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A Gardener Comes to Terms with Yellow

Articles: A Gardener Comes to Terms with Yellow

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) seed fields outside Salem, Oregon. Photo: Daniel Mount

Not long ago, I planted the pink-cupped daffodil ‘Faith’ in a client’s garden only to be rather sternly chided, “Daffodils should be yellow.” My client is hardly chromophobic. She wears royal purple with confidence and, at one point, even dyed her gray hair a shockingly unnatural scarlet. Yet she forbade  the use of yellow in her garden. A request I couldn’t understand, yet obeyed. So I planted the pink-cupped daffodil.

Victoria Finlay author  of Color: A Natural History of the Palette, says, of all the colors “yellow gives some of the most mixed messages of all.” Garden designers around the world agree,  praising yellow as being “cheerful,” “joyous,” “luminous,” and for its “ability to harmonize.” Yet the same designers also warn of yellow being “a show-stealer,” “aggressive,” “garish,” “dominating,” even “perilous.”

Never shying from raw primary  colors, Van Gogh squeezed pure chrome yellow directly from the tube onto the canvas. He considered  yellow to be the color of friendship and used it extensively. I find...

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