Be Illuminating – Year Round!

Keep Pantone’s Hopeful Color of the Year Lighting Your Way Forward


By Isara Ongwiseth: LA can bloom all year – and often in your favorite color. While our native foliage does have cycles of dormancy, effective design plans for new blooms to join the garden party just as other friends leave.

If your favorite color is yellow, this year is likely to feel particularly sunny to you. Alongside the more stormy Ultimate Gray, the Pantone Institute has named a sunny yellow, Illuminating, as its 2021 Color of the Year.

Here is how to design for an illuminating year, from New Years to New Year’s Eve – and ensure it never, ever bores you.


Bladderpod’s dense silver foliage and yellow blooms embody Pantone’s 2021 bifurcated color of the year choice. While quite on-trend, this beauty is no fad. It illuminates the start of each new year in LA!

Beyond her aesthetic charms, Bladderpod wears her seedpods like a starlet might wear million-dollar chandelier earrings at the Oscars. They are irresistible to our native birds, a perfect way to ensure your backyard is ready for Audubon’s Backyard Birdcounts!

As you may have noticed, we love to pair Bladderpod with Seaside Daisy, as she brings out Daisy’s inner illumination.


In any Illuminating competition the “Queen of the Garden,” Fremontedendron (aka Flannel Bush), will walk away with hearts. Her stature and form provide a hard-to-beat privacy screen. When pruned to serve as a tree, her ample canopy brings cool shade that contrasts with her sunny blooms. As a shrub, she enforces respect for her beauty and your privacy with dense, prickly foliage.

While she gets along with the full queendom of LA native plants, her ability to stop the show often inspires us to give her a little space to shine.


In March, additional rays of illumination rise to meet those brought by Flannel Bush blooms. Seep Monkey Flower will peek from riparian areas, such as vernal pools and bioswales, while Monkey Flower bushes can be found more broadly.

Golden Currant blooms have similar trumpet-like blooms that scale its vine-like foliage. While a bit more bell-like, booming Palo Verde trees also elevate the eye. Another reason to look up? Wherever you see these trumpet and kiss shaped blooms, you’ll also see hummingbirds!
California native Oregon Grape, which changes color as frequently as Sleeping Beauty’s dress, will wear its deepest, darkest green foliage and illuminating firework blooms.

Blue California Lilac and lilac of Cleveland and Pitchers Sages also bloom in March and will make yellow blooms “pop.”


While April may bring showers elsewhere, LA fills with illuminating sunny blooms. A real favorite, Sulphur Buckwheat‘s phosphorescent pom-poms will dance around your ankles.

Coastal Tidy Tips provide a compelling contrast with gray concrete steps, if you have them.

Back from its oh-so-brief rest, Indian Mallow blooms will also appear, although with everything in the garden blooming, you may appreciate their performance as the year winds on.

Perhaps the most illuminating bloom is the one you are more likely to find in the wild than in the garden – Island Bush Poppy blooms appear to catch the light as well as to illuminate.


Our hot, dry summers transform lush, leafy LA into brown-town, particularly in low water years like this one. We combat that tendency with chaparral foliage that turns the heat into illuminating blooms. The sunny blooms of Brittlebush appear all the more illuminating on silver foliage varieties, even when the blooms are spent, and hearty sunflowers spread sunshine through their petals.



Indian Mallow and Brittlebush can be found illuminating gardens as most other blooms fade. While they are solid performers for months at a time, the autumn dormancy of other foliage gives these beauties a chance to light the way into the holidays.



As we close out the year, Bladderpod rejoins us to illuminate our way forward.


More Information

Finding Joy in Ultimate Gray
More Design Tips
LA Times: Pantone Selects Colors of the Year