Written By: Jocelyn Bonesteel
Every year since 2000, the Pantone Color Institute chooses a Color of the Year. A committee reviews upcoming trends, current issues and views, and tracks the upswing of certain colors to make their decision, often choosing a color that reflects broader issues on a global scale. This year, they have chosen not just one color, but two: ILLUMINATING and ULTIMATE GRAY. (This is the second time the committee has chosen two colors, with the only other time being 2016 with Rose Quartz and Serenity.) As in 2016, the mood provoked with two colors is one of support, a blending of two tones and a coming together that is needed in our world.
ILLUMINATING, a ‘bright and cheerful yellow sparkling with vivacity’, welcomes us into the sunlight of 2021 and out of the heavy clouds of 2020. It is sunshine; it is hope; it is the light beckoning us to walk forward out of the gloom. Conversely, ULTIMATE GRAY is ‘solid and dependable’, ‘provid[ing] a firm foundation’ to move forward to. With this combination, the colors of the year show strength and a hope that 2021 is going to get brighter.
While the Pantone Color of the Year (CotY) should never dictate what you have to do, it is a good indicator of where upcoming trends will be heading. Fashion, interior design, and marketing and advertising are all areas
that rely heavily on the CotY to set their trends. The CotY can also help gardeners stay on trend and may even give you a newfound appreciation for a once looked-over color.
The gorgeous yellow of ILLUMINATING is found in many popular plants, both in leaf color and bloom. ULTIMATE GRAY, however, is best found in hardgoods: woods, pots, patio furniture, etc. Its grounding elements add a richness and depth to a landscape with a layer of ILLUMINATING yellow floating over top. While a sunshiny yellow provides happiness, cheer, optimism, grey evokes a quiet resilience and strength, and the combination is an aspirational contentment knowing we are moving onwards and upwards.
This color combination stands alone well enough but can be tailored to every unique garden with the addition of another color or two. Catapult it into electric city with a bright orange or coral or add to the spa-like serenity with a lavender or medium green. A range of pink shades provides a sliding scale from muted color to bold empowerment, and white brings a classic elegance.
Some of our favorite plants are offered in ILLUMINATION yellow, as well as some new additions. Annuals like Petunias, Calibrachoa, Bidens, and Portulaca provide a trailer; Pansies, Marigolds, Lantana, and Osteospermum are great fillers; Sunflowers, Gerbera Daisies, Canna Lilies, and Dahlias are cheery thrillers. Perennials like Coreopsis, Daylilies, Coneflowers, False Indigo, Yarrow, Rudbeckia, and Sedums bring joy in returning sunshine, and shrubs and trees like Butterflies Magnolia, Roses, Gold Mop Cypress, and Golden Carpet Juniper provide a more structured form to showcase their bright hues.
Don’t forget about early spring color: it not only pulls us out of 2020’s funk but the annual winter woe each year. Perennial bulbs like Daffodils, Crocus, and even Allium are the epitome of spring joy, as well as forsythia. A contrast with Forsythia, Red Buds feature purple flowers in the spring, but vibrant yellow leaves come fall. River Birch and our state tree the Tulip Tree also offer fall yellows, while Yellow-Twig Dogwood, Golden Weeping Willow, Ginkgo, Sunburst Honeylocust, and other golden-leaved or -twigged cultivars offer ILLUMINATION yellow all season.
Wood structures help bring in ULTIMATE GRAY through decks, pergolas, fencing, and even custom planters. While the chipped look of driftwood is out, the color tone pulled from a well-worn piece of wood is very in, and ULTIMATE GRAY is exactly that. Textured and smooth pots boast the same tone of strength and resilience, taking this once farm-house chic color into more modern or classic times. If hardscaping isn’t the desire, Dusty Miller, Licorice, Curry Plant, and Dichondra mix well with the afore-mentioned annuals, while Lavender, Artemisia, Snow-in-Summer, and Dark Knight Caryopteris anchor perennials beds.
Yellow and gray are often seen in a gender-neutral baby nursery; the combination of ILLUMINATION and ULTIMATE GRAY will definitely be seen throughout gardens, design, pop culture and retail, including our own nursery. 2021 will follow the trend of being more grounded in nature, and the best place to do so is our own backyards. With color pairings fit for anyone’s garden, stop by the Garden Center at any one of our locations or shop online to find the winning duo!