Tag Archives: black garden

January Inspiration


S- now this is what winter is all about right? In spite of not having time to go over plant catalogues with Mr. Gosling this January- which is a complete rip off- I was able to put a bit of thinking towards our side garden. The castor beans were pretty nuts last year- but as they are annuals, we’ve got a clean slate again. Yay!


Thursday, Jenn unpacked our first flush of plants for the….. Hades Garden. Oui, I decided upon a theme of plants that kill. or maim. or smell like rotting flesh. or have the word voodoo, or blood in their names. I think this came about from trying to think about black and red plants. Or rather, I hope. Look at these pathetic little things that came in the mail this week.

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Those tall things on the left- are voodoo lilies. Who could resist this explanation- and these photos? This unusual tuberous plant has one giant divided leaf on top of a 5-6′ tall, green and purple mottled, fleshy stalk (petiole). When old enough, the tuber produces a fascinating 6′ flower (early May, before the leaf emerges), resembling a giant vase made from the purple vinyl used for cheap ’70s car seats. The vase (spathe) is home to a 3′ purple spadix that sits atop a 2′ speckled petiole…gather your neighbors for the flowering ritual. After flowering, the plant may rest for a couple of months before the leaf emergesin late June. The mother tuber will form offsets, eventually making a giant clump…STRANGE!


“when it’s old enough”. I guess I’m set to wait- because that stick to their right is the largest black pomegranate I could find.

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Better if Eve is eating a black pomegranate. hmm- maybe this is how we got to a Hades Garden. anyhoo- Also ordered a Mangave “bloodspot”. An accidental cross between an agave and a manfreda that may bloom without dying like an agave, which doesn’t strictly fit the theme (not dying), but we’ll give her a spot because of her good thorns and good name.


And this neat “Kniphofia toffee nosed” – I still haven’t gotten a poker to be happy for me here through the summer but that’s really no reason not to try again. right?


This wonderful 1980s introduction was selected by John Metcalf of Four Seasons Nursery in the UK. Compared to the larger pokers, the narrow green leaves on this winner of the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) Award of Garden Merit make a smallish, 2′ wide clump. Starting in June (NC), the 3′ tall, narrow flower stalks end in ivory flowers with an orange top…a very unusual color combination in pokers…elegantly stunning and a hummingbird magnet. Be sure to stick one of these pokers up your…I mean, IN your garden! The nursery that we ordered these plants from kind of cracks me up. When Jenn read the literature that came with the plants it said ” please do not ingest, snort or smoke” these plants. We’ve also got carrion plants coming.

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Blooms smell like rotting meat to attract flies. ooh and a wing thorn rose. Look at those ornamental thorns! We had a booger of a time finding it. Had to order from canada. Which doesn’t bode well- but whatever.

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And what else? some black coleus for filler, oxblood lilies and Australian black cannas. And from seed a “rouge” pumpkin for some fall pizzaz, “black currant swirl” datura for a dark trip. Oh and some elephant head amaranth.

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I mean I know I shouldn’t plant amaranth- it’s a self seeding fool but i have to. it looks like a big ole …well… that or someone shooting the finger. tee hee- i’ll be spreading big purple cocks all over lower Cesar Chavez. la-ti-da. Holding over from last season, we’ve got a black smoke tree rescued half dead from a client’s garden last year. Thanks Gardens. and those black ornamental peppers that are still completely leafed out in February. Thanks Home Depot. But now mama’s got to weave all this shit together. In ballet we call that “enchainment”- the linking steps that knit dance together. Enchainment is the difference between dance and Cirque De Soleil. Cirque is just trick trick trick. No one wants their garden to be wow wow wow. The eye and soul needs some quiet places to rest before the next surprise. But ahem, my work is cut out for me. These colors all look like ca-ca together and my eyes may be bigger than my border. We’ll see what transgresses. I remember reading about James David’s beautiful garden in a picture book and he’s all- oh heavens, i’d never plant all this difficult pouty stuff in a client’s garden. That’s what I’m saying! more soon- xoxojb