Learn how the color yellow affects you and your garden. Then discover the best ways to use yellow, both alone and in combination with other colors.
Although we normally think of yellow as an intense color that can overpower, use paler shades to link other, brighter colors effectively. Pale creamy yellow has a calming influence on other flower colors. Combine it with pale pink, blue, or white, especially in cool, overcast climates where more gaudy shades of yellow appear jarring. An all-yellow planting combining different shades looks cheerful yet sophisticated.
Yellow radiates in the shade where it pairs beautifully with pale greens, lime green, or green-yellow or green-white variegated foliage. Strong yellows for shady places include Japanese maple, kerria, ligularia, lysimachia, azalea, and rhododendron.
Increased plant choices in yellow-foliage varieties also now exist. The glow of golden-leaf shrubs, such as barberry or euonymus, among the greens turns up the wattage in a foliage garden. Here, yellow leaves provide the visual interest that flowers usually supply.
When bright yellow joins up with orange and its complement, blue, it sets an energetic harmony into motion. Yellow enhances both colors. When it contains a hint of orange, yellow becomes a showstopping dance partner with bright or light blue. The blue slightly mutes yellow's boldness and brings out its luminescence.
The same effect happens with yellow's opposites on the color wheel: purple and dark red. They look even better when seen in the company of yellow. Generously sprinkle yellows, both pale and bright, in areas exposed to early- or late-day sunlight, when yellow reflects rather than absorbs light.