You might want to choose a specimen tree that creates a beautiful focal point to your garden. The beautiful Fagus sylvatica purpurea (Purple Beech) is pyramidal in shape and can be used as a specimen or for
hedging. Another option is the weeping variety. The deep purple color and texture of the leaf is stunning. The Cercis Canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ has gorgeous purple heart- shaped leaves and clusters of bright pink pea flowers in spring whereas the Sambucus nigra ‘Thundercloud’ (Elderberry) has the luscious shiny burgundy-black finely cute leaves throughout summer with wonderful rosy- pink flowers that come out in June. Another popular choice is the Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ which has deciduous obovate leaves and pink flowers in summer. They all have outstanding fall color.
Berberis thunbergii ‘Rose glow’ (Barberry) forms graceful arching branches of purple leaves with pink
variegation. In the fall, it has red berries and great autumn color. At 4 feet by 4 feet it is ideal in the small garden and can make an excellent hedge. It can take full sun and is deer resistant. It is a low maintenance shrub that can be pruned anytime.
For something unusual try the Corylus avellana ‘Red Majestic’. It is a cousin to Harry Lauder walking stick. This fascinating form of the corkscrew hazel tree has contorted stems bearing gorgeous purple heart-shaped crinkled leaves. It does best in moist, well- drained soil in full sun or semi shade and produces unusual red
nuts and red catkins in the fall. The contorted form is excellent when used in floral arrangement.
There are many purple maples to choose from and they all have striking dark foliage during the summer and spectacular fall color: the stately Acer circinatum ‘Pacific Purple’, the rounded shape of ‘Bloodgood’
or the lacy dark leaf of ‘Inaba Shidare’.
There are some great dark leafed perennials for the mid shade border. Try the Ligularia ‘Britt Marie Crawford’. It makes a bold specimen as it forms a large clump of rounded maroon-black leaves bearing cluster of bright golden orange daisy flowers. Good in the border or as a waterside feature. You can use it in large container and the flowers and leaves are great for floral arrangements. It is deer resistant but protect them from slugs. The very large flower head look amazing in a woodland setting or try the unique Canadian
selection of Ligularia ‘Osiris Café Noir’ with deep black jagged edged purple leaves. Cimicifuga ‘Brunette’ is also a great woodland plant but with astilbe-like leaves of purple black. In late summer, it produces arching wands of fragrant pale pink/white flowers that tower above the foliage. It makes a great cut flower and
can be used in containers. It is deer and rabbit resistant and will take 3 years to mature but the fragrance is worth waiting for.
A charming grass is the Ophiopogon planisapus ‘Nigrescens’ (Black Mondo Grass) which has jet black leaves and is only 4-6”high. This unique specimen grass is great for edging or in the rock garden. It has darling short spikes of pale pink flowers followed by black berries in the fall. The dark leaves are great to pair up with Creeping Jenny or Lamium aurea, and it prefers partial shade and is deer resistant.
Also great for the edge of the border or in containers are the dark leafed Heuchera. ‘Obsidian’ has incredible jet black leaves and is considered the darkest form of coral bells. ‘Midnight Rose’ is nearly black with
freckles of cream and pink. ‘Blackout’ is a wonderful dark leafed introduction from Belgium. It is deep charcoal
black with a smooth and shiny surface. They can all be used in sun or shade, are easy to grow, evergreen, deer and rabbit resistant. Great for the woodland garden, they prefer moist soil.
An excellent evergreen groundcover is the 4-6” Ajuga ‘Black Scallop’(carpet Bugle).It has glossy purple-black leaves with a crinkly scalloped edge and produces short spires of deep blue flowers in mid to late spring. It is great in containers, deer and rabbit resistant and loves the woodland setting.
For the rock garden or to use as an indoor plant, try the novel Aeonium purpureum. This succulent originally from the Canary Islands has green/purple leaves, can tolerate drought conditions, poor soil, full sun, and
requires no special care. It loves the heat but needs protection from too much direct sunlight.
Many annuals have dark foliage. I have talked before about the award winning Strobilanthus (Persian
shield) which has amazing iridescent colorful leaves of purple, green and silver. Use it in the garden or
treat it as a houseplant. Another tender perennial is the Oxalis ‘Charmed wine’ (Purple Shamrock). This lovely dark plum colored shamrock with white flowers is easy to grow in containers in your garden or bring indoors for the winter.
For an annual vine that makes an excellent trailer is the award winner Ipomea ‘blackie’ which is heat tolerant but does best in part shade. For shade try the dark leafed Tuberous Begonia ‘Mocha Mix’ or the Coleus ‘Black Dragon’, ‘Kiwi’, or the New Guinea Impatiens ‘Sonic Orange’.
A very unique plant this year is the annual Hibiscus ‘Mahogany Splendor;’ an absolutely magnificent new Hibiscus on the market with awesome color and dramatic height. These
deep burgundy leaves are serrated like a Japanese maple. It looks fabulous in the landscape and is drought and heat resistant. It is a tender or tropical hibiscus but well worth all the effort. Grow it as an annual, as it is Zone 7-11. It is supposedly deer resistant and will grow 5-6’ in a season. Great in the garden and can make a mahogany screen. Good as a waterside feature.
With so many purple leafed plants to choose
from you can easily make your garden interesting and dramatic this year. Happy