In praise of chartreuse for perpetually spring gardens

by Danna Breen on July 31, 2011

My writing spot is at a window looking out at an adolescent Robinia pseudoacacia Frisia which I planted about 10 years ago. It is dazzling, set off by the Lonicera Graham Thomas tucked underneath and the very cheerful Berberis thunbergii ‘Aurea’. Although we are approaching August, the chartreuse colored foliage is fresh, making the garden feel like perpetual spring.

Introducing lime or chartreuse foliage is one of the best ways to brighten a dark corner of a garden. The strategic placement of  plants like Heuchera Key Lime Pie, Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’ or Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Woodside Gold’ can make it seem as if a ray of sunshine just alighted in the middle of a forest.

The market is starting to burst with new varieties of  lime foliage. While many used to get scorched, plants are becoming more sun tolerant. When a species name is followed by the word or its derivation, aureus, the foliage is likely to have a golden hue.

If you find you swoon at these colors, you might also consider adding deciduous materials which turn golden in the fall, followed by golden-tipped conifers in winter. There is nor truer gold than a Gingko turning in the fall. The leaves falling onto a simple swath of lawn or dark green ground cover is a sight to behold.

Chartreuse foliage is very effective paired with purple or blue foliage — and sensational when paired with red.  Dark garden places can really be brought to light through careful plant placement. Some of the gold leaf Hostas are like beacons of light; get an additional pop when under-planted with a low growing Campanula or a Geranium Johnson Blue or  Rozanne.

The crowning glory of a chartreuse garden is adding a thistle feeder to draw tiny goldfinches in the spring. When I am in garden where chartreuse has been used well, I always feel slightly like a ray of hope has been shared with me.

Editor’s note: Danna Breen is a local landscape designer.

Photos by Linda Hubbard Gulker

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