10 February 2008

Colour in the Garden: Acid Green, Chartreuse or Gold?

The gang over at Gardening Gone Wild know how to help us get through the long winter months. Even though some garden bloggers are exulting in blooms from hellebores to crocus to lots and lots and LOTS of snowdrops, (and those in the southern Hemisphere are just nicely into summer), it's a bit of a drudge as we slog and trudge and grumble through the endless days of FARCH. So we're having a colour party to help us cope.

Because this particular season is the one of the least light, I thought it would be fun to use the brightest colour first. Some other bloggers have also written glowingly about chartreuse in the past few days. Mr. McGregor's Daughter got me especially excited with her stirring ode to this curious colour, which I saw referred to as the new neutral in one of BHG's magazines. On first glance, chartreuse doesn't LOOK neutral, does it? It screams "look at me, I'm HERE!" But it goes really, really well with just about any other colour, helping some to pop, calming others down a bit, and just plain causing jubilation with other plantings.

I've seen chartreuse referred to as 'acid green' by some trendy writers, and I guess that's as good a description as "mountain dew green" or 'antifreeze yellow'. Technically, chartreuse is between green and yellow, though I've also seen some refer to it in foliage as gold. Well, I'm not going to split hairs on that, as you'll see in a bit. Let's just say that I like this colour a lot, and go from there with a look at some shrubs and trees that make me happy.

So far in this post we have a gold-foliaged elder (long since missing its name, as it's been planted for five or six years now), doing a nice echo with lady's mantle, cushion spurge (Euphorbia polychroma) and an unnamed euonymus that I like even without its name. The second photo shows my much-loved Berberis 'Nana Aurea', and in the photo above, another gold barberry and gold threadleafed chamaecyparis. That last photo was taken at the Rock Garden at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, one of my alma maters, and if you ever get a chance to visit the garden...go! I like the colour echo of the fern right by the chamaecyparis, but I don't know the fern species, unfortunately. I'm sure someone else will.

This photo is from a fantastic garden down in West Pubnico on the south shore of the province. Some of the best gardeners I've ever met are down there, including my dear friend Alice d'Entremont of Ouestville Perennials, but this isn't her garden. I love how the basket-of-gold alyssum, the shrub (which I believe is also an elder) and the hostas play off each other with their brilliant chartreuse colour.

One of my favourite shrubs, which I've written adoringly of before, is Thuja 'Rheingold'. I love the rainbow qualities of this plant, as its foliage segues from chartreuse to soft green to gold to orangy-yellow to bronze as the season progresses. It's in a small garden with a few other compact shrubs, including 'Heatherbun' chamaecyparis, a gold-foliaged juniper (perhaps pfitzer aurea), a blue juniper, and a raft of heaths and heathers.

Not the best photo of Juniperus 'Lime Glow', but this remarkable juniper also sports bronze-red tips on its foliage in winter (at least, I think it's sporting it under the snow it's sporting).

For an absolute outburst of chartreuse, some of the spireas are topnotch, including 'Lemon Princess.' I don't care if most of my spireas flower (except 'Crispa', which is just such a great one); I grow spireas for their foliage colours, either in spring, summer or fall, and the flowers are just a nice bonus.

On my 'gotta have' list is this incredible golden locust, Robinia frisea...there are specimens of this around the area, including here on the mountain, and I'm ready to try it in our garden this year.

'Chardonay Pearls' deutzia is well-named, and a perfect candidate for my wine and chocolate garden...I'll be talking about that more later in the week, around V-day!

Nan of GardeningGoneWild mentioned that she's not crazy about dwarf evergreens, something to do with a summer's job potting the little suckers way back when. I can't resist them, am adding more all the time, although I've yet to take the plunge and get this golden dwarf hinoki chamaecyparis from a grower friend of mine. I've been testing out other chamaecyparis to see how they do here in the wind, and they've just taken it and kept on growing, so I think it's time...

Here's a plant that isn't so much chartreuse as gold, but I include it here because I can. It's 'Sunshine Gold' caryopteris, first planted last summer; if it settles in as beautifully as did a couple others in the garden, it should do very well for us. Someone commented to me last summer that they understood why we have so much gold, white and chartreuse foliage in the garden--we can find it in the fog! True enough...come back next time and see my non-woody offerings.


  1. Very nice Jodi, very nice :-)

    An excellent colour for partial shade gardens too! I love it and was considering a heuchera that colour for this year :-D

  2. A gorgeous compliment of chartreuse. I love the way they look with the hostas. I am going to have to have some of these I can tell.

  3. Hi Jodi Thanks for the suggestion. My blog is more about my home and quilting than about my garden so I don't think that my blog fits , but thanks for suggesting it. I glad you enjoyed your visit and I hope you'll stop by again.
    Your pictures are wonderful! I am glad to meet y ou.
    Rhondi xo

  4. Hey Jodi! I've missed you! I was so glad to see your post about chartreuse - I absolutely love it and think it is very often way more exciting than regular ole vibrant colors. The thing I love about it is its accidental quality. I don't know how to verbalize it other than to say that it's "wow factor" sorta sneaks up on you - don't you think? One of my favorites I discovered last year is how it looks with the purple of purple fountain grass.

  5. I love chartreuse or gold in the garden (the caryopteris is a favourite!) as well and I thank you for this tour. I've been wanting to ask you about how/when/if winter-flowering fragrance works at all in deeper winters like yours -- on this coast, in a much milder kind of grey, the fragrance is what gets me through some February days.

  6. I too am often at a loss for the appropriate name for this color group, but by any name, it's my favorite. Maybe starting with some chartreuse cultivars would be a good way for me to ease into the dwarf confier world? I guess the thuja and chamaecyparis aren't so very prickly. I think I'll stick to enjoying the 'Lime Glow' juniper in your garden, though. Thanks for treating us to this jolt of color, Jodi. I can't wait to see the next exciting installment!

  7. Thanks for responding so quickly, Jodi, and for stopping by my blog (and for linking to me). I'll keep checking your blog and watching for your first post on that hamamelis fragrance: even if it's still weeks and weeks away, it's got to be coming, right?

  8. Acid Green? It might sound good if you're an old hippy. "mountain dew green" or 'antifreeze yellow' sounds even more replusive. I'll stick with chartreuse even if I have to use a spell checker to write it down.

    No matter what name you use it's still a great addition to a garden. Color isn't just for flowers. Foliage should always be taken into consideration as you so well display.

  9. Hi Jodi
    I am amazed how many plants we share, more so because my garden is so small !
    I am a fan of this amazing colour. One of the best combinations I am waiting to see mature is Cotinus Golden Spirit, in tandem with Royal Purple Cotinus .. plain old smokebush in easy speak .. but what an amazing duo when they are in full force ..
    Funny .. I wasn't all that taken with "chartreuse" in the beginning .. the heucheras (Lime Ricky) I had, my husband called sick lettuce .. now how would you feel ? .. but with other plants he has come around as well .. Therefore my idea is that some plants look great in this colour while others .. hum .. not so much ! haha

  10. Thanks for the link, Jodi! Chartreuse is the new neutral? Groan...I guess I can't help being a trend setter, but I HATE fashion! Why does this always happen to me? :^}

  11. I have been enamored with chartreuse since I found Lady's Mantle over 20 years ago. Since then, I am in constant search for unique companion plants and shrubs in chartreuse or golds for color, texture & form ... especially crazy 'bout my 3 Dwarf Golden Threadleaf Cypress my hillside rock garden!

  12. Wonderful bright color to bring our moods into spring thinking. When planning for new plantings, evergreens that are not green, either blue, yellow or red, or shades thereof, are high on the search list. Those dwarf chamaes are faves. Thanks for the E, it is up and will be passed on.

    Frances at Faire Garden

  13. That locust looks like it has similar leaves to the one we have in CT which I think is called Black Locust.-They were kind of thorny trees that my parents used to have in our yard.-Dropped a lot of branches but they were interesting.

  14. Wow--nothing I didn't like. A lot of these plants are already on my order lists from nurseries, so huzzah! I'm WAY into this "acid green" thing, though never heard of it. Good foliage color (esp evergreens) over flowers most every time--flowers are a dime a dozen!

  15. Hmmmmmmm, you were comparing those blue poppies with kittycats in your previous post but did you know that there is a catbreed called Chartreux? :-) Their fur is not greenish yellow or yellowish green (their eyes are) but blue (well grey actually).

    Love that Thuja Rheingold, it will look perfect in the new border I'm making.

    That Deutzia and the caryopteris are gorgeous, perhaps I'll be buying those too.

    I love chartreuse in the garden but use it sparingly as a little goes a long way.

  16. Hi Jodi!

    Thank you for your comment! :)

    If you need to have variegated Dogwood - I sure need to have gold Thuja and Berberis too (was it Berberis or other shrub?).

    Lovely blog you have, indeed!

    Greetings from Finland,


  17. I love the rock gardens in these photos!

  18. It was rather interesting for me to read this article. Thank you for it. I like such themes and anything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read more soon.


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