"It's all yellow" by Bryanna Sweeney

17 June 2020

“It's all yellow”

By Bryanna Sweeney

“How lovely yellow is! It stands for the sun.”

Vincent Van Gogh, Dutch Post-Impressionist painter, 1853-1890


The colour yellow lies between orange and green and is a popular choice for flowers symbolising joy and friendship. Easter arrangements often call for yellow carnations, lilies and chrysanthemums and a single yellow rose exchanged between friends is a simple way to say that you are thinking of them. The year begins with daffodils, primroses, and buttercups and by summer we can observe a vibrant mixture of vibrant and mellow tones in the laburnum tree, sweet garden roses, chamomile and sunflowers. All exhibiting their unique colours, from deep goldens to pale pastels. Creating an all-yellow design will show off the endless palette available to Mother Nature. 


Yellow also represents jealousy and illness. It is the go-to colour for smiley faces and warning signs, the latter for good reason as the eye processes yellow first, possibly to signal caution. These days wherever you go, yellow posters greet you on every shop window and door to remind you of our obligation to physically distance ourselves for the sake of one another. 


The Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh was so fond of the colour yellow that it dominated his artwork like Still Life: Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers, 1888 and The Starry Night (1889) during what is known as Van Gogh's 'yellow period.' While being treated for epilepsy in his later years, Van Gogh consumed an extract from foxglove which can cause the user’s vision to have a yellow tinge, although many accept that the Post-Impressionist loved working with this pigment.


For some people, the colour yellow can be a horrific sight. The fear of the colour yellow is known as Xanthophobia. Yellows that are clustered together carelessly without thought like custard, mustard, fluorescent yellow and eggnog hues are jarring and offensive to the eye. Nature achieves balance and never disappoints when it comes to getting colour right. Blue, purple, orange and red all work fabulously with yellow flowers. I love a splash of gold in my garden and so below are three of my favourite flowers in yellow this year:


1. The Yellow Flag Iris: A wildflower found in clusters of two or three near the watery banks of rivers and lakes where it flourishes in moist conditions. Flowering stems can have up to a dozen flowers, the sepal delicately unfurling exposing the thin brown veins. A handful of these will last a week in a tall jug or a thin vase in a cool room. Each flower head lasts for two days before receding, allowing the next head to open. Parts of the yellow flag iris were used as a herbal remedy.


2. The Laburnum Tree: A pleasant follow-up to April's Cherry Blossom. Also known as the golden chain tree, its yellow pendulous flowers appear from late May to early June hanging from the canopy to the base creating a majestic display in any garden big or small. The pea-flower petals are abundant, however, they are short-lived and only stick around for about three to four weeks. All parts of this tree are poisonous so caution around pets and people is advised. 



3. The Sunflower: Eloquently known as Helianthus, the bright yellow oval leaves and dark core remind me of my first attempts at growing plants from seed. Waiting all summer for my sunflower to grow a modest half-metre high while my friend’s flower grew as tall as a bus and its centre thick with seeds which he later gave to me for further attempts. Later in life, I discovered the Teddy Bear Sunflower. Its delicate petals resemble a cuddly cotton bear that appears to expand until you have a flowerhead the size of a fist. Arrange an odd number of these tall stalks in a large vase or grow them against the garden wall for an intense burst of golden yellow.


What are your favourite coloured flowers? What do you see in your garden?