A Gardening Journal

Good Together: Yellow Ribbon Arborvitae, Alaska Midnight Daylily, Gold-leaved Raspberry

Thuja occidentalis Yellow Ribbon Hemerocallis Alaska Midnight hand 071517 640

 

When colorful plants are near one another, a conversation about color begins. Is the hue of one the same as that of another? Just a bit different? A full-on contrast? A clash? If the plants in question are each just a single color, the chatter can become monotonous. But if even one of the plants is multicolored, the conversation deepens and even sparkles.

 

Take this red-and-yellow daylily, Hemerocallis 'Alaska Midnight'. Its color scheme has a shimmering complexity that keeps at the table a "single topic" companion like the Yellow Ribbon arborvitae.

 

Even at a distance, the red-velvet tips of the daylily petals form a stunning surround for the incendiary yellow cup of their bases. In close-up, the drama becomes truly fiery. What had seemed only deepest red also includes flame-like tongues of burgundy, near-black, rose, and pink.

 

Thuja occidentalis Yellow Ribbon Hemerocallis Alaska Midnight cropped 071517 640

 

In the center, the pistil and stamens emerge like a phoenix amid flames. The bases of the anther-tipped filaments of the stamens (and the pistil's stem, known as a style, which is tipped with its white stigma) are the same molten yellow as that of the petal bases. Partway up, the filaments and style have, seemingly, cooled down enough that their coloring can darken to the same palette of rosy red as the petals.

 

The ripe pollen borne by the anthers reprises the molten yellow; look closely and you can see how loose pollen is spangling not just the filaments, but the surrounding petals.

 

Hemerocallis Alaska Midnight pollen close up 071517 640

 

With such an intense and intimate interplay, the bright yellow foliage of two nearby companions—already brilliant—takes on an entirely new level of excitement: You're already looking so intently at the Alaska Midnight flower that you carry your hi-res gaze over to its neighbors.

 

Below, the typically feathery fanspray foliage of an Eastern arborvitae, here in a bright-yellow cultivar Thuja occidentalis 'Yellow Ribbon'. The newest growth is the brightest.

 

Thuja occidentalis Yellow Ribbon hand 072517 640

 

Look again and you see that the tips of the youngest segments are blushed with orange. The transition, segment to segment from orange to yellow to yellow-green to green, happens in only millimeters. If you hadn't been focusing so tightly on the glittering pollen of the nearby Alaska Midnight daylily, would you have noticed these details just inches away?

 

Thuja occidentalis Yellow Ribbon hand closer 072517 640

 

The Yellow Ribbon arborvitae is the backdrop to the Alaska Midnight flower. The conifer is semi-dwarf, to about ten feet if growing free-range, so it will always be within range of the Alaska Midnight. I've increased the degree of long-term intimacy by training this Yellow Ribbon (and the other three that, with it, form a quartet at the corners of the intersection of two pathways) into "trunkal" spirals. By "trunkal," I mean that each tree's trunk is being trained into a spiral, not just the feathery yellow cylinder of foliage around it. Overall growth, then, could be just inches a year; trunkal spirals are for the patient, the long-lived, and the optimistic.

 

With low-to-the-ground arborvitae foliage thus ensured forever—or at least for my lifetime—a third member of this yellow-and-red party will also never be out of range: gold-leaved European raspberry. Stems of Rubus idaeus 'Aureus' rarely exceed two feet, so this wide-ranging subshrub can mingle with both the daylily and the spiral arborvitae without endangering either.

 

Thuja occidentalis Yellow Ribbon Hemerocallis Alaska Midnight Rubus idaeus Aureus B 071517 cropped 640

 

The raspberry's newest growth is the brightest; some years I manage to cut all the previous year's slender canes to the ground so that only the brightest-leaved new ones are displayed. Not this year but, as luck would have it, the canes nearest the Alaska Midnight are first-year. Thanks to the close-range viewing that the Alaska Midnight demands, you can also see that the chrome-yellow raspberry foliage is veined in green.

 

Rubus idaeus Aureus Thuja occidentalis Yellow Ribbon 072517 640

 

And that this ornamental raspberry's young canes are blushed—fittingly—with creamy raspberry.

 

Rubus idaeus Aureus 072517 cropped 640

 

And that the little prickles are the same burgundy-to-black shades as the Alaska Midnight petals.

 

Rubus idaeus Aureus 072517 raspberry prickles 640

 

In the garden as in life itself, great design is a matter of detail. When plants are seen in groups, any individual whose multi-colored detailing is evident at a glance can be the window onto details of its neighbors that may only be evident—as here—upon sustained and even magnified inspection. Great things both invite and reward that focused gaze.

 

 

Here's how to grow daylilies, plus a look at one of the unusual sky-high daylily cultivars, Notify Ground Crew.

 

Here's how to grow Yellow Ribbon arborvitae as a "trunkal" spiral, plus a link to growing this exceptional conifer in general, whether spiraled or free-range.

 

Here's how to grow gold-leaved European raspberry.

 

 
 
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