As we enter Autumn, it's time to mellow into yellow
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As we enter Autumn, it's time to mellow into yellow

BACK in June as we approached the summer equinox, I made a reference to the colour yellow.

I said it was the colour of hope, a blessing bestowed on many, yet recognised by so few.

In the garden yellow has always been a controversial colour.

Regarded by many growers as crude, loud and competitive, it can be dismissed irrespective of the quality of the yellow, the shape of the flower wearing it, and the setting in which it is seen.

For all that, would daffodils be as favoured if they came in any other colour? I think not.

The colour yellow may indeed be synonymous with daffodils and spring, but it can be especially difficult during September.

One should either take it on board whole-heartedly or leave it out of planting schemes completely.

I like to use yellow in shade and semi-shade, to give the impression of sunlight and to lighten the feeling of gloominess that can so easily predominate.

Many yellow leafed foliage plants actively benefit from a little shade on their leaves, for in strong sun they can easily scorch.

In light shade, it would be difficult to equal the golden if rather prickly foliage of Berberis aureum.

Its young leaves open chartreuse then pass through rolled gold to buttery yellow for the entire summer.

In winter, it wisely goes to sleep but retains its bold dumpling outline and shape.

During the winter, some pruning and reduction (if needed) can be undertaken, especially if gaining too much dominance.

Berber aureumalso makes a marvellous foil for a small, dark flowered clematis viticella sold as Royal Velours.

So, when yellow was widely expelled from so-called ‘classy gardens’ just before the Tiger era, this reliable Berberis suffered first being regarded as a sort of last resort which you might see hanging on in resolutely unfashionable parts of town.

And yet for all its bad press, this plant continues to have a strong constitution, a long season of distinct, eye-catching foliage, and proud stance to three feet and more.

Up my way, and in this garden the plant is still a firm favourite in glorious yellow.

For all my talk on golden foliage many so-called golden specimens are not gold or even yellow but rather a very, clear green.

You could call it lime green, and many do indeed turn lime green as the summer advances. However, the true golden shade of plant foliage is even paler, with perhaps a touch of lemon.

I often describe it as chartreuse yellow, much like the colour of the brilliantly coloured liqueur.

Still, most gardeners continue to call these yellow-leaved plants golden, a use that is, by the way, mirrored in the Latin Aurea (also Aureum or Aureus, depending on the gender of the preceding word). It too means golden.

In the end, it’s a colour that stands out from the crowd, especially when sited in a shady spot or surrounded by plants with darker foliage.

Under such circumstances, it seems almost to glow, like a ray of sunshine breaking through overhead leaves.