We’re continuing this week with our regular editorial concerning the qualities of specific colour tones within the garden, how best to take advantage of them through your planting choices, and how properly to plant and then maintain the cultivars you select. This week’s colour is the elusive ‘black’, as whilst many appear black, most such flowers are really a deep shade of red or purple.
While this hue’s obvious connotations can be funereal and dark, it is important to remember that black is also symbolic of sophistication – it remains, for example, one of the most commonly employed tones in fashion and design, and not without good reason. As the formation of black derives from the compilation of every other colour, its absoluteness is a definite symbol of substance and thus it serves perfectly as a filler for spaces of the garden that may seem bland or empty. This substance also lends a connection to the idea of security and stability as the colour itself cannot be compromised. However, it is important not overcrowd the garden with this colour as it can lend the space a fairly oppressive or morbid feel. Mix it with brighter tones for dramatic effect in the garden.
Floral and Hardy’s Favourite Five Black Beauties:
Aquilegia ‘William Guinness’
Informally known as Granny’s bonnet due to its frilly flowers, this herbaceous perennial has an upright habit and will produce pretty foliage and striking black and white flowers in spring – hence the variety’s name! When grown in groups, these blooms will provide a beautiful and dramatic contrast in your borders and fortunately Aquilegia is fairly easy to please as it will not suffer, regardless of the acidity or consistency of your soil and they are ideal for integration with other species as they will perform equally well in partial shade or full sunlight – just ensure the soil is moist. A word of warning though – they can be slightly toxic if eaten, so just make sure they are kept out of the way of inquisitive children.
Iris chrysographes ‘Black Knight’
This elegant Iris has strap-like, grey-green foliage and deep indigo, almost black flowers with gold-flecked, pendant fall petals, showing from May to June on an erect stem about 50cms tall. It can survive in almost any type of soil falling under sun or partial shade, and can survive either a sheltered or exposed position. However, again, this plant can be toxic, causing irritation if any part is ingested and whose sap may cause irritation following contact with the skin.
Scabiosa atropurpureum ‘Chile Black’
Also referred to as the ‘Pincushion Flower’, the ‘Egyptian Rose’ and the ‘Mournful Widow’, the Chile Black is an erect, branching and short lived perennial whose pincushion handle derives from the appearance of its blooms which will show black/deep red throughout the summer with spatters of lavender in the latter months of the season.
The widow is comfortable in either chalk, loam or sand based soils and as such is not fussy about the ph levels it is subjected to, though non-acidic is preferable in an exposed spot where full sunlight is guaranteed.
Tulipa ‘Queen of the Night’
Tulip Queen of the Night has large, very dark maroon to almost black blooms which will appear in late spring. Due to its upright nature and heavy heads, it will be necessary to shelter the stems from excessive wind and wet to prevent its foundation being undermined. You can further aid its establishment by providing it with a fertile, alkaline soil and plenty of sunlight and by making sure the bulbs are planted at least 15cm deep to ensure a solid root structure.
Viola ‘Black Beauty’
This variety of pansy is grown for its translucent black flowers and the wide spread they provide upon reaching maturity. This perennial cultivar prefers well drained soil, however, with a hardiness factor of four, it is very agreeable species in relation to ph level, sunlight requirements and its resistance to the elements. With its needs catered for you can expect it eventually to reach dimensions of 2.5 by 2.5m.
Written by Joshua Ellison of Floral & Hardy Gardens, specialists at Garden Design Sevenoaks