OK, they are not exactly black, but they are beautiful! Whether you fancy deep purple, wine red or rich chocolate, dark flowers and foliage can transform tired borders. We round up some of the most delectable dark delights to try
Best Black Flowers
There’s something alluring about dark plants. Flowers that smoulder in shades of midnight navy, damson black and velvet crimson; sultry black and maroon foliage – woven in amongst other plants, both will give gardens an instant lift, creating a mood that is both stylish and modern.
The secret lies in being sparing: only a few splashes of witches’ purple and deep claret are needed – too many and the tone becomes morbid. If you already have dark plants, such as a yew tree or a leylandii, go easy; otherwise your garden could start to resemble a graveyard.
However in the average summer border, where bright colours tend to dominate, the addition of a few dark flowers such as chocolate cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus) and port-coloured hollyhock (Alcea rosea ‘Nigra’) will have a stunning effect.
Dark tones act as great foils for other colours. They contrast with paler shades (pastel pinks and lavender blues) and fiery tones (such as orange and red). Their dark colouring breaks up the monotony of a lighter planting scheme, acting as punctuation marks.
Many dark beauties can go in the ground now. Bearded irises (such as ‘Ghost Train’) can be planted in sun-baked borders, and the moisture-loving black Iris chrysographes can be added to bog gardens for late spring flowers.
Plants that inject winter interest can also be planted, like black-stemmed bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra) and dogwood (Cornus alba) ‘Kesselringii’, which has beetroot black stems in cold months.
Likewise, if you fancy some dark hellebores, this month is a good time to plant them.
Others will need you to be a little more patient. Wait until late autumn to plant the almost-black tulip ‘Queen of Night’ and the dangerously dark climbing rose ‘Souvenir du Docteur Jamain’.
Hold off until April to sow seed of mulberry-coloured ‘Claret’ sunflowers and nasturtium ‘Black Velvet’, or to plant Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ and Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’ – a must for their seductive burgundy-plum leaves.
The results will be well worth it. Just a few dark flowers or foliage plants are all it takes to totally transform a garden, giving borders a contemporary boost that will make them sizzle with drama.
Best Black Flowers
Papaver somniferum Single black-flowered
Opium poppies like this dark plum beauty can be sown indoors in September, or direct in April. Remove the seedheads promptly if you don’t want them to self-sow. H: 3ft (90cm). Supplier: Sarah Raven.
Iris ‘Black Suited’
The majestic flowers of this bearded iris are the deep purple-black of midnight. Plant them now or in the autumn, in sun-baked, well-drained soil, and make sure they have plenty of elbow room. H: 3ft (90cm). Supplier: Iris Of Sissinghurst.
Centaurea cyanus ‘Black Ball’
Cornflowers are an essential wildlife plant; to keep things contemporary, opt for deep burgundy over classic blue. Sow under glass in September, or direct sow in well-drained, sun-baked soil in April. H: 3ft (90cm). Supplier: RHS Plants.
Aquilegia vulgaris var. stellata ‘Black Barlow’
Damson pompom flowers adorn this columbine when it blooms in late spring and early summer. Grow in moisture-retentive, well-drained soil, in sun or semi-shade. H: 21⁄2ft (75cm). Supplier: Chiltern Seeds.
The dusky cranesbill (also known as black widow) is a useful perennial that produces its maroon flowers in late spring. Great with ferns, it favours semi-shade but will tolerate dry shade. H: 21⁄2ft (75cm). Supplier: Crocus.
3 Plants For Dark Foliage
Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Kokuryu’ AGM
A low evergreen grass with strappy black leaves, ‘Kokuryu’ provides useful ground cover in moist, well-drained, acid-to-neutral soil. Mauve summer flowers are followed by blue berries. H: 8in (20cm).
Heuchera ‘Obsidian’ AGM
The glossy chocolate leaves of this semi-evergreen perennial are complemented by tiny cream summer flowers. Plant now, in humus-rich soil in sun or semi-shade. H: 11⁄2ft (45cm).
Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’
Form of cow parsley with wine-brown foliage and lacy white May flowers. Seedlings of regular cow parsley can appear and should be weeded out. Sow now or in September. H: 3ft (90cm).
• Contrast: Plant alongside pale foliage and flowers so black hues stand out. Soft blues work well with burgundy.
• Foil: Dark plants act as great foils to fiery colours (such as orange), helping to tie them into the border.
• Less is more: Don’t get carried away: a few purple-black plants add sophistication; too many will make your plot look like Morticia’s garden!
Main image: Black Gamecock Louisiana Iris (Credit: Alamy)
Words: Hazel Sillver