Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Dark Side of Gardening: Black Flowers and Foliage

Although black is in no danger of becoming the new green in garden design, black flowers and foliage hold a perennial fascination for gardeners worldwide. Of course, true black doesn't really exist in the plant world. So-called black plants are typically Just such a dark purple that they appear black in all but brightest light. Still, they are rare and sought after for their beauty and novelty.

Just as black works with most anything in your wardrobe, black combines with colors in the garden to add drama and elegance. Here you see the contrast between black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens') and the ground cover, Baby's tears (Soleirolia soleirolii).

Sweet Potato vine 'Blackie', an annual, works well in containers and as an edging for perennial borders.

Black hollyhocks offer a dramatic twist on a classic, old-fashioned flower. Plant them at the back of the border for mid-summer display. Let them go to seed and you will have more of them to enjoy in years to come.

Speaking of drama, just look at these leaves! This striking, purple-black, leaf veination belongs to a Rex begonia, a good choice to brighten up a shady area.

Plant lovers are always on the lookout for new varieties of unusual plants. A new introduction in the black plant category is Ceanothus 'Tuxedo', which was discovered by Pat Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald Nurseries in Ireland. For more photos and information about this plant in a northwest garden, here's this post from Westsound Gardener.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Daylilies are called daylilies because each flower is said to last only a day. Although the flowers look like true lilies (Lillium sp.), daylilies are in the Hemerocallis family. If you have trouble telling them apart, simply look at the stems and leaves.
Daylilies have long, strap-like leaves, with flowers borne on long, leafless stems. True lilies are bulbs with a single long stem. True lilies have leaves along the stem.

Daylilies come in many colors and sizes and are among the hardiest of perennials. They aren't terribly fussy about soil, but, of course, will do best in beds with good drainage that have been amended with organic material. Water during dry spells.

In the northwest, plant or divide daylilies in early spring or fall. Clumps will spread over time and for best bloom should be divided every few years.

Most daylilies bloom late spring early to mid-summer for a period of days to a few weeks depending on weather. A few will bloom throughout summer, such as this charming yellow, dwarf variety called 'Stella d'Oro.'

For more information on daylilies, take a look at Diana Grenfell's book "Daylilies," part of the Gardeners Guide series.