South­land

When it comes to yel­low, my wife and I are at op­po­site ends of the spec­trum. I love yel­low in the gar­den; flow­ers in par­tic­u­lar, but fruits too.

NZ Gardener - - Contents -

The real rea­son Robert Guy­ton loves yel­low in the gar­den.

But not so much with Robyn. She has an aver­sion to the colour; espe­cially the vivid ex­pres­sion found in the likes of the for­sythia or kowhai¯ flow­ers that abound here dur­ing the spring­time.

She has that re­ac­tion to the bright yel­lows be­cause of two things: gorse and the yel­low no-pass­ing lines on roads.

As a girl, wee Robyn suf­fered greatly from car sick­ness – an un­for­tu­nate af­flic­tion for a child in a fam­ily with a fa­ther who loved cars, loved driv­ing and loved tak­ing his fam­ily on hol­i­days to

far-off places that could only be reached along wind­ing roads.

Ev­ery time the poor wee lass felt her stom­ach churn and her head spin, her mother would tell her to “look out of the win­dow”, which she did – straight at, that’s right, hills cov­ered in flow­er­ing gorse, or the aged but­ter-yel­low cen­tre line of the road.

So the flow­ers of the or­na­men­tal brooms I love to grow don’t ex­cite her, nor do those of evening prim­rose or dan­de­lion. Red hot pok­ers, espe­cially the va­ri­ety ‘Sun­ning­dale Yel­low’, don’t win her ap­proval ei­ther, but I love them and tuck them into places I think (and hope) she won’t visit, at flow­er­ing time at least.

For a long time, I won­dered if my lik­ing for bright yel­low flow­ers was some per­verse test of our de­vo­tion to each other, that if we could live with op­pos­ing views about one of the pri­mary colours, we’d be able to weather life’s other storms.

But one day it oc­curred to me that, while Robyn’s aver­sion to yel­low seemed odd to me, there must be a rea­son why I like it so much. Other peo­ple I’d spo­ken to about this didn’t have the same feel­ings to­ward the colour as I did and it dawned on me that colour blind­ness was the prob­lem – mine, not any­body else’s.

I have the com­mon red/green colour con­fu­sion which many males ex­hibit, mean­ing I can’t take a lot of plea­sure from flow­ers, fruits and leaves that may or may not be the colour I be­lieve them to be, and in fact, change from one to the other as the day pro­gresses and light lev­els rise and fall!

Yel­low, to me, is al­ways yel­low and re­li­ably easy to see.

The ap­par­ently beau­ti­ful flow­ers of the ‘Sir Robert Peel’ rhodo­den­dron that tow­ers over my drive­way are com­pletely in­vis­i­ble to me, even at the height of the tree’s flow­er­ing. The only way I know it’s in full and glo­ri­ous bloom is from the sound of the bees, mainly bum­ble, vis­it­ing the cerise throats. Or pink throats. Or some colour… I just don’t know un­less I ask.

This frus­trat­ing state of af­fairs has led to my favour­ing the bla­tantly ob­vi­ous yel­low end of the spec­trum and I’ve planted accordingly. Poor Robyn.

So I’ve sown moth and woolly mullein wher­ever there’s a sunny spot in my gar­den.

I’ve OK-ed my daugh­ter Hol­lie’s pas­sion for plant­ing sun­flow­ers, en masse, be­side the path to the hen­house. I tried to es­tab­lish a bank of yel­low-flow­er­ing dahlias right in the mid­dle of my for­est gar­den, to mimic a sun­lit clear­ing, but that was a step too far and too bright, and pressure from my sen­si­tive wife meant that was a tem­po­rary plant­ing only.

In any case, the yel­low flag irises that I was given many years ago, re­garded by many as a pest plant and thereby arous­ing my in­ter­est im­me­di­ately, have spread, not alarm­ingly, but pleas­ingly, around the base of sev­eral of the more un­usual trees in my for­est gar­den: the saska­toon berry Ame­lanchier al­ni­fo­lia, the blue-pod­ded De­cais­nea far­ge­sii and the dog­wood I’ve al­ways thought to be Chi­nese, but may in fact be Cor­nus

florida, with its tiny flow­ers and bright or­ange edi­ble fruits. All are set off charm­ingly by the drifts of yel­low iris flow­ers that briefly light up the un­der­storey around Christ­mas time.

There are clumps of gold­en­rod (sol­idago) out there as well along with king’s cup or marsh marigold ( Caltha

palus­tris) and lady’s man­tle ( Al­chemilla mol­lis) with her gen­tle but still-yel­low flow­ers, so I’m not go­ing with­out.

I’m in­tend­ing to plant cro­cos­mia with flow­ers in my favourite colour and read that the va­ri­ety I’m most likely to adore is ‘Paul’s Best Yel­low’.

White seems to be com­mon ground for Robyn and me.

We both en­joy blooms that have no colour and by very good for­tune, most, but not all, of the blos­som on our hun­dreds of ap­ple trees are white. There’s pink in there too, I know, and other sub­tle blushes of colour, but white dom­i­nates, as it does on the plum and pear trees.

Blos­som time is the best time for the pair of us to walk hand in hand through the or­chards, as there’s no colour fric­tion or need to steer part­ners away from contentious flowerbeds.

Ap­ple blos­som sea­son is prob­a­bly a good time to take a trip in the car as well, I’d have thought.

Ap­ple tree blos­soms.

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