December-Plants for wintertime cheer

Mahonia, cv. unknown

Mahonia, cv. unknown

I’ve said it before and I notice it every winter–the value of yellow in a gloomy climate can’t be overstated. I went through some of my December and January photos to find examples of the wintertime cheer a nice yellow or golden plant can give. Enjoy!

The big mahonias, particularly the Asian-based cultivars rather than the local version (M. aquifolium) are stately plants that provide color for people and nectar for hummers and the occasional bee that finds the day warm enough to go out. Fabulous form and a liking for shade makes these plants all around winners. There are a number of good cultivars: ‘Arthur Menzies’ and ‘Charity’ are two old-timers.

Eleagnus pungens 'Maculata'

Eleagnus pungens ‘Maculata’

Eleagnus pungens ‘Maculata’ is a big (10-15’H and W), rather ungainly evergreen shrub for shade (it can grow in the sun but I’m not sure why you’d bother–there’s a lot more options there). It has sweetly scented flowers (of the inconsequential type) in the fall–an unexpected time for a nicely scented shrub.

'Maculata' leaves

‘Maculata’ leaves

Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Aurea' (probably 'Aurea Nana')

Chamaecyparis pisifera, cv. unknown

Golden threadleaf cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera cvs) comes in a variety of cultivars from the big (C. pisifera ‘Aurea’ at 15-20′) to pretty small (C. pisifera ‘Aurea Nana’ at 4-8′). There are some other cultivars out there as well. Plant in sun to brighten up the gold.

Lonicera nitida 'Baggesen's Gold'

Lonicera nitida ‘Baggesen’s Gold’

I’m always rather amazed by the Lonicera clan. The most famous Loniceras are vines, honeysuckle. Some have sweetly scented flowers, others not, but the vines I know all have good-sized tubular flowers. Then there are the shrubby Loniceras which seem nothing like the vines. I know I’ve seen the straight (green) species in flower and they occasionally have the most extraordinary purple berries but I don’t recall either flowers or berries on ‘Baggesen’s Gold.’  If they happen they clearly aren’t memorable!

Yucca filamentosa, cv. unknown

Yucca filamentosa, cv. unknown

Dazzlingly bright (and often looking a bit odd and out of place in Seattle) are some of the yuccas. They do brighten the landscape and have a powerful form. That can make them hard to work into a garden, especially along a walkway. Ouch.



1 comment for “December-Plants for wintertime cheer

  1. December 14, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    Except for the yucca plant I have all of these in my Seattle garden and would choose to plant them again. I have food the hummingbirds prefer the Mahonia as a place to build a nest and raise young.

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