yellow: A Whole New Color

Before I started gardening with my next-door neighbor Pearl Russell, I disliked yellow flowers. In fact I didn't like orange or scarlet either — any warm hue. But Pearl loves yellow. (Her house is painted yellow.) And so I started noticing it, thinking "Pearl would like that plant" or, "Could I find a place for that in the border between our gardens?"

Pearl's favorite is a bright, sunny tone. But now that I was paying better attention, I started to notice how versatile yellow can be. I had thought of it as harsh, glaring; but now I found soft, gentle yellows, like the flowers of the original Primrose, Primula vulgaris. Sometimes yellow's not even a very warm color — as the names of 'Moonbeam' coreopsis and 'Moonlight' nasturtium demonstrate.

Such a romantic color, and I'd never even noticed it before. Now, suddenly, I fell in love with it.

I planted Scabiosa columbaria ochroleuca, several anthemis, 'Virtue' daylily, a perennial snapdragon and two kinds of perennial foxglove. Also 'Prism Sunshine' Petunia: I've since read descriptions that say its flowers start out bright yellow, but if so they must fade pretty fast, because I enjoyed mounds of big blooms of that lovely soft yellow, with just a little deeper color in the throats. I was delighted when my brother-in-law gave me some Yellow Waxbells. My daughter Wendy gave me a gift certificate to a nursery that listed Nepeta govaniana (catmint — not catnip) in its catalog — but by the time I got there, they no longer carried it.

Yarrow seed mixes gave me plants of this color among others: long-lasting, lacy blooms great for picking. I found several other creamy-yellow yarrows too — including the creeping 'King Edward' — but the popular 'Moonshine' to my eye is way too bright for that name.

My wish list grows. Several Kniphofias belie their common name "Red-hot Poker" with cool yellow coloring, including one called 'Candlelight.' Peonies? There's 'Border Charm' and 'Prairie Moon' — but I covet Paeonia mlokosewitschii (Molly-the-witch).

Ranunculus 'Double Mud' and 'Double Cream' attract me also with the flattened but very double rosette shape of their flowers. When I read they need moist soil, I sighed in resignation ... but then found out they only really need dependable moisture in spring. Drought is no problem later when they're dormant.

How can I have been blind to this lovely color? My garden keeps showing me how capriciously my mind works.

© Copyright 2005 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, 12 August 2005

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