Its Springtime – Its Yellow Time


Yellow is Easter with baby chicks and fluffy ducklings and Easter is yellow and springtime. It's the colour of gaiety and cheerfulness, whether it's sunny and bright, acid lime-yellow or mellow yellow – at this time of the year, we can't avoid it. The campo is smothered in genistas, cytisus and retamas, so good and resilient that we need to emulate them in our gardens. The lovely two-toned yellow daisy, chrysanthemum coronarium, fills every bit of spare ground and even that invasive little yellow devil the oxalis pes-caprae, or Bermuda buttercup, looks gorgeous when seen in huge swathes under the olive trees – just keep it away from our gardens please! Yellow dominates and seems to wake us up, break us out of the lethargy of grey winter days.

Flower colour is specific to the pollinator: bees love the softer shades like violet, blue, lilac, pink but also yellow. Watch them working your spring yellows with that first hint of sunshine and warmth.

The wattle family (acacias, or mimosas) are in full swing now, their swags of tiny yellow puffball flowers waltzing on the breeze. A. dealbata has had her moment and is now overtaken by a. cianophylla and a. longifolia, the broad-leaved mimosas. The Pride of Bolivia or tipuana tipu spreads its wide shady canopy in preparation for the heat of summer, cascading yellow pea flowers on our heads. And the elegant parkinsonia aculeata is slinky and sinuous with drooping leaflets and racemes of yellow flowers tinged with red.

Coronilla valentina, subsp. glauca or large scorpion vetch is striking with its rich yolk-yellow flowers and burnished blue-grey foliage. It's a tough and tolerant shrub, nicely shaped; a rapid grower that will fill large areas for you easily and without fuss. Full sun and a light soil are all it asks and, if it starts to look a little tired and scrawny, cut it down to the ground to rejuvenate.

Thevetia peruviana, or yellow oleander, is not too well known but it's an elegant and reliable shrub with yellow cup-flowers peeking out from the shiny green leaves. This one will grow quite tall, a good background planting or for screening.
If it's cheap and cheerful bulk you're after, maybe for filling a new garden, go for the daisy family. There are marguerites (more correctly known as argyranthemum frutescens) in various shades of yellow, single and double. Euryops pectinatus, aptly called brighteyes, is another mounding daisy like plant.

Jerusalem sage, phlomis fruticosa, is a favourite of my grand-daughter – she loves stroking the heavily felted grey-green leaves, typically sage looking. It's a native of southern Europe, so ideal for us, and its whorls of honey-yellow flowers tempt the bees. It sprawls a little, so not for very tidy gardeners but great in a natural setting.

There are also plenty of yellow climbers from the dainty yellow jasmine, jasminum mesnyi, with softly scented soft yellow flowers to the bold and extravagant purple-striped cups of gold of solandra maxima, always noticed for its large leaves, new black-tinged stems and those amazing chunky flower buds. Lonicera japonica is the sweetly-scented creamy-yellow honeysuckle so known to us all that we tend to forget about it and, of course, the delightful thornless primrose-yellow rosa banksiae lutea which we've talked about before.

But, if I had to choose a favourite in our yellow category, it would have to be the amazing euphorbias or spurge family. They're very hard to find in Spanish garden centres, but we have some. They're easy, drought tolerant, will grow in stony ground and are happy in sun or part shade. They make large and spreading mounds, somewhat short lived in cooler climes but here these perennials should stay with you for longer. Try mixing their long-lasting acid-yellow bracts with blues or a deep magenta – one to stop you in your tracks! Euphorbia dendroides grows wild around here but I love the big and blowsy euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii. Large clumps can be split and revitalised. Prune after flowering for a flush of young shoots bursting with energy. Go and look at your plant after a rainstorm – the droplets glisten on the steely-coloured waxy leaves for many hours and they're wonderful when iced with frost too. Another great family member is the ground covering euphorbia myrsinites, affectionately known as donkey's tail – its chunky grey-leaved branches look like bead necklaces snaking across the ground. One word of warning here; the milky sap of the euphorbia family can cause skin irritation in some.

Lorraine Cavanagh has lived in Spain for over 22 years; a mother, grandmother and hispanista, her passions are plants, the environment, food and drink, and travelling within Spain. A landscape gardener and writer, she's always happy to give advice. Call and see her at Viveros Florena, near Cómpeta – have free coffee and cake in their tea-rooms. Opening hours Tuesday-Saturday, 10-4

Her book Lorraine Cavanagh's Mediterranean Garden Plants has been nicknamed 'the bible'. The new edition at €24.90 is now generally available throughout Spain.
Tel: 689928201
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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