Color in the Garden-GBDW Part One

Nan Ondra over at Gardening Gone Wild has come up with the best Garden Blogger’s Designer Workshop (GBDW) theme yet, color in the garden. She even linked my series of Blue in the Garden. Thanks, Nan! You would think from the three posts that were done on that topic that blue would be my color of choice. But not only have I already covered that exhaustively, it is not the color I am drawn to when plant shopping. If there is the word black in the name, or the suggestion of black or the leaves or flowers tend towards black, it’s in the basket or cart to go to the checkout, online or in person. It has been said that the only plant that is truly the shade of coal is the black mondo grass, Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’. Even with the sun backlighting the leaves, it is black. The other plants listed and shown in this series of posts are really dark red, or dark purple, not jet. Shown above, tulipa ‘Queen of the Night’.
There may be included in the set some non- plant items, just thrown in to show that the preference for black does not end in the garden. After this cheese basket was made, it was spray painted black. It highlighted the geometry of the weave when hung on a wall. Normally baskets are not painted, it dries them out, so kiddies don’t try this at home!

Early on in this reincarnation of Faire Garden, before the perennials had a chance to fill in the spaces, lots of coleus, solenostemon scutellariodes, were planted. This one, Inky Fingers, excelled in space filling. Cuttings were taken but alas, it has been dropped from the list of annuals saved over in the sunroom/greenhouse. It needs to be reintroduced.

One of several shrubs still growing here that were ordered from Heronswood with Dan Hinkley still at the helm, this aronia prunifolia ‘Viking’, is starting to bear its blackish fruit. In fall the leaves turn a brilliant wine red.

New last year from nearby Champion Daylilies in Knoxville,hemerocallis ‘ Bela Lugosi’, was added to the just begun Black Garden area, renamed from the lavender field. The flower does the namesake proud. One of my favorite movies, “Ed Wood “, shows a poignant side to the horror film actor.

Purple smoke tree, cotinus coggygria, has enchanting airy blooms, but even coppiced the leaf color casts a spell when the sun can shine through the leaves. This bed is now covered with the addition to the house joining it with the garage. The tree has been moved to the top of the hill behind the bench that anchors the knot garden. We are hoping for some great things with that siting.

Purple perilla, P. frutescens, would cover the entire property if allowed. The volunteer seedlings are nondiscriminatory about sun, shade, wet or dry. One of its favorite seedbeds is the gravel paths. Easily pulled up, some are always left to grow for interest as the path is traversed.

Not usually on the list of ‘black’roses, this climber,rosa’ Cadenza’, has smoky overtoneson the flowers. Purchased once again from the Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham, Texas, this was planted in our garden north of Houston, dug up and made the move to Tennessee in 2000. It has been moved yet again when this spot became too shady as the birch trees grew taller. Now in full sun, many more blossoms should delight us with their dazzling color.

Without some contrasting foliage nearby, the black mondo grass nearly disappears into the landscape.

The mossy clay pot planted with lavendula ‘Provence’ is encircled with the spreading mondo. We are hoping for the grass to fill in between the step stones of the path and the boxwood hedge surrounding the knot garden. It is getting there.

Advertised as the black bearded iris, ‘Superstition’ is not really all that black, but the name is great. The contrast of dark petals with the gray green leaves makes this a beauty for any color scheme.

Of course no story about black would be complete without my black babydoll, Hazel. She is giving me the cold shoulder here, not liking the camera flash. Doesn’t she look at home on the black background of the oriental carpet, though?
More black in the garden posts to follow. Stay tuned!

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21 Responses to Color in the Garden-GBDW Part One

  1. Mr. McGregor's Daughter says:

    As you point out, finding the right contrast for black plants is the key; otherwise they make a “black hole” in the border. I love all your blacks & dark purples – they’re so rich & velvety. BTW – “Ed Wood” is 1 of my favorite movies also, but have you ever seen the Ed Wood movie with Bela Lugosi “in” it: “Glenn or Glenda?”? It’s absolutely hysterical in an unintentional way. “Pull de String! Pull de String!”

  2. Frances says:

    MMD…Glenn or Glenda? I’ll check it out, thanks. More to come on Black in the Garden.

  3. beckie says:

    I love the Bela Lugosi lily! I have one about that color, but can’ remember the name. I plan to keep better records this year as I expland my lily garden. The “black” in gardens is an interesting idea!

  4. Frances says:

    beckie…thanks and welcome. It is hard to keep up with the daylily names. I have a chart, but when one is moved, as often happens, there is a lot of scratching out and scribbling in the margins to keep it straight. One of these years, permament markers will be added.

  5. Pam/Digging says:

    Frances, black was not a color I expected to see right off the bat for GBDW. Great choice though, different! I’ve had a number of black plants over the years, but they were all dead.

  6. Yolanda Elizabet says:

    Black is back! Like you, I love black in the garden. You do need to offset black(ish) flowers or leaves or they do indeed disappear into the background. Have you discovered those gorgeous black pansies yet? They are very close to true black.

    Love that gorgeous Iris of yours, such a wonderful colour eventhough it’s not black. That Purple perilla is also to die for, unfortunately I haven’t seen it in the shops (plants or seeds) over here yet.

    I love it that you bought that beautiful black oriental carpet to colour coordinate with Hazel. Now that shows true dedication to and appreciation of all things feline!

  7. Frances says:

    Pam…thanks. I had already done blue and am in the beginning stages of the black garden. Yesterday the latest issue of Fine Gardening arrived and they had a bit on black plants too!

    Yolanda…The black carpet was needed to help hide the staggering amounts of black hair that Hazel adds to the decor! ;->

  8. jodi says:

    Lovely deep rich colours, Frances! I have quite a few deep-coloured plants, both with flowers and foliage, around here too; usualy I plant something luminously coloured nearby to set them off, like plants with gold foliage. I’m going to be posting about my chocolate-and-wine garden shortly.

  9. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Frances you have the best collection of plants. I like dark colors too. A friend of mine gave me a dark, almost black, iris from her garden and when it bloomed in my garden it was dark purple. Very disapponting. I wonder if the soil caused the color change or what??

    Hazel is really your prettiest black. Maybe if you tell her I said this she will let you take her picture. 🙂

  10. nina says:

    The purple flowers add a nice touch to all the garden green–good colors to pair.
    Your garden is very pretty–especially on a cold winter’s day!

  11. Frances says:

    jodi…can’t wait to see your chocolate and golden garden, sounds luscious.

    Lisa…It was suprising how many black plants are here. And those were just the ones that had photos. There are many more in the works, planted anew last fall as bulbs or not photo available. This year the photos will be more organized and purposeful.

    nina…welcome. We call it black but purple is more truthful. Thanks for visiting.

  12. Frances says:

    Lisa…I forgot to say first of all, Hazel says thank you very much. The iris is really a dark purple, not really black. Different photos look more black than others, but on a sunny day, purple it is.

  13. brokenbeat says:

    my theory has always been that black compliments every color. it’s a shame that most people shy away from it because of the negative or doleful tag that it carries. that couldn’t be more wrong. the residents of casa brokenbeat almost purchased a chocolate cosmos plant, which even claims to smell of sweets, but decided not to seeing as we’ve already spent our quota for this season. maybe later.

  14. Frances says:

    brokenbeat…thanks. I have tried the choclate cosmos and failed. It may not be for our climate, but was very pretty. Keep visiting for black in the garden, parts, two three and

  15. Kylee says:

    I really MUST get more black for the gardens! I love what you’ve presented in these posts!

    And Hazel…looks like a twin sister to our Boo, long hair and all.

  16. Frances says:

    Kylee…thanks. I hope your Boo gives you as much pleasure as we get from Hazel, although she is a bit standoffish, she likes to be nearby, sitting on the arm of the recliner as I type.

  17. Piondröm says:

    I like your taste of color on you plants.
    Darkred and purpleblack in flowers are nice.
    We bouth what we can get over whith purple leafs here in Sweden.
    It makes a deeper imprestion in the garden when the leafs are in different color, it´s not only about trees and bushies, perenials are important to.
    Our favorits in bushies or small trees whith purple leafs are Sambucus and Accer.
    You seams to have a beautiful garden, here I´l be back and see more of this.

  18. Frances says:

    Ken…Welcome and thanks so much for visiting and commenting. Do return and I’ll try and provide something that interests you.

  19. Frances, I have jusr started going through all your archives from the beginning. I also had a black garden at my last house, about 10 years ago. It was actually a black and white garden, with touches of silver as I found that that intensfied the black. Have you tried iris chrysographes? If am sure there is a lot more choice in black plants now, I really had to hunt in 1998.
    I am really enjoying all your posts.

    Thanks Deborah. I appreciate your going backwards in time and find that many visitors are looking for specific topics and view the old stories. Nice to know there is an audience for such things. I have looked at those iris, but already have Superstition and Black Gamecock. Maybe one of these days…..

  20. Jenny B says:

    I think Hazel must be camera shy…or she just wanted to show off that lustrous coat! What a pretty kitty! I love your black/purple plant passion–it’s very dramatic.

    Hi Jenny, thanks for visiting. Hazel is shy, but sweet. I am attracted to the dark side of gardening it seems, having added a Black Garden since this post was written.

  21. easygardener says:

    ‘Nigrescens’ and Kitty – both excellent examples! Apart from black berries on my Sarcococca shrubs ‘Nigrescens’ is the only truly black plant I have. I wonder why there are not more?

    Hi EG, thanks. I can’t answer your question, but love the use of black or nearly black leaves and flowers in the garden. Since this post was written, we have added a Black Garden with that theme. Also plants with black in the name which usually are not black at all, like the Lilium ‘Black Beauty’. 🙂

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