The color that's made a comeback at this year's Chelsea Flower Show
Yellow flowers have had a bad rep in the past, but their prevalence at Chelsea suggests a resurgence
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'I hate yellow flowers' is a phrase heard countless times. But to be honest, I wonder if some gardeners disapprove simply 'because'. It's been rather in vogue to outcast the hue, to banish its buttery demeanor from borders – yet some of the loveliest of blooms come in this color. Take the primrose that harks the start of spring, or the jolly daffodil. And then there's the late-summer sunflower, radiating joy from its lofty heights. Personally, I've never understood the problem.
I was pleased, then, to notice more and more yellow plants as I made my way around this year's Chelsea Flower Show. With the color's notoriously bad rep, the trend was surprising.
True, in some cases, yellow was presented with a subtle nod rather than a screaming celebration. But it was definitely noticeable enough to wonder – has the snobbery towards the sunshine shade finally ceased?
The Stitchers' Garden (opens in new tab) was perhaps the design that embraced yellow flowers the most. Designed by Frederic Whyte, it featured a tapestry of lemony lupins, aquilegias, and roses. Ornamental grasses woven throughout the display also had an ochre hue. These plants offset pink peonies and white alliums beautifully, resulting in a pastel palette that felt refreshing, calming, and surprisingly chic.
Meanwhile, more yellow could be seen in Sarah Eberle (opens in new tab)'s impressive show garden in the form of irises and meadow buttercups, which punctuated layers of lush green foliage. Yellow also made an appearance in the hot garden color scheme of the New Blue Peter Garden (opens in new tab) with the likes of verbascum, alstroemerias, more lupins, and a yellowy-leaved heuchera.
And in some designs, yellow was used alongside purple flowers – the opposite shade on the color wheel. A Textile Garden for Fashion Revolution (opens in new tab), for instance, showcased purple alliums and irises next to acid-yellow yarrow, while in the Boodles Travel Garden (opens in new tab), yellow candelabra primulas zinged next to opulent purple irises.
Although not so obvious in terms of planting (apart from a few pots of yellow flowers and a variegated mint), it was impossible to ignore the prevalence of yellow in William Murray's balcony garden (opens in new tab), too. Featuring an array of easy-grow edibles, the design certainly celebrated the color in terms of the furniture and a painted stripe on the concrete floor.
'I love yellow,' William says, describing it as an active-energy, 'doing' color. His design was intended as a space for doing things – for hands-on gardening – so using yellow throughout was a good way to enhance this idea. Plus, alongside black and white, it created a playful yet sophisticated aesthetic that's ideal for modern urban living.
Using yellow in your garden
If you are tempted to try the Chelsea Flower Show trend in your own flower bed ideas, Marcus Eyles, Horticultural Director of Dobbies (opens in new tab), shares his suggestions for the best results.
He explains how positioning yellow plants too close to one another creates a sense of competition in that some will take on a 'dirty' appearance. The way to get around this, he continues, is to use green as a background – to 'carpet' the scheme and cut through different yellow tones so that 'they're not immediately close, but working alongside each other.'
Marcus also suggests layering up yellow plants across different levels and sections. For instance, the Dobbies trade stand at Chelsea featured low-growing yellow alpines in the paving, geums as a medium-height plant, and then taller things, like cannas and citrus trees with lemons. This drew the eye around the space and created a sense of balance.
So, former yellow-flower haters, whether you have a small city garden or a larger plot, perhaps now is the time to give them another chance. You may be surprised by the results – after all, couldn't we all do with a little more sunshine in our lives?
The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion.
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