The Color of the Garden

Posted by & filed under Perennials, Shrubs, Trees.

Today is a wonderful cold rainy day.  I love being in the Garden on a day like this and it’s a shame that so few people will enjoy it.  Cold wet weather means most people who visit the Garden today are coming for a meeting or a class inside a building.  They will dash from car to building and back without pausing to appreciate the beauty of  the garden on a day like this.  I feel sorry for them.

What’s so great about today?  The colors.  All the water has created some wonderfully saturated colors.  Most people think of the winter garden as being a dreary gray or if it snows (a rare thing here), a blanket of white.  I think they are so wrapped up in layers of clothes, their vision must be somehow blocked.  Here’s what I see.

The trees are wet, so the trunks and branches have become wonderfully dark.  The scaly, dull brown bark of all the pines has turned a nice charcoal color.  The tan crapemyrtles have become a rich brown with highlights of red.  The greens of the conifers and other evergreens are really rich.  The different mulches have darkened as well.  All of this forms a dramatic backdrop for many winter plants.  Hundreds of pink, white and red camellias are in bloom right now, their rich colors a treat for anyone daring to come out.  Magnolias are starting to bloom in the arboretum – the white flowers really stand out against the darker background of trees surrounding them. The red berries of the hollies really stand out too.  Some of the blue and purple crocuses are starting to poke up in some of the lawns to the delight of many.  (They do the exact same thing I do and everyone gets excited about them while I’m considered a weed – it is so unfair!)

One of the most dominant colors on a day like this is yellow.  There are many yellow flowering plants in bloom right now and they just pop out in the landscape.  Daffodils are the  most obvious – they are scattered all across the Garden and many are starting to bloom.  The drifts of daffodils create bright patches that are very noticeable from a distance.  The paperbush flower, with its yellow throat, really shines against a dark background of wet tree trunks.  The flowers of the wintersweet, witch hazel and the spike winterhazel (just starting to bloom) are small and can be missed on a sunny day but they jump out at you on a rainy day like today.  Even the flame willow, with its orange branches displays a bit of a yellow undertone.

Why are so many great winter flowers yellow?  Yellow is a strong color and it takes a strong plant to bloom in the winter.  Yellow is a harbinger of spring – you need a bright color to lead the way.  It is the color of hope and sunshine.  

Yellow is the color of me – what else needs to be said?