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 stand out, placing other colors in dramatic contrast. I often incorporate a few of these elegant plants into my plans just to pump up the volume.
By black, of course, I mean more of a deep purple or bluish-black. These days, you can find these hues in foliage as well as flowers. I use drifts of same variety dark-hued plants for impact, repeating the groupings to create continuity in the garden. Black plants bring sophistication to my compositions, while providing a restful spot amidst all the other textures and colors.
Here are ten of my favorite plants with almost-black flowers and purply-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. Available through one of my favorite iris suppliers, Schreiners Gardens.
Hybrid Tea ‘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″ blooms on tall stems. Blooms in midseason and re-blooms in the fall.
Hemerocallis ‘Derrick Cane’ available through Oakes Daylilies
Petunia ‘Black Cat’
While in recent years, you can find many petunia varieties that are purple or bluish-black, this new variety available through Burpee, claims to be the world’s first truly black petunia.
Petunia ‘Black Cat’ via Burpee.com
Pansy ‘Black Prince’
One of my very first encounters with a deep-toned 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 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 forget 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 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. Best color when grown 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’
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.
Black Bat Flower, Tacca chantrieri