Leaves can brighten a garden

Yellow, the color of sunshine; gold, the color of wealth; and chartreuse, the color of bright new leaves, can all be used in the garden to brighten a dark corner, chase away the cloudy gray days of spring and fall or dazzle in the vivid days of summer. While your first thought may be of flowers, the leaves of many plants will supply these sunny colors and will typically last much longer than a floral display.

Black locust, Robinia pseudoacacia Frisia or Aurea both have small bright yellow leaves as they emerge during the spring, and keep their golden hue during the summer, turning buttery yellow in the fall. They are thorny trees that can grow to more than 50 feet tall, giving a lacy patterned shade and sporting fragrant white blossoms in racemes resembling wisteria and are drought-tolerant once established. For an evergreen tree that will grow to about 25 feet tall, you might choose Tsuga canadensis Aurea, a lower-growing form of Canadian hemlock with golden new growth that slowly matures to green.

There are many shrubs that boast golden foliage. Choisya ternata Sundance has pale gold leaves that become more chartreuse as they mature. This plant has scented white flowers in the spring. There are many cypresses that remain “evergreen” throughout the year that have golden foliage, and many are dwarfs that remain under 10 feet for more than 10 years. Look for any that have Aurea meaning yellow and Minima or Nana meaning small or compact in their name for color and size. Lonicera nitida Baggesen’s Gold, one of the Great Plant Picks for 2007 is a golden foliaged honeysuckle with tiny (nitida) leaves that look like boxwood. It has tiny, cream colored sweet smelling posies that bloom in May or June and is another drought-tolerant plant. Elaeagnus pungens Maculata, golden leaved Elaeagnus, another 2007 Great Plant Picks, grows to about six to eight feet and is easily contained by pruning. It has clear green leaves with large golden blotches in the center and tiny fragrant white flowers. There are new hydrangeas, too, on the market that were bred for their chartreuse leaves like Lemon Wave that also has splotches of yellow and pale blue flowers.

For low-growing annuals and perennials the choices expand tremendously. Try Heuchera Amber Waves for golden leaves touched with, what else, shades of amber. This one needs sun. With all the new coleus available, it is almost impossible to avoid the color yellow in one shade or another. Check with the nursery where you buy them; some need sun, some do best in shade.

Hostas have been famous for many years for chartreuse leaves but recently there has been a break-through and there are several true yellow-leaved forms available. Some of them have white flowers, while others have lavender blossoms.

Fuchsia magellanica Aurea has red stems, golden leaves touched with green and small red flowers with purple centers. Lysimachia nummularia Aurea — yellow creeping Jenny — grows no more than two inches tall, as it fills sunny areas with its bright color. This groundcover is engulfed with bright yellow blossoms in mid-summer. Another lovely groundcover for sun or partial shade is lamb’s ears, Stachys byzantina Primrose Heron. This tender-leafed plant is grown for the fuzzy, haired leaves that do feel soft as a lamb’s ear and have a grayed, muted yellow coloring.

Most yellow leafed (or needled) trees can take full sun, but most of the shrubs annuals and perennials do best in part to full shade where they bring light to an otherwise dark area. Add them throughout the garden and bask in sunshine on even cloudy days.

Linda Stephens-Urbaniak can be reached at

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