golden days: is yellow spring’s favorite color?

gold elm detailI KEEP WONDERING WHY (SCIENTIFICALLY SPEAKING) the first weeks of spring seem to be so inclined to glow in solid gold. Is it something about co-evolution and early season pollinators liking the color, or just a side effect of how we’ve selected what plants we make our gardens from over the history of the nursery industry? (These are the kinds of things I think about, you see.) Whatever the “why,” the “what” is pretty great, and so an homage to spring’s favorite color: yellow.

drift of hylomeconI love the way gold makes things seem to advance; the way it grabs my attention, screaming (never whispering). That’s a mass of Hylomecon japonicum, just above, and a detail of a golden elm leaf, top.

Click on the first thumbnail to start the slideshow, then toggle from slide to slide using the arrows beside each caption. Enjoy!

  1. Sunny says:

    My mother (an avid gardener) often quoted Robert Frost in the spring. Spending time in the garden this time of year always makes me think of her.

    “Nothing Gold Can Stay”

    Nature’s first green is gold,
    Her hardest hue to hold.
    Her early leaf’s a flower;
    But only so an hour.
    Then leaf subsides to leaf,
    So Eden sank to grief,
    So dawn goes down to day
    Nothing gold can stay.

    — Robert Frost

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome Sunny (the perfect name for this topic). And with the perfect poem in hand, to boot. Thank you! Beautiful. See you soon.

  2. Andrew says:

    That’s one of the prettiest dandelion photos I’ve ever seen!

    A neighbor friend came over last week and joked that the double-flowered Kerria in our backyard perfectly matched the masses of dandelions I still hadn’t gotten around to mowing. She was right.

  3. Diana says:

    Yellow flowers make me smile except when I’m filling the fifth 20 gallon pot with dandelions which is where I’m headed right now!

  4. Georgia says:

    I like the theme of this post. Amazing the things we overlook. This spring, for the first time, I noticed the yellow in honey locust leaves.

  5. Laura says:

    thank you for these golden moments of Spring – our UK yellow flowers are somewhat different but just as yellow! I know many gardeners despise this colour but the pollinators don’t (hoverflies seem positively addicted) so I wonder if that is why this season is so full of yellow – blue is the other Spring colour and that is a perfect complement.
    (am grateful to Sunny for Robert Frost peom I had never heard before :))

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Georgia, and thanks for the kind words. I feel as if I am in the connect-the-dots phase of life, seeing differently at this age, at least a bit. It was fun to group the plants this way, after seeing them through the camera separately. Hope to see you soon again.

      Welcome, Laura. I think you are on to something with the pollinators — which I referred as my best guess of the “why” of golden spring to but frankly didn’t research thoroughly enough (yet). And yes, the blues with the yellows: heavenly. A unique time for that pairing. Don’t be a stranger; glad to “meet” you.

      @Benjamin: I have had the elm more than 5 years (maybe 7ish?), starting from a whip with a couple of small branches, and it is more shrubby than tree-like still. I suspect I will continue to grow it as a shrub by cutting it back every five years or something like that…but I haven’t done anything yet, and it’s probably 6 or 7 feet high and wide right now. In theory it would grow into a tree…but hasn’t. Sorry not to know the specifics but I find little listed about it and based on my experience with only the one plant over a relatively short span, it’s all I know. But yes, lovely.

  6. TexasDeb says:

    I’ve noted most of my winter veggies, if allowed to bolt, produce yellow flowers. Seeing as these plants bloom when nothing else around here does, I’ve gotten into the habit of “allowing” my veggies to bolt just for the pollinators.

    All by way of saying, I don’t think it is only gardener’s preference driving color choices. I think there is something else that must be at work as well.

  7. booksquirrel says:

    Lovely post. I, too, am often thinking about the whys. Have you ever noticed the whites and oranges in mid- July and the lavenders and purples in August. These occur in native plants so I’m going with the pollinator theory. At Ladew (Harvey Ladew’s garden in Maryland) there is a yellow garden and it feels like sunshine on even dull days. Worth visiting.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Booksquirrel. I am going w/the pollinator theory, too…the more I think on it, the more sense it makes. I must start researching that someday… I have not been to Ladew but know of it and have seen it in slideshows. Wow. See you soon!

  8. Deirdre says:

    Maybe that’s why yellow is my favorite color. I associated it with the beginning of spring.

    We’re thinking of painting our house. My husband wanted something in dark green, so the house would blend in to the landscape. Looking around me, I decided it had to be a yellow green to blend in. Most of the greens have a lot of yellow in them, at least at this time of year.

  9. emilie says:

    My first thought, also, was the poem by Robert Frost, though I do not think it has anything to do with yellow flowers as such and is not a “happy” poem. The real gold for him is rather the symbolic import of early spring’s unfurling leaves. Nothing gold can stay.

  10. Andrew R. says:

    Funny, too, how Spring’s favourite colour quickly becomes our favourite colour for spring in turn. As a former lifestyle editor, you must surely know what I mean: yellow gingham table cloths on picnic tables, the lemon-infused cleansers and yellow sponges that tint our spring cleaning rituals, yellow rubber boots and raincoats, the cover of Blueprint, Spring ’07. Like bees to pollen, we swarm to yellow this time of year. Does yellow = renewal? Seems to.

    1. Margaret says:

      Nice to see you Andrew, and yes, renewal is just about right, thanks. That’s the feeling.

      Welcome, Joseph, and thank you for the kind words. The color does make me feel sunnier, you are right. See you soon again, I hope.

  11. Nora says:

    So, since I joined late, my comment comes late–in December, when I approach the new year and think of the garden…for next spring. I saw these lovely pictures and thought of something I read when very young (16?) and copied down in a little book. It comes from Robert Nathan’s Portrait of Jennie:
    “Yellow is the true color of spring, not green; the new grass, the clouds, the misty, sunny air, the sticky buds like little feathers on the trees, all are mixed with yellow tone, with the haze of sun and earth and water. Green is for summer; blue, for fall..” Thanks for the reminders of spring in the depths of winter.

  12. Kathy M says:

    We raise Honey Bees and when I went down to check them last month on a mild winter day there were several going in and out of the hive. I was immediately the source of interest and I realized they were attracted to my yellow sweater! So I too go along with the pollinater theory. Mother nature knows exactly what her children need.

  13. Daisy Marshall says:

    How I enjoy everyone’s comments! It’s the closest thing to gardening I’ve ever done. Also down here there are no drastic changes, and I say this with a sense of envy because I have never experienced the coming of Spring. I do have some water bushes back in the mangrove I see from my terrace and soon it will covered with beautiful (yes, yellow) butterflies. I selfishly call it “my butterfly bush.” Margaret you have no idea how many hearts you make bloom. Thank you! Daisy

  14. Coastal Jan says:

    Your slide shows are a feast for the eyes. It’s still chilly on our northwest coast, so it’s a real treat to see the bright colours.

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Coastal Jan. Still chilly here too — last year’s photos (here only the Corylopsis and Lindera and Cornus mas are in bloom so far…but any day now on a few more!). Glad you enjoyed, and hope to see you soon again.

      Welcome, Julia, and yes, what a special time and special poem. I was so glad my wonderful readers reminded me of it just at this moment. See you soon!

  15. Doris Matthews says:

    I am learning so much on this site, thank you Magaret! I just love that donkeytail spurge-such an interesting plant. Does it enjoy sun, shade, or a combination? I’d love to plant some in my yard.

  16. Terryk says:

    I have also wondered why yellow is such a dominate color in spring blooming shrubs and flowers.

    Thanks to your lecture for Rocky Hill last spring and this blog, I now have six plants of Hylomecon japonicum about to bloom. I bought them from Seneca Hill before she closed and was afraid I killed them. Today in my garden walk (in the robe again!) I found some which are nestled in with dark helleobores. I also have Corylopsis spicata and Cornus Mas planted in a bed that has lots of hellebores along with witch hazel and a crab apple.

    The slide show is tempting me with others.

    Enjoy your yellow days.

  17. Jamie says:

    Margaret, you have the same love for gold leaves that I do. I came to look at this gallery after I saw your post on the golden mock orange (a shrub I truly love). That said, I might love the golden corylopsis even more! Mine is still small, but it sure is a beauty! I’m so glad you’re letting people know about these plants!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Jamie. It’s a beauty, that Corylopsis — but I picked too sunny a spot for it, apparently, and it got some bleaching of the leaves…so it’s moving again! (Gardening=one big experiment, right?).

  18. Jamie on Long Island says:

    Gardeners have to move things! It’s part of the fun! I’m going to move my golden corylopsis, too, but not because it’s getting too much sun. I was out in the yard over the weekend, and realized I want to put it near my rosa rubrifolia…I think it would be a great combination (and there’s shelter from the afternoon sun in that spot). I have some opium poppies that have planted themselves near that rose, and their gray foliage and plum-colored flowers look great with their neighbor. The corylopsis will take it over the top!

    This website has really inspired me to look at some of the things in my yard with new eyes, and I thank you for that, Margaret!

    1. Margaret says:

      You are welcome, Jamie, and I am so glad to “meet” you here. I am seeking a new spot for my gold corylopsis..and a million other things. Sounds like you have a great one in mind.

  19. claire says:

    Hi Margaret (or anyone else) – wonder if you can make sense of this. We (living in Woodstock NY) have a Forsythia hedge – it is about 60 ft long and perpendicular to the road – our road is a dead-end so doesn’t get much traffic but we have the usual sanding etc in winter by the town. This year, in the Spring, I noticed that fully 50% wasn’t flowering and soon became clear that those bushes from the road end to the center of the hedge have died. The only thing that was different was that maybe that end had a fraction more leaves blown towards the roots last Autumn than the other half. Am sad to have lost so much gold.

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