A reader recently asked me the following question about blue and yellow evergreens:“For the past few years I have purchased dozens of flats of annuals and perennials for a blue and yellow theme (salvia, yellow zinnia, coreopsis, black eye susan, purple wave petunia). My yard is lovely in July, but pretty drab looking in winter. What evergreen shrubs could I plant that would give me the same blue and yellow color theme? I’ve seen blue juniper, blue fescue, and gold leaf spirea and cypress. My idea is to have low growing yellows in front, with medium height blue color evergreens as the next layer, then my existing evergreen shrubs as the background… Any other suggestions for this evergreen color theme?”
The evergreens mentioned are definitely a blue silver color. The perennials and annuals you mentioned (Salvia & purple wave petunia) have flowers that are more purple than blue.
Unless you have the Saliva ‘Victoria Blue’ which is one of the real “blue” flowers commonly seen.
Why Blue Flowers are Rare
On a side tangent**, the color blue is uncommon in flowers for a reason. Bees are attracted to yellow, so there are a lot of flowers with yellow pigment in them.
Hummingbirds are attracted to red pigment (bees can’t see red).
If you are a flower, and you want to have sex, and hey what flower does not want that? You will choose a color for your flowers that contain yellow or red pigments such as yellow, red, orange or purple so you can attract a pollinator.
Blue and Yellow Can Look OK Together
I bring this up because evergreen blue foliage does not really go with the yellow gold colored evergreens that are available. Blue and Yellow are not next to each other on the color wheel. When colors that are next to each other are used it is considered an analogous color scheme, like purple, magenta and red are.
Neither are they across the color wheel from each other (a complimentary color scheme, like purple and yellow).
Blue and Orange
During the Spring and Summer, there are plenty of orange flowers we can use next to our blue evergreens. In the Fall we can even put some tree or shrub with orange fall color near them.
During the winter, we really don’t have orange foliage evergreens to choose from to mix with our blue evergreens.
Probably the closest we have is the dried tan/copper colored dried leaves of some plants. This includes the Beeches (Fagus) whose foliage start orange/brown in fall and slowly fade to a light apricot by the end of winter. Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) is a shrub that has similar apricot colored dried leaves hanging onto the plant through winter.
Since the question actually was what are some blue and yellow evergreens for a winter color scheme, lets get to that.
How to mix Blue and Yellow evergreens
Depending upon the exact colors of your blue and yellow evergreens, You might want to put something between them to keep them from clashing. Here are a few ideas:
- Separate them with space. If you have to move your eyes or your head when looking at each plant, they won’t clash.
- Separate them with good old Green foliage plants. I know how boring is that.Who wants a Green plant these days? See my post on Green leaf Japanese Maples for more info.
- Separate the blue and yellow colored evergreens with purple leaf plants. Blue and Purple are analogous colors and look good together. Purple and Yellow are complimentary colors and also look good together. Purple is a natural transition color.
- Don’t forget there are other things in your landscape that can be blue or yellow. Pavement, ornaments, benches, etc. can all bring an analogous or complementary color color to your garden.
Some good non-green evergreens to add to your garden
- PJM rhododendron. (Rhododendron ‘PJM’) – It actually has green leaf in the summer, but they turn a dark purple in the winter.
- Oregon Grape Holly (Mahonia aquifolium)
- Japanese pieris (Pieris japonica)
- Scarletta leucothe (Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Scarletta’) – Really more Scarlet red than purple, but pretty close
- Golden glow Korean fir (Abies koreana ‘Golden Glow’) – Needs protection from winter and hot afternoon sun
- Golden Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Aurea’) – If you plant this, you will notice it in your yard!
- Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Confucius’ – Everything I said about the one above, but more so
- Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Fernspray Gold’ – Bright lime green yellow will burn in hot climates
- Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Lemon Twist’
- Juniperus conferta ‘All Gold’
- Juniperus horizontalis ‘Gold Strike’
- Juniperus horizontalis ‘Mother Lode’
- Juniperus x-pfitzeriana ‘Golden Joy’
- Candicans white fir (Abies concolor ‘Candicans’) – A silvery blue that has nice soft needles
- Abies procera ‘Glauca’ (Prostrate Form)
- Blue Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica) ‘Glauca’ – I love the looks of these trees, however they are only hardy to zone 6
- Boulevard cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Boulevard’) – This silvery blue evergreen is readily available
- Curly Tops cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Curly Tops’)
- Golden mop cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Golden Mop’) – Extremely common for good reason
- Blue Star juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’)
- Blue Creeper® Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum ‘Monam’) – Holds it’s winter color better than some of the other blue ground cover junipers
- Skylands Spruce (Picea orientalis ‘Skylands’) – These can be an amazing specimen
- Picea orientalis ‘Tom Thumb’
- Picea pungens ‘Bonny Blue’
- Fat Albert Blue Colorado Spruce (Picea pungens ‘Fat Albert’)
- Picea pungens ‘Globosa’– The only blue spruce I have in my yard, mainly because it is one of the smallest that is commonly available. A little blue mound.
- Picea pungens ‘Hoopsii’ – An old standby blue spruce
- Picea pungens ‘Kosteri’ – A unique form of the common blue spruce
- Picea pungens ‘Lundeby’s Dwarf’ – A dwarf mounding form that may be a better choice for foundation plantings than Globosa.
- Montgomery blue Colorado spruce (Picea pungens ‘Montgomery’) – These get bigger than you think when you buy them.
- Weeping blue Colorado spruce (Picea pungens ‘Pendula’) – This is like a blue form of the getting more common every year weeping Norway spruce.
- Picea pungens ‘Procumbens‘ – This a spreading groundcover form, I bet you never thought a blue spruce could look like this
- Picea pungens ‘St. Mary’s Broom’ – This is another globe/groundcover form that stays lower than Globosa or Montgomery
**PS Please excuse me as this is one of the 1st completely new posts I have written since I suffered a concussion a while back. Thankfully, I had a stock pile of posts written before my accident. They are all gone now, so you can expect lots of side tangents that go nowhere, jokes I forget to tell the punchline to and other odd things my unpaid proofreader (my wife, Jenny or my cat, Bob, whoever is in the room) miss. Hopefully the frequency of these will go down over the coming months.