Two of the three plants on my most-disliked list are pink and yellow combinations. The first was a nasty spirea we saw in the UK several years ago. It was clearly a recent release as it was everywhere – a murky pink flower with yellow foliage. The second was a variegated oleander spotted in Spain, sporting the same colour combination but the foliage was a yellow variegation which may add yet another layer to the colour crime. The third is Rhododendron ‘President Roosevelt’ which also sports similarly freakish, variegated yellow foliage but it is more red-toned than murky pink. We are not fans of variegated foliage here, as a general rule.
In that magical garden that Beth Chatto has created, I did notice on our last visit that she quite often combined pink and yellow in combinations that would worry me in my own garden. So when I saw a bright campanulata cherry in full bloom at Auckland Botanic Gardens last week with a strong yellow kowhai planted in front, my reaction was to do a double-take. It is just not a colour combination that pleases me. As an aside, I did notice that the feeding tui much preferred the campanulata to the kowhai – which is to say that there were none in the kowhai but a whole mob coming and going in the campanulata. I take this as proof that tui lack political correctness and fail to appreciate that they are letting the side down by preferring the import to the native plant.Because I was already thinking about that pink and yellow combo, the plantings at Eden Gardens immediately grabbed my attention. And there, the pink and yellow pleased me and I am sure that is because they were pastel and the pinks were clean hues. It is the combination of either cerise pinks, purplish pinks or muted Paris pink with bright yellow that worries me most, I decided. It is not that it should be avoided at all costs (unless it is yellow variegated foliage with murky pink flowers!), but that it fails more often than it works. A pale yellow is much easier to combine. Bright golden yellow needs more care – unless it is a narcissus. Vibrant orange needs even more caution.
It was Peak Tulip at Eden Gardens. I have planted some tulips this year, but nothing on the scale of Eden. It is the inner conservationist conservative in me. My instincts are too frugal to be willing to buy in fresh bulbs each year, treating them like annuals to be discarded after blooming. I don’t even plant annuals. I expect my tulips to earn their keep and return each year, gently multiplying. This is, apparently, too optimistic for tulips, although I planted them deep in the soil with hope. I enquired at Eden Gardens and was told they start again with fresh bulbs each season which is why they were so showy. Away from pink and yellow, the colour-toned planting beneath Magnolia Felix Jury as one enters the garden was restrained and impeccable though it lacked the zing that can be achieved with more adventurous colour combinations.