The song “Home, Home on the Range” has a line: “The skies are not cloudy all day”. It epitomizes what we think is the weather in the West. Seems to me that the person who wrote those lyrics must have lived in northern Ohio at one time. Right now, the skies are cloudy all day. It’s downright depressing but hope is on the way. We will soon have a President who does not lie to us several times a day and, hopefully, by the end of summer, everyone who wants to be vaccinated against Covid-19 should be.

Meanwhile, Pantone has declared two Colors of the Year for 2021. Thank goodness one of them is a bright and cheerful yellow called Illuminating. It definitely makes me see the sun and makes me smile. The other color is Ultimate Gray, just exactly what I see as I look out the window. Pantone can keep that one.

As with any color, there are many shades, in this case from pale to lemon to clear to golden. It is relatively easy to use several shades of one color, thus creating a monochromatic but very interesting color scheme. Keep in mind that the shades have differing undertones. If you look at paint chip strips, they go from light to dark. Looking at the darker ones is the best way to determine the undertones.

Example of using a pale yellow or a golden yellow with pale pink.

Difficulty arises when you want to use a yellow with other colors. For instance, yellow with pink. These two colors are almost across the color wheel from each other, thus complementary. A pale yellow like that of Digitalis grandiflora (ambigua) ‘Carillon’ would softly complement a pale pink like Oenothera berlandieri ‘Siskiyou Pink’ but a golden yellow like Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ would overwhelm it.

Different shades of yellow and pink that complement each other.

Illuminating, the Pantone 2021 color, is a vibrant yellow. I think it is best epitomized by Corydalis lutea, one of my favorite perennials for its delicacy and long bloom. Tulipa bakeri ‘Lilac Wonder’ is a lovely combination of pale pink petals with a golden yellow heart. Bulbs should be an integral part of a garden and I keep replanting this one (it needs really good drainage to perennialize) with the Corydalis and Arabis caucasica ‘Compinkie’ for some color echo.

I’ve used taller and stronger pinks and yellows in this combination.

Golden yellows are very strong so they really need a strong pink that will compete. Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’ is almost golden yellow but the strength of color is subtly muted by the fact that its petals are quilled. Put it behind rosy pink Cleome, add the thick golden beige inflorescence of Panicum amarum ‘Dewey Blue’, and you have a winning combination.

In April, we still have lots of cloudy days but the chartreuse yellow of Euphorbia polychroma and the magenta pink of this Arabis brighten the garden immeasurably.

Chartreuse yellows are also very strong and benefit from being paired with a strong pink like Arabis caucasica ‘Compinkie’.

Yellow foliage like that of Heucherella ‘Stoplight’ will brighten the garden any time of year.

Although we usually think of yellow-flowered perennials, don’t forget about yellow-foliaged perennials such as Heucherella ‘Stoplight’. Even though it’s on a south facing slope, I’ve planted it on the north side of a hardy Hibiscus to keep the foliage shaded from afternoon sun. Sometimes we plan and sometimes we benefit from serendipity. I have a pink Aquilegia vulgaris elsewhere in the garden that self-seeds prolifically and, lo and behold, it decided to befriend my Heucherella. This is another instance of color echo, with the Aquilegia picking up the maroon veins of the Heucherella.

So, think yellow to add cheer to your garden.