Dark & dramatic

Liven up your garden with the striking combination of black and red.

Both red and black foliage must be used with caution. overuse of either would dominate and excessive dark tones may become oppressive. Think of red and black as accessories – there to complement and enhance or draw attention. Both make excellent key colours, especially if used in a variety of different plants to introduce added interest through contrast.

Red effects Red is an egotistical colour – vibrant and dominating, yet warm and passionate. It is also used to signal danger, therefore an excellent colour to place either side of the top of steps to show a change of level. It will also provide warmth to a garden in the heart of winter, especially if teamed with a few scarlet camellias. In a small garden, place red foliage or flowers towards the front and cooler colours to the rear.

Black effects Black foliage is actually a mix of deep shades of red or purple and produces similar effects to red foliage. Black is however more retiring than red – but still overpowering if used in excess. It is used widely in contemporary plantings to complement strong architectural lines and dramatic plant forms. But, like red, black should be considered an accent or enhancement colour, definitely not for widespread use. It also needs good ambient light to avoid a “gloomy” effect. The one thing for sure is, if you want to add a bit of sophistication or an “urban edge” to your garden, plant black!

oust-have black foliage plants BEGoNIA ‘BLACK TAFFETA’ Bring begonias back into fashion with this stylish, highly textural, obsidian-coloured foliage. Growing to 60cm high x 40cm wide, it’s ideal as a container specimen or border plant in a frost-free, shaded, sheltered position with compost enriched, welldrained soil. It’s the latest must-have as accent planting in a subtropical garden.

oPHIoPoGAN ‘HoSoBA KoKURYU’ A new dwarf form (10cm x 10cm) of popular dwarf black mondo grass. ophiopogan are tough, easy-to-grow plants, excellent as edging along a pathway, key-block planting, container fillers, or to accentuate contrasting foliage colours such as gold, red and silver.

Plant red foliage…

  • In containers at an entrance for an uplifting welcome.

  • Sparingly – too much will overpower the eye and lose the potential to create an effective monochromatic scheme.

  • Mixed with plenty of green to prevent red dominating.

Plant black foliage…

  • With chartreuse or silver to create a stunning effect.

  • To emphasise a focal point eg around the base of a sculpture.

  • As an exclamation mark in a sea of paler foliage eg Cordyline ‘Caruba Black’ in yellow Sedum mexicana.

  • Sparingly – too much will dominate.

  • In a variety of textures, leaf shapes and plant forms when you’re planting different black plants together – eg tall, bold-textured Aeonium ‘Scwarzkopf’ with low, finely-textured black ophiopogon.

  • In good light for the best colour (check for those that require shade from midday sun).

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