Independence Day came and went.  It was a lovely day.  A perfect day to celebrate the birth of our Nation – the greatest country on God’s green earth.  As I sat in the shade along the parade route, I felt my heart swelling with pride as I witnessed the patriotic enthusiasm of my community.  Local school bands trumpeted out annual favorites with dignity and reverence.  Ethnic dancers, clad in South American dress, proudly carried and waved Old Glory.  Children lined the streets, decked out in red, white, and blue, and I felt both grateful and unified.  As the parade drew to a close, and we dutifully folded our chairs to head for home, my joy and pride began to deflate as I saw the remnants and trash of a careless community strewn across the sidewalks, parkways, curbs, and streets.  Water bottles!  Really?  Pop cans, candy wrappers, paper, etc.  We picked up what we could and deposited into the handy trash cans conveniently placed every 20 feet or so.  The glorious light and joy of community and patriotism fell by the way side, like a dirty diaper, dampening and darkening my spirit, but the fireworks were nice.

Last week, we discussed the importance of scale and proportion in the landscape.  This week, we focus on contrast, more specifically, dark, dramatic plants that offer deep contrast and depth when planted next to lighter, brighter colors.  Dark hued plants should be used judiciously as complementary plants.  Planted alone, solely in a mass, can have an opposite effect, essentially creating a “black hole” where the plant is lost to the soil and its equally dark counterparts.  Mix them into a border, use as a backdrop, or as complementary plants in a container.

  Purple Labrador Violet

Dark purple foliage persists year round, yielding small, lavender-colored flowers in early to mid Spring.  Prefers moist, well-drained soil and sun to partial shade.

  Black Lace Elderberry

Soft pink flowers bloom amongst dramatic, purple-black lacy foliage.  Reaching heights of 6-8′, the Black Lace Elderberry prefers moist, well-drained soil and sun to partial shade.

  Black Scallop Carpet Bugle

Scalloped, glossy foliage in shades of dark green and purple host upright, deep blue flower spikes.  Prefers moist, well-drained soil and sun to partial shade.

  Chocolate Chip Carpet Bugle

Small, narrow chocolate-colored leaves surround upright, deep blue flower spikes.  Prefers moist, well-drained soil and sun to partial shade.

  Amethyst Myst Coralbells

Deep, dark purple leaves have a silvery dusting with reddish-purple undersides that produce creamy white flowers.  Prefers moist, well-drained soil and shade to partial sun.

  Dark Reiter Geranium

Light blue flowers contrast nicely against the purplish-bronze foliage.  Prefers dry soil and sun to partial shade.  It’s cool based on its name alone!

Adding drama and depth to the landscape can be easily achieved by incorporating some dark hued plants.  Remember to punctuate the landscape with their dark, dramatic hues rather than letting them dominate.  There are a myriad of choices out there in the form of annuals, perennials, shrubs, and even vegetables and herbs (i.e. Purple Opal Basil, Burgundy Okra, etc.), so experiment, have some fun, and never be afraid of the dark.

“Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.”

-Mark Twain

Best wishes,

Kim Sweeney