In honor of Halloween and the last week of October here is a look at some of the spookiest plants that add deep, dark, mysterious color to the landscape.
Black mondo Grass – the best of the blacks
This member of the lily family grows from tiny bulblets on the roots and it is so easy to dig and divide that I sometimes wonder why it is so expensive at the nursery. The grass-like leaves are short, under one foot tall, and tidy and unlike most perennials, the foliage does not turn brown or yellow in the winter – black mondo grass just looks great all year long.
Where to use black mondo grass: Your winter container gardens will benefit from a bit of black in the front of any mix of winter foliage because the solid black of the modo grass provides a great contrast to heucheras, heathers, hellebores and other winter jewels.
Black mondo grass also makes a nice border plant edging the lawn between beds or alongside a pathway. Poke a few dwarf daffodils among your display of mondo grass and the yellow blooms will shine in early spring.
Heuchera ‘Black Taffeta’ – Rich, dark foliage with fashionable ruffles
This new introduction form Oregon growers at Terra Nova nursery has ruffled, rather elegant looking, shiny black foliage and the leave are huge and beautiful. It will take full sun or partial sun, offers great winter color and can even be adapted as a houseplant.
Grow this robust heucheras with lime green plants such as another heucheras or with lime sweet potato vine in a pot. The dark leaves would also pair nicely with a silver groundcover such as lamium beacon silver to block out weeds that try to grow under your shrubs.
Sedum ‘Dark Magic’ – Lots of drama without the drinking
This is an upright, bushy sedum related to the ever popular Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ but the foliage is glossy purple so it looks black. Sedum ‘Dark Magic’ has dramatic dark pink flower clusters that are deer resistant but provide wonderful nectar for the pollinating insects.
You don’t need rich soil or a lot of water to grow sedums so use this perennial under the eaves where little rain falls or in sunny spots where the hose does not reach. It looks great next to boulders or rocks in a dry stream bed where the dark leaves contrast to with the lighter color of the rocks.
Ninebark ‘Diabolo’ – A dark devil that can adapt to hellish growing conditions
If you don’t have a green thumb, plant more physocarpus or ninebark, so named because the bark peels off in strips on these adaptable shrubs. They have casual, upright shrubby shapes and ninebarks can be found at local nurseries with a variety of leaf colors from copper orange ‘Coppertina’ to the deep purple of the daring ‘Diabolo’.
All varieties of ninebark will thrive in sun or shade and need only moderate water. They love the acid soil we have in Western Washington. In spring the dark leaves appear as an accent in a landscape full of green, and the foliage stays dark all summer on ‘ Diablo’. If the black foliage isn’t arresting enough, the shrub also has a spring display of deep pink flowers in round clusters.
Use ninebark at the edges of a woodland garden, as a specimen plant, or in groupings of three to five to fill in a garden bed that needs low maintenance. A groundcover of silver lamb’s ear would make a wonderful bedmate for this easy to grow shrub.