Garden & Landscape Tips

Black-eyed susans
Black-eyed susans are one of the many perennial flowers that bloom gold.
George Weigel

The nation’s premier color trend-setter – the New Jersey-based Pantone Color Institute – each year selects a “color of the year” that it believes to be in demand and in tune with the times. For 2021, that color is actually two colors… Ultimate Gray and Illuminating, a bright shade of gold.

The Institute says these two colors combine the look of weathered pebbles on a beach with a cheerful shade that sends the message that “everything is going to get brighter.” The pairing is “practical and rock-solid but at the same time warming and optimistic,” says Pantone’s Executive Director Leatrice Eiseman. “This is a color combination that gives us resilience and hope.”

Lamb’s ear
Lamb’s ear is a perennial with fuzzy gray leaves.
George Weigel

Gray in the landscape

Gray isn’t a color you’ll find in flowers, but many shrubs, perennials, annuals, and herbs come in gray to silvery-gray foliage that fit nicely in a “color-of-the-year” pairing with one or more of the many annuals and perennials that bloom in gold. One benefit of gray foliage is that you’ll have that color throughout the growing season. No waiting for a flower to get the color you want.

Two of the most popular gray-leafed plants are lamb’s ears, a perennial with fuzzy gray foliage, and dusty miller, a cold-tolerant annual that also happens to bloom yellow-gold in its second season (when it overwinters). ‘Grey Owl’ and ‘Silver Mist’ are two junipers that give silvery-gray color all year long, while artemisia, lavender, catmint, and dianthus are other perennials with silver to gray foliage.

Silver sage is a short-lived perennial that has big, fuzzy, silver-gray leaves – even more so than lamb’s ears – while dichondra ‘Silver Falls’ and licorice vine (Helichrysum petiolare) are two annual vines with silvery-gray foliage.

Dusty miller and golden marigolds
Dusty miller, left, and golden marigolds, right make an annual-flower combination in the 2021 colors of the year.
George Weigel

Golden bloomers

With your gray foundation in place, it’s easy to add the “brighter-days-ahead” golden component. Lots of annual flowers bloom gold, starting with cold-hardy pansies that are a go-to choice in Southern winters up to the many species that bloom all summer, such as marigolds, annual rudbeckia, calibrachoa, lantana, golden varieties of dwarf zinnias, celosia, melampodium, and the ground-hugging bidens and mecardonia.

Many perennials bloom gold, too, but generally only for a few weeks per year. The trick is picking several that bloom at different times so they’ll hand off color to one another. Forsythia and witch hazels such as ‘Arnold Promise’ are shrubs that flower gold before any perennial gets started. Then look to perennials such as barrenwort, lady’s mantle, gold-blooming baptisia varieties, and iris in spring, followed by black-eyed susans, coreopsis, lilies, daylilies, yarrow, and the new gold-blooming coneflower varieties in summer. Perennial sunflowers, goldenrod, heliopsis, and golden mums bring up the rear.

Lots of yellow-blooming roses add to your options in summer, while black-eyed susan vine, climbing roses, and even a few varieties of clematis will give you gold on vining plants. Golden-foliage plants range from evergreens such as golden junipers and golden Hinoki, to gold-leafed shrubs such as St. Johnswort and spirea, to gold-leafed groundcovers such as creeping sedum ‘Angelina’ and golden oregano.

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