How I learned to love yellow

For years I shunned yellow in my garden.  Yellow flowers, I had decided, were common and a bit garish.   I suspect it was because my mother had a special love of marigolds.  Now my mother had a beautiful garden but for reasons I’ve never been able to fathom – I lost my mom so long ago – her garden instilled in me a dislike of a number of annual flowers. I think it may have the style of planting in those years. Her geraniums, marigolds, and Dusty Miller marched up the sidewalk borders in precise lines and perfect repetition; hup, two three, went the scarlet geraniums, the prissy little marigolds and the bloodless Dusty Miller that was to me, the creepiest plant in the yard.  She rarely planted white.  Why bother, she would have said, when there was such a palette of colour from which to choose.  In the first years of my own garden, I filled the beds with perennials from Mom’s garden and my aunt’s huge farm garden near Camrose. Those plants – peonies, daylilies, irises, delphiniums, monkshood and primula – still bloom in my yard and have been shared with dozens of friends.  As I expanded the garden and made room for waves of annual flowers, I choose pastels.  I wanted a watercolour of blue and mauve and pink.  And I wanted drifts of white for a special gleam at dusk.  Lovely.  So it went for more than twenty years.

Then, about ten years ago, I noticed that one my neighbours had the most splendid splash of sunshine against a brick wall.  What were those brilliant golden flowers that lit up her late-summer garden when everyone else’s yard was fading?  Heliopsis of course.  And in the back yard, she showed me coreopsis. And offered, as all good gardeners do, a little split of each of these in the fall.  It would have been rude to decline, I thought, seeing as this was a neighbour I scarcely knew but obviously a kindred gardener.

Another five years, another walk, and I came upon the queen of them all – tall, elegant yellow flower spikes atop huge leaves.  Growing in a corner so like the shady glade I was cultivating in my back yard. Ligularia.  Rolled off my tongue  and into the ear of the helpful woman at Greengate Garden Centre and within minutes I was out the door with my prize.  And finally, the following year in a dual blaze of interest in cold weather planting (seeds planted in milk jugs and set outside while the snow is still on the ground) and indigenous plants, I ordered a great variety of hardy seeds from Gardens North.  We took down a massive spruce in the front yard that spring, and I moved an entire bed of shade plants – hostas, ferns, coral bells – and planted the space with my sturdy little milk jug seedlings with little regard for height or colour or anything at all. Just fill it in for now, I thought and let the new sunny garden have its birth. And oh, it did.  By August that big front bed was a joyous sea of colour and bees and butterlies and hummingbirds.  Among the Gardens North seed there was a substitute for one of my choices (undoubtedly something purple) — anthemis tinctoria, native to Alberta.  Yellow, but why not, I thought. Three years later, these sunny yellow daisies have spread and they dance and they call to everyone who passes by.  What is that yellow flower?  One of my favourites, I say.  Doesn’t it make you smile?
Here are a few photos of yellow:

6 thoughts on “How I learned to love yellow

  1. My mother liked marigolds too. And I rejected them for years. If you check my gardens this year (and last) you’ll find the miniature marigold smiling up at you. My mother, long gone, still puts brightness into my world.

    • Ah Bob, how lovely to hear your mom is smiling in your garden too. It’s such a connection. Every year when the irises from the farm open, I think of my aunt.

  2. I can so relate to this lovely post. I too love Ligularia, and for the reason that the name just rolls of the tongue like honey dripping from warm toast. I too have such a connection to my darling mother who was so passionate about her garden. We shared a lot through gardens — and books — something I miss a great deal though I carry on both loves with her in my heart.

    • One of my great delights, Diane, is that I’ve passed on my passion for gardens to my daughter. And she has Aunty Lefty’s irises and Grandma Harke’s primula in her own garden. Those women would be pleased as punch!

  3. Oh, dammit, BjH! That is some kinda gorgeous garden this time of year!

    Interestingly, Ligularia is already on my shortlist of plants for my redo of the front this fall. It’s a for sure, now.

    • Well here’s an idea. You’re coming through Calgary in September, right? Save room in your bag for a bit of ligularia root. And maybe a tiny one of my mom’s primula too so the garden can spread to Regina. We’re meant to share gardens. This my mother taught me too.

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