PLANT IT BLACK
DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK: ADDING A TOUCH OF GOTHIC HORROR TO YOUR GARDEN CAN BE SMART, DRAMATIC AND NOT AT ALL SPOOKY
Judicious use of black and other deep, rich colours can totally transform your outside space, adding depth and drama to your borders, and providing a striking backdrop for bright flowers and foliage. Black planters look bold and smart, while dark walls or fences can enlarge small gardens by receding into the background, rather than defining your boundaries, which a lighter colour will do. Plants with deep, rich foliage stand out against paler colours, while black flowers bring a really unusual touch. Embrace your dark side and introduce a touch of noir elegance to your borders.
DARK ART OF PLANTING
A few carefully selected dark plants can add interest to even the smallest garden, but be sure to plant them in sunny spots, so they’re not swallowed by the shade.
Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’, or black mondo grass, is a low-maintenance perennial with spidery leaves that works well at the front of borders. Pair with the soft, silvery foliage of Stachys byzantina ( lamb’s ear), or plant beside a light
“Plants with deep, rich foliage stand out against paler colours, while black flowers bring a really unusual touch”
gravel path to create an eye-catching monochrome feature. The stately Cotinus
coggygria ‘Royal Purple’, otherwise known as the smoke bush, is a magnificent shrub that adds height to the back of borders. Its rounded, deep burgundy leaves act as a wonderful backdrop for white-flowering hydrangeas and viburnums, or let a pale pink clematis scramble artfully over it. Alternatively, use plants that offset vibrant flowers against their own dark leaves.
Dahlia ‘Bishop of Oxford’ flaunts its bright orange blooms from June until October, in brazen contrast to its deep bronze foliage. Or if you’re looking for something more »
exotic, try Canna ‘Tropicanna Black’. Its tall, scarlet flowers dazzle above large, lush chocolate leaves, adding showy glamour to pots and tubs.
If it’s black flowers you’re after, there’s still time to plant Viola ‘Sorbet Black Delight’. These enigmatic beauties will erupt in spring, working their dark magic among your borders and hanging baskets. They’re extremely hardy plants and will flower for months on end. Hellebores are another spring favourite, and the variety ‘Black Swan’ is a real showstopper. Plant them among snowdrops for an arresting display in late winter.
BACK TO BLACK
Prefer more colourful planting? Consider using black accessories throughout the garden instead. Bright flowers sparkle against granite-look planters, and black paving is a striking foil for green lawns. Black rattan furniture stands out on a sunny patio, or use wrought iron for a more traditional look. Even a pond with a black liner can add a welcome shimmer of darkness to your garden, although it’ll need proper maintenance to ensure it doesn’t turn a lurid green.
A DRAMATIC BLACKDROP
Black walls and fencing can be used to contemporary effect, even in the smallest of spaces. A natural timber or light fence will highlight the boundaries of your garden, but a dark fence blends discreetly into the background, making a small garden appear bigger, and allowing colourful plants to shine.
The charred-oak effect influenced by Kyoto gardens in Japan ( known as Shou
Sugi Ban) and beloved of Chelsea show gardens in recent years, is eyecatching, but your neighbours might not take too kindly to you blow-torching the fence (there are helpful clips on YouTube with instructions, however, if you’re tempted). Alternatively, you could buy ready-charred wood from a supplier (qtdgroup.com sells charred pine, ash and tulip cladding), or achieve a similar, though not as lustrous, look with a good dark wood stain such as Ebony Satin Woodstain by Ronseal.
Vibrant green foliage pops against black woodwork, so consider staining trellises or pergolas. And if an old shed is something of an eye-sore in your garden, paint it black. It’ll disappear as if by magic.
“Black walls and fencing can be used to great effect… making a small garden appear bigger, and allowing colourful plants to shine”
THE DARKNESS WITHIN
Even if you don’t have the luxury of a garden, dark plants will add elegance and intrigue indoors. Aeonium ‘Zwartcop’ is a splendid dusky-leaved succulent that will thrive on a sunny window sill, or grow the gothic Coleus ‘Black Dragon’, which unfurls dark, ruffled leaves laced with vivid pink veins. For something truly sinister, try Tacca chantrieri, aka the black bat flower or devil’s flower. Its sombre, spreading flowers spew out monstrous long whiskers, and it appears to have eyes that follow you around the room. You can sow the seeds at any time of the year, but you’ll need to recreate the humidity of its native Asia to keep it in tip-top health. Put it in a conservatory and give it a regular misting with a spray bottle throughout the summer. Or just keep it in the bathroom to weird out unwanted house guests.
3Low-maintenance black mondo grass.2 Dark planters bring an instant update.3 Canna ‘Tropicanna Black’ combines chocolate leaves and scarlet flowers
Paint a fence black 1 and it will recede, making your garden look bigger.2 Dark paving such as slate instantly updates a patio.3 Trellis painted black makes an attractive foil for all kinds of greenery.4 Practise the art of black magic and watch an ugly shed disappear