When we think of plants, generally the colour that comes to mind is green. Let’s take a moment to appreciate the darker tones sometimes overlooked when it comes to designing a garden.
Red and purple plants: Come over to the dark side
Gardeners, avid and amateur alike, know that introducing contrasting colour can create impact and depth into a garden plan. But are we aware of the extensive varieties available?
Ornamental trees such as flowering plums Prunus “Nigra” and “Ruby Flare” are a common addition to the residential garden and Cordyline cultivars such as “Red Star” and “Electric Pink” with their strappy foliage are also a regular feature in the urban landscape.
Let’s look at some of the perhaps lesser-known options to add something darker to your garden colour scheme and maybe even create an element of mystique and intrigue.
Begonia and Coleus cultivars planted as annuals can provide instant fast-growing splashes of burgundy and violet and can be grown in decorative pots or in amongst existing garden beds.
Striking shrubs and crawling groundcovers include Ipomoea “Blackie” and “Black Heart”, which create flowing forms down a rock wall or can creep along a pathway.
Coprosma “Pacific Sunset” is a glossy low growing shrub ideal for borders against a contrasting green lawn.
Lorepetalum “China Pink” has an elegant weeping habit and stunning bright pink flowers and is impressive in a raised planter or earthenware pot.
Berberis thundergii “Golden Ring” is perfect for the cooler climate as a deciduous frost
Heuchera “Black Pearl” works well in pots or dotted around trees in dappled light.
Aeonium “Voodoo” and Echeveria “Dark Moon” are hardy succulents for an easy to grow low-maintenance option.
Add some height with a graceful Acer palmatum available in many shapes and sizes, from formal weeping standards to lovely little trees, most commonly available as grafted cultivars beautifully represented by the Japanese maples “Bloodgood” and “Red Dragon”.
Excellent drought tolerant natives Dodonaea viscosa “Purpurea” and Leptospermum obovatum “Starry Night” make great informal hedges.
And a personal favourite, the “Forest Pansy” cultivar of Cercis canadensis, with its colour-changing leaves and blossom on bare wood makes an amazing feature tree in almost any sized yard.
And let’s not forget indoor plants! With such an enthusiastic return to indoor plant popularity, nurseries and plant growers have really stepped up, and there is now an amazing range of plants available.
Try Oxalis triangularis “Purple Shamrock”, Strobilanthes dyeriana “Persian Shield”, Peperomia caperata “Burgandy Ripple”, Calathea roseopicta “Little Princess” or Ficus elastica “Ruby”.
Be amazed by the extensive varieties and excited by the opportunity to broaden your collection while adding another level of colour diversity into your slice of paradise. Don’t be afraid to come across to the dark side.
This article first appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of SALIFE Gardens & Outdoor Living magazine.
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