A Black GardenBy Sharon Brown (Sharran)
May 20, 2008
"Without black, no color has any depth. But if you mix black with everything, suddenly there's shadow - no, not just shadow, but fullness. You've got to be willing to mix black into your palette if you want to create something that's real." Amy Grant
It's spring, and always in springtime my thoughts turn to new blooms in the garden. I have read about monochrome gardens, meaning gardens of predominantly one color, but I have never planted one. One thought lead to another, and I found myself thinking of my favorite showstoppers: my black iris, and my black daylilies.
Having taught art for a gazillion years, my thoughts usually transform themselves into color and composition. Transferring color and composition into a garden is an easy task, so I was on my way. I happened to mention to my friend Amy that I was considering a black garden but thought I needed an accent. "Oh," she said, "I have a black garden and I use silver and hot pink in it."
Hummmmmm, with Amy's words I realized what I needed, another color to make the black really pop! I am generally not a pink person, but I do like the idea of softer colors especially if they might have a look of silver or gray about them. I was on a roll when again I mentioned this idea to another friend, Betty. She said that she had a packet of Pennyblack seeds and would send them to me. Really on my way now, I began to think in terms of height, length of bloom time, foliage, and where on earth will I plant my black garden? Aha, two perfect places suddenly presented themselves: I can extend one of my back yard existing gardens, or, even better, I can build a new garden in the side yard facing the road, so everyone can enjoy. I chose the side yard. I want everyone to see it, including my cop friend who drives by regularly, reminding me of my earlier episode involving speeding and blue lights and newly purchased roses!
I searched through DG's Plant Files looking for plants that I knew would do well in zone 6b. This is what I found to go with my already existing black daylily (Hemerocallis, "romulus"), black iris "Black Teddy Bear", elephant ear (Colocasia,"Taro midnight"), and black sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas "Blackie"):
Morning glory: Ipomoea: Midnight Velvet
Pennyblack: Nemophila mnziesii
Iris: Black teddy Bear
Columbine: Aguilegia vulgaris: Black Magic
Bachelor's button: Centaurea cyanus: Black ball
Hollyhock: Alcea Rosea: Jet Black
And Dianthus Chinensis: Velvet and Lace
All these plants were readily available to me, but next I needed to choose an accent piece. Actually I chose two:
Dusty Miller: Artemisia stelleriana, one of my favorites and also the name of one of my favorite female artists of the Renaissance period: Artemesia Gentileschi.
And my favorite of all time, located in the very center of the garden, a silver rose. I chose Rosa: "Silver Spoon".
At this time, my black garden is only planted in my mind. It will be a few weeks before I can move my black daylily, find my black iris, and plant my tender seedlings. And there is the fact that the bed is not quiet ready either. But just give me a good warm week of sunshine toward the end of April, and I will have the beginning of my Black garden, with just a touch of cool silver. Yep, I am a woman on a mission, and maybe in the fall I will have pictures to share with you. Wish me luck, OK??
All photos are from Plant Files, thanks to the following photographers:
daylily: Melissa_Ohio, iris: Elizabethtown, hollyhock: Buttoneer, rose: Palmbob, pennyblack: John_Benoot
And a very special thanks to Amethystsm and Bettypauze.