This Week’s Guest Blogger is Drew Swainston, a Professional Gardener at the National Trust’s Hanbury Hall and Gardens in Worcestershire

Create Garden Drama with Black Plants

Throw away the traditional notion that plants need to be bright and colourful. There is an often-overlooked sub-culture of plants that can add some real drama and interest to a garden. They are the black plants, those with brooding dark tones that offer rich blooms and foliage that provide a theatrical contrast to other colours.
These are statement plants that catch the eye and their rich colours warrant attention in a border. And there are options out there now to ensure you can turn to the dark side with perennials, annuals or grasses.
The plant that really started my interest in black plants was Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ and I loved how its dark leaves were such a contrast to other plants around it.

Whereas most traditional images of plants are bright and cheery summer colours, there is a level of deep intrigue that can be offered by mixing darker tones into the palette of a garden.
It is rare to get a pure black bloom in plants, but I have looked to get plants with flowers as dark as possible complimented by various shades of foliage. Such specimens include Poppy ‘Black Peony’, Cornflower ‘Black Ball’, Pansy ‘Black Moon’, Aquilegia vulgaris ‘William Guinness’ and Nemophila menziesii ‘Pennie Black’.
If you look around you can find darker forms of Tulip, Dahlia, Heuchera, Viola, Iris, Sweet William and bamboo among many others. There is a wide range of unique darker plants available that will add some glamour to your garden, including the option of using darker tones of reds and blues where black itself is maybe too dark for your taste.

Try mixing these statement plants in between your brighter blooms and start embracing your darker side. Darker colours go well with oranges, yellows and reds. In these combinations the brighter colours look illuminated against the murkier shades. And there is always the timeless black and white combination.
You don’t need to go all the way and create a ‘Goth Garden’ like those inspired by the brooding Victorian gothic gardens. However, maybe just consider causing a stir among your contemporaries by adding some darkness into your gardening life.

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