Doing some blog research for fall planting, I was surprised to find what a luminous phase the garden entered briefly around 2014. I’ve always been drawn to bright-colored leaves, but in this period the garden glowed as if irradiated. Chief sources of pale and golden yellow at the time included the lemon cypresses at the east fence, the variegated mint bush in the foreground, Prostranthera ovalifolia, then mid-garden the lemony spikes of Yucca recurvifolia ‘Margarita’ (aka ‘Margaritaville’), and just barely visible in the back the Giant Reed, Arundo donax ‘Golden Chain.’ Out of these only the three lemon cypresses, Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Citriodora,’ remain.
The wonderfully fragrant mint bush, even though short-lived, is always a pleasure to have around, especially this shimmering variegated form. When in bloom, a lavender wash of little bells covers this Australian shrub.
Undeniably beautiful but an aggressive colonizer, the Giant Reed was eradicated in the nick of time, but not before swallowing up weaker growers in its path like kniphofias. (Anything in the path of the Giant Reed is by definition weaker.)
Here the arundo pulsates and plans future conquests behind the white form of the biennial Geranium maderense.
The yucca emitted a radioactive glow of its own, but as it grew to the height of the pergola it began to block views of everything else in the garden. As it bulged out onto the patio under the pergola, I expected it to knock on the back door any day. It was removed not long after the summer of its first bloom.
At the bast of the pot, recently planted Yucca ‘Bright Star’ makes a more acceptably ground-hugging, acid-yellow rosette. Finally, the local nurseries have brought in quantities of this hard-to-find yucca. Cached in the large pot, a variegated Pittosporum crassifolium gleams as bright as the glittering blooms of the miscanthus, which give the garden a heady case of effervescence, a foaming fountain of pale champagne. The dark phormium in the distance is a night-and-day changeup in tone from the large Yucca ‘Margarita.’
The variegated form of St. Augustine grass adds a sunny blonde rinse to any planting, but I do check frequently for any runners encroaching on Aloe scobinifolia.
Another notable shrub I’ve grown for brightening a garden is Corokia virgata ‘Sunsplash.’
Vines, too, can have golden forms, like Polygonum aubertii ‘Aureum.’ The golden form of jasmine, Jasminum officinalis ‘Frojas,’ was a weak grower, while the golden hops, Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus,’ was much too strong. For giant chartreuse leaves, there’s the elephant ears like Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger,’ and there’s a vast selection of small perennials with chartreuse leaves (agastache, dicentra, creeping jenny, tiarellas, heucheras, hostas, etc.) for suitable climates, but at ground level the effect is quite specific and requires possibly more careful handling. I prefer a brightening effect and am not necessarily going for crazy-quilt, even if that’s sometimes the unintended result. For tall succulents, there’s the African Candelabra, Euphorbia ammak — I’m always on the lookout for a little more shine in the garden.