Thursday, July 3, 2014

Black Jack Randall in the Garden

Blood grass (Imperata cylindrica 'Rubra')
Welcome, Dear Readers, to the dark side of gardening. This post is a departure from my usual format because I cannot think of a single passage in any of the Outlander books in which Black Jack Randall's name appears in the same sentence as the word "garden." There is nothing in his demeanor that indicates that he has an appreciation for horticulture, and it's best not to dwell on some of the uses he might find for certain garden tools. 

However, there are plants that may remind us of Jack, that tortured villain we all love to hate. It might be because they have black leaves or flowers. Or it might be because their names suggest violence. Take a look. 

At Chilhuly Garden and Glass in Seattle, a glass sculpture representing the sun hovers over a mound densely planted with black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens') - a classic illustration of Dark vs. Light. 

Of course, there are no true black leaves or flowers. What appears to be black from a distance turns out to be a very dark purple when you look closely or see the plant in direct sunlight. Still, this near-black hue has a striking effect in the garden, as you can see from the leaves of this Rex begonia (Begonia Rex-cultorum).

There are many daylilies (Hemerocallis sp.) that have near black flowers. This one is called 'Smoking Gun.' Others have names like 'Cinderella's Dark Side,' 'Dracula,' 'Sinners Anonymous,' and, well, you get the idea. This post on GardenWeb lists more, along with photos. 

Black hollyhocks are easily grown from seed and will re-sow themselves year after year. These in my garden have been perpetuating themselves for close to 10 years. 

Black potato vine (Solanum jasminoides 'Blackie') is a striking annual that adds interest to containers and hanging baskets.

Other BJR plants to consider:

Blood Flower (Asclepias curassavica)

Devil's Club (Oplopanax horridus)

Devil's Horsewhip (Achyranthes aspera)

Purple Contorted Filbert (Corylus avellana 'Red Majestic') - near black leaves on twisted, contorted branches

Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia sp.)

What plants can you think of that would fit the Black Jack Randall theme? Please add them in the comments. 

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