In art classes, I was always taught that "true black" does not actually exist in nature. Anything that the eye reads as black is really the darkest shade of blue, red, brown, green... and in general, I think that's probably true.
Take this begonia for example. In the harsh light of a flash photo, it looks fairly flat-black as a backdrop to the Meyer lemon buds:
But in more natural lighting, you can see the shades of green in the center of each leaf, and the purple tinge to the outer part of each leaf:
'Black Lace' and 'Black Beauty' elderberry leaves are also more of a deep purple:
'Hillside Black Beauty' bugbane (actaea, nee cimicifuga) definitely shows its true green beneath the "black," especially on the newer foliage:
"Black" tulips (I grow both 'Black Hero' and 'Queen of Night') are more of a deep, deep wine color. Here are two shots of "the Queen":
And here's one that shows how you can pop some color out of your "black" plants by placing them in the right spot. The orange heuchera underneath really warms up 'Black Hero':
Even my pooch is actually a dark, dark brown--her coat glints with hints of red when you see her in the sunshine, even though she looks inky black (with snowy white markings) here:
So why am I thinking all of these black thoughts lately? No, it's not winter depression, but something much more fun! Part of my birthday present from Steve this year was the book Black Plants: 75 Striking Choices for the Garden by Paul Bonine.
I don't remember oohing and aahing over this one within earshot of Steve, but apparently I made my desire known as I read through one of my newsletters from Timber Press. (You can go to their website and sign up if you want--Editor-in-Chief Tom Fischer's messages are great, and they let you know about different sales they offer. I just noticed that they're podcasting now, too, so I'm going to check that out this weekend.)
It wouldn't have been a far stretch for him to figure out that this would be a good gift for me, though. My love of interesting foliage (especially dark foliage!) is pretty well documented. Black Plants definitely feeds my dark foliage craving through its many pretty pictures--and I'm proud to be able to say that I already grow at least 16 of the dark beauties described within its pages! (Yikes, that's more than 20%!!!)
If you're looking for guidance about how to site these dramatic plants within your garden, however, you'll need to look elsewhere... it's short on design tips and tricks. But, hey, the drool factor is high. And you might just be so inspired by one of these gorgeous plants that you'll make a place for it to live, if you have to! But beware: As my garden can attest, these plants do have a true dark side: Plant one, and you will no doubt want more!
Note: I have no relationship with Timber Press--outside of being a subscriber to their newsletter and a purchaser of some of the many books they publish--or with Paul Bonine. My enthusiasm in the post above is purely my own, and I have received no compensation (including free products, etc.) of any type for this post. (Frankly, I have linked to the above photo without their express permission, too, and will gladly take that part of this post down immediately if asked.)