Evergreen shrub with bright yellow flowers
The name may not be familiar, but the plant is: Lacy gray-green leaves on shrubby 4- to 6-feet multiple stems are radiant with daisylike flowers--in the winter, when we really need them. The flowers have short (about 6-inch) thin stalks and don't last long in bouquets, but they last a very long time in the garden.
Dependable color isn't the only attraction in this heroic but unsung shrub: Euryops, planted in full sun with good drainage and nurtured through its first season, needs little if any watering. With minor pruning every summer, euryops will stay bushy and healthy with generous, dependable flowering. Like any flowering plant, though, euryops' blooms should be removed when they start to wither. This will take longer than you can imagine, but if the task is neglected entirely, euryops will still bloom profusely, just not as profusely.
Euryops' foliage is even prettier than the flowers, and I have often added a branch to winter arrangements for the sheer beauty of the leaves. These leaves are often borne near the ends of the rather stark stems, so careful placement is needed so the branch won't crumple any tender flowers. In the landscape, these bare stems can look awkward and rangy, but if the plant is kept pruned the stems shouldn't be so obvious. And if pruning doesn't work, plant something low and bushy in front of euryops: Basket of Gold alyssum (Aurinia saxatilis) would echo the leaf and flower colors but in different textures.
There is a bright-green version called Euryops pectinatus Viridis, but to my eyes the intense green leaves combined with the uncompromising yellow flowers are the visual equivalent of fingernails on a blackboard.
Unlike many of the plants often featured in this column, euryops is easy to find; I can't remember ever being in a general-purpose nursery that didn't have one or both versions. (Surprisingly, euryops is rarely mentioned in gardening books; maybe this South Africa native is too "West Coast.") Available in one-, two- and five-gallon containers, euryops will provide instant, colorful landscaping and demand very little attention in the process.