Black Petunias: Black Magic For Your Garden

 

I know, I know. This petunia doesn’t look black at all in the photo. But I promise–when you see it in person, it looks like black velvet.

 

You know what they say about a little black dress. Every woman needs one in her closet.  But black flowers in your garden? Aren’t black blooms usually dead blooms?

Well, no. I recently found a basket of gorgeous, near-black petunias at our local Home Depot, and they were so velvety and unusual, I just had to bring them home. But they aren’t completely black. It’s hard to find truly black plants, and many are just very deep, dark shades of purple, purple-red, or blue.

I’m telling you, so when you look at the pictures of my petunias, you won’t wonder what I’m talking about. That’s because my “black” petunias, when photographed in the sunlight, look purple. But when the light is right, they’re dusky and mysterious and beautifully, velvet-black. Each bloom has a pale yellow star in its throat.

I  don’t know the variety name, or I’d share it.  It’s possible that mine are ‘Pinstripe’ petunias; click here to see for yourself.  I don’t think I have ‘Phantom,’ which is sold by other seed sellers and garden centers, because the yellow markings look too wide.  But I bet if you look around, you can find something similar.

If a dip into the world of inky plants makes you yearn for more, check out a book called Black Plants: 75 Striking Choices for the Garden, by Paul Bonine (Timber Press). The author covers black pansies, lilies, agapanthus, hollyhocks (like the ‘Black Watchman’ heirloom hollyhocks in my gardening book), and more, all of which might persuade you that black is the new green.

I’m not ready to convert my garden, with its springlike palette of pale blues, yellows, pinks, and rose-red, to all-black, but it’s fun to try something really different–and you know how we gardeners are. We always want someone to visit and ask, “Where did you get that?”

Update: Thanks to Gary, at PlantCareToday.com, who wrote to tell me that King George III sent Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother, Joseph, to explore Argentina. While he was there, he collected samples that were used later to confirm that petunias and tobacco are related. Learn more about petunia care here.

 

Reach for the Sky: Grow a Vertical Garden

Out of room—always my problem.

In my closets, in my kitchen cabinets, and now in my garden. We have a small house, but I’m running out of space in the yard, too, which means I’ve got to get creative if I want to add more sun-loving flowers and veggies this year.  So I’m going to think UP, and grow up with a vertical garden trellis like the one we featured here, on the Home Depot Garden Club site.

This is super easy. You just use a section of garden trellis and some S-hooks. Lean the trellis in a corner or other spot that will keep it from falling over, and pot up your plants in lightweight plastic pots. Slip the hooks under the rims, and hang as desired. You could do petunias, lantanas, or any kind of colorful flowers, or plant herbs to keep near your grill or the kitchen door. I’m thinking of trying strawberries.

Is your garden “upward bound” this year?

Think Pink

petunias pink

I was looking through some of my photos from last year when I noticed these petunias, on the right, and the just-opened rose, on the left. Both are pink, but they really are different colors, aren’t they? (Maybe your monitor looks different. Colors on computers can be deceiving, but the petunias definitely have a blue or lavender cast, to my eyes.)

Yesterday I visited my friend Lucy, who writes a wonderful cooking blog. We had a yummy lunch (she made chicken salad with red grapes on croissants, pimento cheese sandwiches, and served strawberries. And did I mention we had a homemade chocolate pie with real cream topping and an apple pie? I am currently pestering her for recipes.)

After lunch, Lucy showed me the pink lady slipper orchids popping up in her woods. I’ll post the pictures here tomorrow, I hope, but right now, the cord that connects my camera to the computer is  missing. (Does anyone else ever have this problem? Where do things go??)

Anyway, pink lady slippers are wildflowers, and they’re Georgia’s native orchids, but you can also find them in other parts of the country and particularly in the southeast. They pop up every spring in shaded woodlands or wetlands, but please, don’t disturb them. They dislike transplanting, so even if you are tempted to dig them up and take them home with you, they’d probably turn up their toes and die. Better to leave them in the wild for everyone to enjoy. They’re finicky about getting the perfect balance of soil, moisture, and light, and few of us can duplicate their natural conditions in our home gardens.

If you’re a wildflower fan, check out Celebrating Wildflowers, a site maintained by the U.S. Forest Service. Click around, and you’ll find photos to help you identify what’s growing in your area, as well as lists of wildflower hikes, artistic events, and more.

Check back here soon. I’m headed into my woods later this week, armed with my camera. I’m looking for a tiny dwarf iris that I’ve seen in the past, but because I forgot to write down when I spotted it in years past, I’m having to watch for it very carefully right now. More to come!