Black plants in the garden

February 3, 2013 lawanda Newspaper Columns

Several years ago a fellow Master Gardener asked the group for information on black flowers because she wanted to make a black garden. I was a bit worried about her state of mind, but also intrigued because I had never seen a black flower.
This year’s seed catalogs offer a plethora of black flowers, so the idea of black gardens must be catching on. A black flower garden with pops of silver, white or red could be quite dramatic.
Here are some of the black offerings I found in this year’s seed catalogs.
Jung offers ‘Black Velvet’ petunias. Like all petunias, they grow well in containers and hanging baskets and do best in full sun. They grow to a height of 8-12”.
Also from Jung is ‘Black Coral’ elephant ears. These large-leaved, tropical looking plants thrive in moist soil in full sun, but will do fine in lower light situations. They need a big pot and can be used for privacy screening or at the edge of pond or even submerged in shallow water at the pond’s edge.
‘Odessa’ is a black calla lily from Jung. It has glossy black flowers with a blue sheen. The 5-6” flowers top 18-24”stems. One bulb produces enough stems to fill an 8” pot. Calla lilies can be planted in the ground but are not winter hardy so bulbs must be dug up and stored indoors in a cool, dark spot over the winter. They do best with bright morning sun but appreciate late afternoon shade. Bulbs should be planted 4-6” deep, 1-2’ apart.
Jung’s final black-flowered offering is a double hellebore called ‘Onyx Odyssey’ featuring blooms up to 3” across. These perennial plants grow in clumps to 18” tall and 25” wide. Hellebores are some of the earliest flowers to bloom in spring, possibly even before the snow melts. They prefer well-drained soil in dappled shade.
Johnny’s Selected Seeds offers ‘Black Knight’ scabiosa with “almost black” blooms. Scabiosa is sometimes called pincushion flower. It is normally a perennial plant, but ‘Black Knight’ is not winter hardy and is considered an annual. Plants grow 24-36” tall and prefer full sun. Because they grow so tall so quickly, they may need staking. Seeds can be started indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost or outdoors after the last frost. Scabiosas make good cut flowers.
Johnny’s presents several black and very dark purple vegetables that could be mixed among the black flower garden to provide utility along with beauty. Some of their offerings include ‘Purple Passion’ asparagus; ‘Royal Burgundy,’ ‘Amethyst’ and ‘Velour’ bush beans; ‘Red Noodle’ pole beans; eight different dark purple to black eggplant varieties; several varieties of greens and lettuces that are such dark red as to be almost black; ‘Indigo Rose’ cocktail-sized tomatoes; and two purple basils that are very close to black.
Gardens Alive offers black fruits: blackberry, black raspberry, jostaberry and huckleberry.
Whether you are a flower gardener, a food gardener, or you like to mix it up, there are plenty of black flowers, fruits and veggies from which to choose.

FlowersFruits and vegetableslandscaping

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