golden gardens

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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Here the arundo pulsates and plans future conquests behind the white form of the biennial Geranium maderense.

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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.

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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.’

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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.

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Another notable shrub I’ve grown for brightening a garden is Corokia virgata ‘Sunsplash.’

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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.

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6 Responses to golden gardens

  1. Nell says:

    I’m smitten by that creamy scrim in the 2014 pic, the Prostranthera ovalifolia, and even more so by the image of the blooms. Did it not survive, or was it an esthetic decision to remove it?

  2. Nell says:

    I’m smitten by that creamy scrim in the 2014 pic, the Prostranthera ovalifolia, and even more so by the image of it in bloom. Did it not survive, or was it an esthetic decision to remove it?

  3. Kris P says:

    Your 2014 did indeed have a sunny disposition, Denise. I’m sometimes surprised by old photos of my garden too. Reducing my water consumption most definitely changed what I can grow (although I do currently have 2 of those variegated Prostanthera, which I love even though they’re short-lived). Have you found a source for Yucca ‘Bright Star’ for less than $50 a pot? I was pleased when I saw an ample supply in an OC garden center but less so when I saw the price tag.

  4. Evan says:

    Very cheerful and bright! The “glowed as if irradiated” line made me laugh and think of my heaping swaths of lime thyme. I have a screen shot I got off of Google satellite images of the stuff looking like a spill of radioactive slime from a bad scifi movie in the middle of the driveway. Hoo, boy, did that ever “light things up.” I have a little yellow and gold in the garden, but I tend to use chartreuse and silvers more to brighten things up.

  5. Denise says:

    @Nell, the mint bush has always been a short-timer for me and begins to noticeably decline. It hurts to lose stuff but it’s great fun to plant again 😉
    @Kris, I’m seeing ‘Bright Star’ all around town and under $50 by quite a bit. I think I paid $30 at H&H on Lakewood.
    @Evan, that’s incredible the satellite images caught your lime thyme!

  6. Peter/Outlaw says:

    That sixth picture, the one with the pot and Yucca ‘Bright Star’ had me weak in the knees. Your garden is always so gorgeous!

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