Go for the Gold


‘Rozanne’ geranium weaving through ‘Mellow Yellow’ spirea in the Long Border

Of all the many wonderful colors you can find in foliage, golden leaves are among the most eye-catching. They’re particularly bright and fresh-looking in spring, and many continue to add interest to beds and borders throughout the growing season as well. Golden leaves combine comfortably with pretty much any flower color, too. They’re outstanding with “blurples” (blues and purples)–one of Jerry’s signature color pairings–and crisp-looking with whites and pinks. Golden foliage is also excellent for creating dramatic combinations with black- or burgundy-leaved partners.


‘Mellow Yellow’ spirea between ‘Molly Bush’ heuchera and ‘Miss Kim’ lilac right outside the office at Linden Hill

The trick to growing gorgeous golden foliage is giving it the right site. Some of these plants produce their best leaf color in full sun; otherwise, they may turn a somewhat sickly-looking yellowish green. A few excellent choices for full sun include perennial ‘Isla Gold’ tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) and shrubby ‘Golden Spirit’ smokebush (Cotinus coggygria), ‘Lemony Lace’ elderberry (Sambucus racemosa), and ‘Mellow Yellow’ spirea (Spiraea thunbergii).


It’s hard to think of a plant that lacy-leaved ‘Isla Gold’ tansy doesn’t look great with. You can see it in many combinations in our Formal Garden.


‘Golden Spirit’ smokebush positively glows against a dark background. Jerry created this outstanding color echo by taking one of the leaves to a local hardware store and getting a perfect paint match.


We have ‘Mellow Yellow’ spirea growing in many of our beds and borders. Besides the sunny yellow leaf color, it’s valuable for its fragrant spring flowers, fine foliage texture, and adaptable nature. Pruning is super-simple, too: Just give it a hard trim every few years in spring if it starts to outgrow its space, or if you want to encourage bushy new growth.


Mock orange is wonderful for fragrance in bloom, but the ordinary green form isn’t very interesting any other time. When you grow the golden-leaved selection, you’ll enjoy it all through the growing season. We have it growing in our Formal Garden, underplanted with ‘Joanna Reed’ catmint.

Some other golden plants like plenty of sun, but too much strong sun can lead to a bit of leaf bleaching or browning, particularly if the soil dries out. Two that tend to look best with morning sun but some afternoon shade include ‘Golden Jubilee’ anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) and golden mockorange (Philadelphus coronarius ‘Aureus’).


The foliage of ‘Golden Jubilee’ anise hyssop  is particularly brilliant in spring. Later on, the branching stems are tipped with spikes of purple-blue flowers. You can see it growing in our Formal Garden.

Many gold-leaved plants positively glow in partial to full shade, bringing the impression of dappled sunlight into shaded beds. A few you can see in the gardens here at Linden Hill include ‘Sun King’ aralia (Aralia racemosa), ‘Gold Heart’ bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis), ‘All Gold’ Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra), and ‘Sum and Substance’ hosta.


‘Sun King’ aralia forms sizeable clumps of bright yellow foliage and is reportedly deer-resistant. This one grows in our Cottage Garden, under the magnolia right behind the Linden Hill office and next to the cottage.


‘Gold Heart’ bleeding heart is beautiful in bloom and just as pretty afterward, thanks to its bright yellow foliage. We have it growing in many places, including our Formal Garden and Metasequoia Allee.


This charming combination from one of our Office Borders features ‘All Gold’ Hakone grass with creeping mazus (Mazus reptans), ‘Ultramarine’ forget-me-not, and a lavender-purple viola.


Over time, ‘Sum and Substance’ hosta can reach shrub-size proportions. This well-established clump in one of our Office Borders easily holds its own with ‘Unique’ panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata). There are many other gorgeous golden hostas that fit well into smaller gardens too.

Jerry is always on the lookout for new golden gems for our customers and landscape clients, and he has some exciting offerings on order for the upcoming growing season. Come to visit and check them out in our nursery and gardens this year; we’ll be open for the season starting on April 1, 2017 when we host our 15th annual Hellebore Festival Weekend.

We look forward to seeing you!