Black bat flower, Tacca chantrieri
In painting, black is the deepest hue, achieved by bringing any color to its darkest value. Black gives structure to a composition, creating the illusion of depth by drawing the eye. And in the garden, black (or almost black) flowers attract attention, too, while creating dramatic contrast with other colors. I often incorporate these elegant plants into my designs just to pump up the volume.
LIFE ON THE DARK SIDE
Or course, by black I mean more of a deep purple or bluish-black since growers have yet to cultivate a pure black flower. These days, you can find dark hues in foliage as well as flowers. Depending on the garden size, I’ll create drifts of same variety dark-leaved or flowered plants for impact, using repeated groupings to draw the eye. Black plants bring sophistication to every composition, while providing a restful spot amidst all the other textures and colors.
Here are ten of my favorite plants with almost-black flowers and/or purple-black foliage.
Hellebore ‘Onyx Odyssey’
When it comes to flowers, one of my favorites is ‘Onyx Odyssey’. Part of the Winter Jewels collection, It blooms in late winter and is one of the first dark-hued flowers to emerge in my garden. The almost black petals with bright yellow centers are sheer drama silhouetted against the dark green leaves.
Hellebore ‘Onyx Odyssey’
Tulipa ‘Black Hero’
Tulips were perhaps the first species to really explore the darkest of colors. One of my favorites is the tulip ‘Black Hero,’ a double version of the tulip ‘Queen of the Night.’ This late bloomer has peony-like blooms and is considered one of the blackest of tulips.
Tulipa ‘Black Hero’ available at gardenexpress.com
This tall bearded iris is almost completely jet black, with only a hint of purple in its velvety petals. It’s available through one of my favorite iris suppliers, Schreiners Gardens.
Hybrid Tea Rose ‘Black Baccara’
Okay, so it’s not entirely black, but the hybrid tea rose ‘Black Baccara‘ with deep burgundy-black petals certainly adds drama to the garden. Velvety blooms emit a slight nutty fragrance.
Hybrid tea rose ‘Black Baccara’
Hemerocallis ‘Derrick Cane’
One of the darkest near-black varieties, this hemerocallis features 5″ flowers on tall stems. It blooms in midseason and again in the fall.
Hemerocallis ‘Derrick Cane’ available through Oakes Daylilies
Petunia ‘Black Cat’
Petunia ‘Black Cat’ via Burpee.com
Pansy ‘Black Prince’
One of my very first encounters with a ‘black’ flower occurred in our neighbor’s garden when I was very young. I can still remember reaching down to stroke the velvety petals of the deep purple pansies that lined his garden pathway. This creamy black pansy is sure to spice things up in cool-season containers or in front of your garden border.
Pansy ‘Black Prince’
PLANTS WITH BLACK FOLIAGE
When it comes to color, don’t overlook foliage, which plays a vital role in the garden while flowers bloom and fade. One of the best examples of an almost-black plant (whose cultivars keep getting darker), is Heuchera, or Coral Bells. Just when I think I’ve found one that is the deepest, most delicious, purply black, another even richer variety is introduced.
Heuchera x ‘Obsidian’ has a glassy finish, just like obsidian. But it is closer to black than most other heucheras. The rounded, smooth leaves are so smooth they appear polished, while even the undersides of the leaves maintain a deep purple hue. This ‘black’ plant grows best in partial shade.
Heuchera x ‘Obsidian’
Elderberry (Sambucus Nigra) ‘Black Lace’
My own elderberry bush grows on the side of my house and produces soft pink, umbrella-shaped flowers in early summer. But I love it most for its fine-cut, deep purple black foliage that adds dimension to my garden. In the fall, elderberry produces blackish-red fruits that can be harvested to make wine and jam.
Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’ via Missouri Botanical Garden
Sweet Potato Vine ‘Blackie’
Not quite ready to take the plunge? Try easy-care Sweet Potato Vine ‘Blackie’ in your summer containers. Its deep purple-black foliage provides contrast with bright colored flowers and adds a foundation to the arrangement.
Sweet potato vine ‘Blackie’
Black Bat Flower
So what about that Black Bat Flower? A member of the yam family, Tacca chantrieri‘s unusual dark purple to black flowers are bat shaped and have long whiskers that grow up to 28 inches in length. The plant is native to Southeast Asia, where it can bloom up to eight times per season. The one below currently resides at the U.S. Botanic Garden.
Black Bat Flower, Tacca chantrieri
To see photos of my garden designs, including plant lists, check out my Instagram at carole.herebydesign. I post seasonally from spring through fall.