True blue, rare in flowers, is easily obtainable in bog sage

Jimmy Williams

If there is anyone out there who reads this column, you know it is nothing new for me to dwell on the valuable garden color, bright yellow, and when tinged with green, chartreuse. 

Most plants with leafage of other than green lose some of their color in hot weather (now, for instance) on up until fall coloration sometimes rescues them and allows for a graceful dying out at the close of the growing season. 

Even the once lively pale green coloration of spring on most trees loses out to a darker and more somber green as summer advances. This heaviness of summer green continues until the mentioned autumn color comes along to relieve the feel just before winter sets in. 

Three plants I am going to mention today have excellent yellow to chartreuse leafage that doesn’t fade all summer and two of them segue into brilliant autumn coloration before going dormant for winter. 

First is the coral bark Japanese maple, with the moniker in Japanese of ‘Sango-kaku.’ This is a medium size tree that can be nestled into a fairly constricted space. It will mature at some 20 feet tall by 12 feet wide or so, with those dimensions exceeding that measure in better soil. The tree will succeed in less than excellent soil and prefers a bit of shade in afternoon.

The common name indicates the coral color of the bark, mostly in newer wood of one or two years old. In some cases it rivals the bark on some of the shrub dogwoods that are grown for colored bark. 

A coral bark maple set in reasonable soil and religiously watered will grow apace, allowing an annual or semi-annual pruning of its branches to produce the best bark color. Too heavy pruning, however, is not advised, lest it weaken the plant. The leaves sprout in spring with a definite yellow to chartreuse coloration, and keep a lot of that through the summer.

Some five years or so ago I set out another Japanese maple, ‘Summer Gold,’ which, as the name implies, keeps its sunshine yellow color all season long before turning into bright fall colors. This tree will grow to maybe 15 feet, another handy specimen that will fit into congested places. Ours is in a rock garden right at our back deck and patio, where its sure enough gold (the color of real gold, not a darker yellow) leaves brighten up the area for months. It makes into a nice upright tree and is now some 8 feet or more tall by 6 feet wide. Fall color is darker yellow to orange.

My third feature today is a shrub, ‘Chardonnay Pearls’ deutzia. This is not your grandmother’s lanky, tall deutzia with white flowers that “graced” many a front garden in years past. This one grows to some three feet wide by three tall. Deciduous, or course, and nothing to look at in winter, but leafing out in spring with the brightest and sprightliest yellow imaginable. The yellow holds right on through the season. Fall color is pretty nil.

However, the bonus is the appearance in spring, along with the leaves, of little white flower buds that are lined along the branches like sure enough white pearls. With the yellow foliage, it makes a pretty, though understated picture. The pearls are followed by white flowers some half-inch in diameter in great plenty. 


Bag worms are on the prowl, so caution against them. Many insecticides will kill the caterpillars, which weave bits of needles or leaves into the well recognized cocoons. They attack mostly conifers, but sometimes other herbaceous shrubs and trees and can kill healthy specimens in short order if not sprayed at once. 

Three nice ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitaes in front of First Presbyterian Church are among recent victims of bag worms.


JIMMY WILLIAMS is the garden writer for The Post-Intelligencer, where he can be contacted on Monday mornings at 642-1162.

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