Life

Gardening: The best black plants to add drama to your garden

Iris chrysographes

BLACK is not a colour naturally associated with vibrant gardens, yet it can add drama to any outdoor space, setting off lighter colours and creating silhouettes and shadows. Here are our back to black tips:

BULBS

Good candidates include the really deep-blue hyacinths such as Hyacinth 'Midnight Mystic', a black-flowering type that flowers in April. It's heavily scented too, so leave it near your patio doors or windows so you can inhale the perfume in spring. There's also H. 'Dark Dimension', a deep blue variety that darkens to almost black.

Other dramatic flowers include almost-black tulips such as Tulipa 'Queen of Night', a deep velvety type that contrasts well with acid-yellow and warm orange wallflowers, and Tulipa 'Paul Scherer', which combines beautifully with white varieties including 'Tres Chic'.

Among the darket of irises is the Iris chrysographes, that produces dramatic flowers in May and June.

PERENNIALS

For an eye-catching late spring and early summer flower, the Aquilegia 'Black Barlow' forms a low growing fern-like, grey-green mound with distinctive, pom-pom dark plum-purple, almost black flowers which develop in early spring and summer.

Winter colour can also be gained from the Lenten rose Helleborus 'Double Black' or Helleborus 'Queen of the Night', a fleshy leaved evergreen with spectacular deep purple to nearly black, that flowers from December to April.

SHOWY GRASSES

Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' (black mondo) is a dramatic grass that grows to 20cm forming thick tufts of strap-shaped leathery black leaves 20-30cm in length. It produces racemes of small purplish flowers in summer followed by glossy black berries.

Pennisetum 'Purple Majesty' is another wonderful grass with showy purple leaves and fabulous black flowers in July.

FOLIAGE AND STEMS

Black foliage provides an amazing contrast to flowers and other lighter foliage, and you could start with the wonderful heuchera, which comes in a huge range of colours, from acid green to almost black.

If you want something taller and have plenty of room, black bamboo, Phyllostachys nigra, may fit the bill.

FAVOURITE SHRUB

The black deciduous shrub Sambucus nigra 'Eva' (also known as 'Black Lace') has dramatic deeply dissected purplish-black foliage from spring to autumn, and bears pale-pink blooms from from May to June and blackish-red berries in autumn. Plant it in full sun for the best effect.

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