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Good as gold

Sandy Ballou, 6, of Grass Valley checks out the first forsythia of the spring, a good specimen for "turning on the sunshine." The bush is typically pruned to chest height.
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It’s funny the way colors affect different people.

When my wife Felicia and I visited Monet’s famed garden at Giverny, France, several years ago, we were touring the house and entered a dining room right off the kitchen painted entirely in bright sunburst yellow. Ceiling, walls, furniture … all yellow.



“Wow!” I said.




“Yucck!” she said.

Suffice it to say that our dining room will never be painted golden yellow, but there are flowering plants in the garden that we both appreciate and that fully satisfy my yen for yellow.

Daffodils, of course, are a wonderful spring treat, and the sight of them in our garden or along the downtown freeway is a signal that cold weather is behind us.

And what could be simpler to grow? You dig a hole, insert the bulb in late fall or early winter, replace the soil and simply wait for the color show. The variety of flower sizes and shapes (and even color combinations) is amazing.

If you’re not a “gardener” in the true sense, plant some of these and maybe you’ll get hooked by the hobby. In addition, gophers don’t like the taste of these bulbs.

Technically, the bulbs we commonly refer to as “daffodils” are truly “narcissus,” but the common name (particularly for the large-flowered varieties) has become so imbued that even botanists have come to accept the misnomer.

Another specimen that “turns on the sunshine” here is forsythia. I’ve often seen them pruned back about chest high, and one such plant growing in a yard along Highway 49 in Auburn sort of looks like a yellow shaving brush sticking up out of the ground.

Ours is allowed to do what nature intended, and its long branches loop into the air like golden fireworks, particularly in the early morning. Frankly, I’m surprised that more people haven’t got them in their gardens. Perhaps if they had fragrance to match that splendor, they’d be a hotter item among landscapers.

Native to Korea and China, forsythia is perfectly suited to our climate and soils. Sunset’s Western Garden Book recommends they be pruned after blooming, cutting out a third of the branches that have flowered and getting rid of dead or old wood.

I’ve never done that, and the plant looks splendid through most of the year, showing bare branches in midwinter.

Incidentally, you and I commonly pronounce the name incorrectly. We say, “for-sith-ee-a” and since it was named in honor of a botanist named Forsythe, it should really be pronounced, “for-SCYTHE-ee-a.” (Say it that way to impress your garden club.)

When daffodils and forsythia shed their colorful blossoms, a giant for yellow-lovers is the daylily, which almost no one calls by its true botanical name: Hemerocallis.

As offered in testimony by the Sunset Western Garden Book, it is the kind of plant that can create new gardening enthusiasts: “Few plants are tougher, more persistent or more trouble free. Daylilies adapt to almost any kind of soil. You can set out bare-root plants at any time during the growing season. Spring and summer are better in cold winter zones.”

Of course there are a lot more daylily colors than yellow to select from. Visit local nurseries or drive down to Plymouth and see the four acre demonstration garden at the Amador Flower Farm, 22001 Shenandoah School Road.

Dick Tracy is an award-winning garden writer and photographer, Master Gardener and former president of the Foothills Horticulture Society. You can write him in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.


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