A couple of years ago I mentioned dipping my toe, a little reluctantly, into the chartreuse pool. It was cold. In terms of horticultural colors, which tend to be loosely interpreted depending on how much the blip writer had to drink, chartreuse ranges from sickly green to migraine yellow. Seldom seen a decade ago, partly because there was not a lot available, partly because gardeners had the good sense not to use what was, it has recently exploded onto retail benches.
And I am coming around. The fact is that this bilious color plays well with others.
I have actually come to like the first chartreuse plant I got, a small hosta called Little Aurora that was sent to me without my permission as a bonus with an order. I tucked it out of the way in a shady border, and every time I poked my head around the corner of the house, there it was, like a spot of sunshine filtering through the canopy. That was nearly two decades ago. It expanded, and every few years I would dig it up, divide it, and plant it in more places. Now that whole border is dappled with hostas.
Additionally I have several in pots. One sits under a garden bench. Hard to believe, but some people overlook the area under benches and chairs as shady planting areas. Other potted hostas brighten a large container array, which is in full sun but they hide in the shadow of larger plants.
For sun or part sun, there are always sedums, and the chartreuse Angelina is everywhere. It suffers from what I call the Palace Purple syndrome. Palace Purple heuchera was a revolution when it was introduced a quarter century ago, and though it has been surpassed by dozens of much better, much more interesting hybrids since, it is Palace Purple you still find on the big box benches. Itís like Ď58 Chevies were so popular that car dealers still put it up front in their showrooms, and people buy it, ignoring the far more advanced cars produced today.
Angelina spreads vigorously but not uncontrollably. To help it spread more rapidly, just pick off sprouts and drop them every few inches. Lemon Ball is a bit finer textured and perhaps a bit less rampant. But my favorite is Ogon, a ground huger, which is supposed to be hardy only to Zone 6 but has survived several of my Zone 5 winters.
Marguerite sweet potato has also been around for a while, often paired with Blackie sweet potato. You might say that chartreuse is the new black if that werenít such a hackneyed phrase. In one specific case, though, chartreuse really is the new black. For many years I had a black hops vine, and then I didnít. I used to try to figure out why healthy plants, fixtures in my garden for a decade or more, suddenly donít come back in spring. Now I just accept fate and get some new plant.
Last summer got a new chartreuse hops plant from Proven Winners, Humulus ĎSummer Shandy.í If you have a blank wall that would look better dressed in a five to ten foot chartreuse vine, thatís for you.
Or maybe itís the new silver. I always get a licorice plant in spring, after throwing out the ones I tried to overwinter, because I love the long silver leafed stems that mix in with other plants in my container garden. Just yesterday I bought my annual annual, but this time I got one called Lemon Licorice. I donít know yet how long the stems will get, but I also picked up a more traditional one, which should fill any gaps. I am not fully committed.
I also bought one of those As-Seen-On-TV Amazing Pocket hoses, mainly to see how it could empty itself from the end held above the closed sillcock (it canít). But it seems to work, and it is chartreuse. Now I have many plants to match it.
Duane Campbell is a nationally known agricultural expert. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.