Early Spring Color Is All About Yellow

It seems absurd to be talking about “early” spring on May 3. But this spring has been anything but ordinary. The only good thing about the cold is that it has kept the drought from being even more devastating than it could be. This is our third straight year of drought here in the East–but it’s not often talked about because we are not a major farming region, we don’t have crazy wildfires and we don’t have dust bowl conditions. It doesn’t mean we don’t have droughts and that our plants don’t suffer.

In my yard, the early spring color is mostly blues, yellows and whites. I like to try to imitate nature when I plant (with the exception of annuals, where I get a little crazy!) and you’ll see this color combination a lot in nature in almost all seasons. You see it in the wildflowers of spring: buttercups, flax, clover being just one combination, and you see it in the last combinations of fall: goldenrod, white and purple asters.

My blues come from bulbs, almost all finished blooming by now, and the yellows, almost a month later than normal come from trees, shrubs and perennials. My whites are a combination of bulbs and the flowering trees that you saw on Wednesday.


But I find yellow the cheeriest color in early spring. Even this late in the season it’s quite a delight to see all the different golden hues. For example, here is the buttery color of the kerria from Wednesday’s post.

gold-leaf bleeding heart

Then there’s this lovely bright golden perennial, a bleeding heart (dicentra spectabilis). It’s even more unusual when it blooms, although I confess I’m not a fan of yellow and the pink flowers together.

celandine poppy

This poppy, a “pass-along plant” from one of my homeowner’s association’s plant swaps, is a native plant. One of its best attributes (besides the color) is that it will grow in shade. It is the celadine poppy, stylophyorum diphyllum.

Magnolia 'Elizabeth'

Finally, this slightly mangled magnolia is one of my favorites. I grew it from a one gallon plant obtained from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in 1999.

Back in 1999, it was a rare cultivar. Now it’s much more easily obtained. It’s called ‘Elizabeth.’

It was much taller than this until the October Snowstorm of 2011 topped it. Now it’s sort of a “weeping” version. It’s gradually regaining its shape. This was one of the trees I pruned back hard in March, when the snow was still over my boot tops (when I could see what I was doing).

magnolia flower

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