Black Goes With Everything

Black Iris
Iris ‘Black Suited’

Black is Beautiful

There has been an explosion of black flowers and foliage in the past couple of years in the gardening world.  It started out as a trickle and now is a tsunami of everything black! When I go to the nursery and look at new cultivars of annuals, perennials, and shrubs – all shades of black are represented.

A black foliaged smoke tree sets off the white Alliums

Bat Orchid

The Bat OrchidTacca chantieri  is one of my favorites but needs to be grown in a greenhouse. An exotic plant with flowers that mimic a bat in flight, deep purple to black, with ruffled wings and long, hanging filaments, the flowers last for weeks. Large, attractive leaves surround the bloom.

Bat Orchid has dangling whiskers
Bat Orchid has dangling whiskers

‘Black Magic’ Hollyhocks

These blue-black, tall, stately plants look good in any garden. They should be planted at the back of borders to give a beautiful classic garden look. They flower mid to late summer.

Hollyhocks display nicely against stone walls
Hollyhocks display nicely against stone walls

 

Black Magic Hollyhock
Black Magic Hollyhock

You have to know how to use black for the best effect. I like to place black flowers or foliage next to very bright intense colors, such as hot pink or lime green to get the biggest impact. The black color gives the eye a rest when you pair it with bright vibrant colors. If you place black plants next to darker hued plants, it just doesn’t work and the black color fades in the background. So use black carefully and site it with some thought.

Anvil of Darkness Iris

'Anvil of Darkness' Iris
‘Anvil of Darkness’ Iris

The bearded black Iris’s are particularly showy with the velvety falls of  black draped against the foliage.

Black and White Iris
Iris ‘Full Figure’

How to Use Black Well

Black plants can also echo other plants that have black stems, black venation or black undertones. I find that if you have a boring or blah border/container, black instantaneously ramps up the visual interest. It can become a focal point if you have a particularly beautiful black plant and enhances nearby plants.

Black in a container makes it stand out
The black foliage of ‘Purple Knight’ Alternanthera picks up the black venation of the petunias

There are all different hues and variations on black and sometimes the amount of sunlight a plant receives will affect the coloration. Also, juvenile foliage will generally be a darker, more intense, shade. In the plant trade describing many of the black plants, you hear adjectives such as chocolate, deep burgundy, midnight, dark purple, or coffee.

The black foliage of the Canna makes it stand out
The black foliage of the Canna makes it stand out and picks up the venation of the larger leaf

Jack in the Pulpits

Arisaema sikokanum with chocolate coloration

The Japanese Cobra Lily, Arisaema sikokanum, is an elegant cousin to our native Jack In The Pulpit. The spadix is a pure marshmallow white which gives the flower such great contrast.  It looks like a flower all decked out in black tie ready for a party. And the scarlet berries make this expensive plant worth the money for their multi-season interest.

An unfurling Jack in the Pulpit
An unfurling Jack in the Pulpit

Petunias

Black petunias don’t seem natural. But I really like their velvety texture and tones and the Black Phantom one is a stunner and has real ‘wow’ impact .  Many black flowers are black wannabees because they are more a dark purple, but the black petunias are closest to the true black color.

‘Black Phantom’ petunia

black Petunias
Black Petunia playing off of the black Phormium

Black Elephant Ears
Black Elephant Ears

 

Chocolate Ajuga used in a container

Black Sempervivum ‘Dark Beauty’
Black Parrot Tulip
Black Parrot Tulip
Black Hellebore
Black Hellebore
There are even black tomatoes
There are even black tomatoes

Orange is the New Black

Collage of oranges seen in Portland, Oregon at the Garden Bloggers Fling
Collage of oranges seen in Portland, Oregon at the Garden Bloggers Fling

Orange is the new black in flower colors. If you like black flowers and there are plenty, look at my post, ‘50  Shades of Black’.

Nearly black clematis
Nearly black clematis

Bright and bold orange flowers  are being used more and more in gardens and hybridizers are churning out new varieties of orange flowers all the time.  A few things to remember about using  orange flowers is that they appear closer than they really are, making them easy to see at a distance, and orange can also make a small garden seem larger.

Orange draws your eye
Orange draws your eye

I love this new trend of bright orange as I was getting tired of the typical perennial border in hues of pink, blue, and lavender. Orange amps up the color impact and opens the possibilities of creating some beautiful new color combos.

Magic Yellow flame Mimulus
Magic Yellow flame Mimulus

The sizzling effect of the different hues of the color orange was brought home to me on my recent trip to Portland, Oregon.

mosaic
The color orange really pops in this mosaic at Floramagoria in Portland, Oregon

Orange was front and center and it inspired me to plant more orange flowers and orange foliage plants like this peachy colored Heuchera called Peach Flambe.

Orange and peach Heucheras are a dime a dozen

 

Orange is a color with a very wide range of hues from peach and apricot, to copper and ochre.

Rudbeckia Joy Creek Select
Rudbeckia Joy Creek Select

According to Pantone, the global authority on color,  orange expresses energy and vibrancy. Tangerine Tango was the color of the year in 2012, so maybe the trend has taken a while to catch up with the plant world. But every time I turn around, it seems like a new variety of flower that hits the market is bright orange with names like these Echinaceas –  Flame Thrower, Hot Papaya, Mama Mia, Tangerine Dream, and Tiki Torch.

Orange Echinacea
Orange Echinacea ‘Tiki Torch’
Orange Abutilon
Orange Abutilon ‘Bartley Schwartz’

 Not only flowers are turning up orange, accessories are turning up the heat with eye-popping color.

Orange accessories seen at J J De Sousa's garden in Portland
Orange accessories seen at J J De Sousa’s garden in Portland

Garish and striking with flaming orange shades, or subtle peachy shades paired with creams, olives, and greys, orange is a color that many designers fear and avoid. The picture below has greys and olive-green intermixed to enhance and soften the color impact. Using an orange urn was a brave choice and it worked beautifully with the right shades!

 

Orange urn with orange Kangaroo Paw at the Kuzma garden in Portland
Orange urn with orange Kangaroo Paw at the Kuzma garden in Portland

How to Use Orange for Best Effect

Here are a few pointers for designers who are hesitant to jump into the orange maelstrom.

  • To bring out the best in both bold and pale oranges, blend them with their color wheel complement blue. Fiery orange flowers paired with blue or lavender will make your border sizzle.

Orange and blue colors complement each other
Orange Nasturtium and blue Hydrangea colors complement each other

  • Orange is in its element in sunny, bright exposures. Choose hot orange flowers for hot sunny climates and softer peaches and apricots for regions that are a bit cooler and experience cool, cloudy weather. Soft yellow goes great with a soft peachy orange.

    An pastel orange color for a cooler, shadier exposure
    A pastel orange colored Begonia for a cooler, shadier exposure
  • Because orange enhances appetite and promotes sociability(according to color studies), plant plenty of orange-flowering plants near outdoor eating areas.

  •   Incorporate orange into your garden by using orange terra-cotta pots, copper accessories, bamboo, metal art, and orangey brick accents.

    Orange really pops on this mosaic seen at Floramagoria in Portland, Oregon
    Close up of orange element in mosaic

    orange gate
    Orange carrot gate at J J De Sousa’s garden

Colored bamboo for accents
Orange bamboo at Floramagoria in Portland
  • Include plants that bear orange fruits: pyracantha, sea buckthorn, and bittersweet, as well as some roses and hollies.

    Orange berries on Mountain Ash with creamy flowers of Yucca
    Orange berries of Mountain Ash with creamy Yucca flowers

    Bright orange can make a statement. Use it carefully!

    Bright orange gnome in garden

     

50 Shades of Black

‘Black Coffee’ Begonia

Black is Beautiful

For my updated post on black flowers, check out Black Goes With Everything.

There has been an explosion of black flowers and foliage in the past couple of years in the gardening world.  It started out as a trickle and now is a tsunami of everything black! When I go to the nursery and look at new cultivars of annuals, perennials, and shrubs, all shades of black predominates.

But you have to know how to use black for the best effect. I like to place black flowers or foliage next to very bright intense colors, such as hot pink or lime green to get the biggest impact. The black color gives the eye a rest when you pair it with bright vibrant colors. If you place black plants next to darker hued plants, it just doesn’t work and the black color fades in the background. So use black carefully and site it with some thought.

Black Pearl Plant

Black plants can also echo other plants that have black stems, black venation or black undertones. I find that if you have a boring or blah border, black instantaneously ramps up the visual interest. It can become a focal point if you have a particularly beautiful black plant. I like this Alternanthera ‘Black Night’ in a container with large glossy leaves that echoes the black spiller which is a trailing Alternanthera.

Unknown black plant with alternanthera spiller and black petunia

There are all different hues and variations on black and sometimes the amount of sunlight a plant receives will affect the coloration. Also, juvenile foliage will generally be a darker, more intense, shade. In the plant trade describing many of the black plants, you hear adjectives such as chocolate, deep burgundy, midnight, or coffee.

DSCN1282

Jack in the Pulpits

Arisaema sikokanum with chocolate coloration

The Japanese Cobra Lily, Arisaema sikokanum, is an elegant cousin to our native Jack in the Pulpit. The spadix is a pure marshmallow white which gives the flower such great contrast.  It looks like a flower all decked out in black tie ready for a party! Tres chic! And the scarlet berries make this expensive plant worth the money.

English: Jack-in-the-pulpit seed berries
English: Jack-in-the-pulpit seed berries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A Jack-in-the-pulpit in the Allegheny National...
A Jack-in-the-pulpit in the Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In feng shui, which is used frequently in landscape design, black is the color of mystery and sophistication. Black is the negation of color but next to any other color, it will make the color black stand out.

Black phantom petunia

Petunias

I love the new black petunias! The colors are novel and I tried them for the first time last year. The profusion of flowers faded by the end of the summer and I am watching to see if they do any better this year.  Even if they don’t perform as well as other petunias, I will probably continue to grow them because of the wow factor. I think the black petunias are closest to the true black color.

Sweetunia Black Satin

Elderberry

Black Lace Elderberry, Sambucas nigra, is one of those plants that you can grow not only for the feathery graceful foliage, but also the near black coloration.  The foliage is similar to a cut leaf maple but with dark hues for added drama. To complete the picture, umbels of pink-hued flowers appear in the summer followed by berries snatched up by wildlife. Elderberry is a cut-back shrub, like a butterfly bush, and will grow at least 6 feet during the growing season.

Sambucus nigra, Elderberry

 

Cannas

Planting a black Canna into a container
Planting a black Canna into a container

 

For instant drama, in a perennial border, pop in the dark, dark Cannas like Canna ‘Australia’, with a midnight burgundy coloration that holds up all summer long.  Topping off the plant at around 5 to 6 feet high are shocking fire engine red flowers that hummingbirds will visit frequently.

The black foliage of the Canna makes it stand out
The black foliage of the Canna makes it stand out

Containers

The same benefits of using black plants in your borders hold true for containers. Use them with contrasting colors to let the other colors pop.

Container with black Agave
Chocolate Ajuga used in a container
The black center of this African Daisy adds drama
The black center of this African Daisy adds drama

Sweet Potato Vine

I am sure everyone who does containers is familiar with the Sweet Potato Vine.  This annual trailing vine up to 15 feet long is becoming ubiquitous in containers.  I like to pop it into the garden to twine around shrubs and perennials.  It is especially effective in newly planted gardens with lots of blank spaces to fill. The vine grows quickly – sometimes too quickly! – and then dies with the first frost. Then you can dig up the huge sweet potato that forms underground and save it to plant for next year. This black Sweet Potato Vine is called ‘Illusion Midnight Lace’. There is   another one called ‘Ace of Spades’.

‘Midnight Illusion’ Lace Sweet Potato Vine
Black Sweet Potato Vine with Pineapple plant, Eucomis

Succulents

Black has reached the plant world in every plant group and succulents are really big now so why not black succulents? I love them, but they can be quite prickly and hard to work with.

Black Agave
Black Sempervivum ‘Dark Beauty’

Heucheras

No discussion of black plants is complete without mentioning Heucheras or Coral Bells.  There must be thousands of varieties of these by now –  the plant hybridizers are going crazy with them! I like the black one called ‘Frosted Violet’. This one has dark black venation that makes the leaves stand out. ‘Black Out’ is another Heuchera that I am dying to try. There are too many Heucheras and not enough time.

Heuchera ‘Frosted Violet’
Heuchera 'Blackout'
Heuchera ‘Blackout’