Need a bush for a "black and white" garden
May 19, 2011 11:18 AM   Subscribe

Need suggestions for a bush for a garden bed that features day-blooming black flowers and night-blooming white flowers, zone 5.

I'm putting in a garden about 12' x 7' that will feature day-blooming black flowers -- including hollyhocks, nasturtiums, violas, and petunias -- and night-blooming white flowers -- including moonflower vine, night-flowering tobacco, and night phlox. I'm also using some dark purple/burgundy colored foliage in places (a purple-black coral bell, some coelus, a sweet potato). The center of the bed will have a 7- or 8-foot arch (haven't put it together yet) with some shelves under it; the moonflower vine will climb the arch and the shelves will hold some small bonsai pots that live outdoors.

The hollyhocks and the tobacco provide at least some height, but I feel like I need something solid in the back of the bed to anchor it a bit. The back of the bed backs up to a high red brick wall that needs a little relief. However, I know very little about shrubs and trees. I don't want anything TOO huge, and I'd prefer it fit with my black-and-white theme, though I could be persuaded by something that looks right even if it's not in the theme.

The bed faces east and receives sun all day from sun-up until at least 3-4 o'clock when the wall starts shading it out. During the longest days, it can get full sun until nearly 5 p.m., but most of the summer the whole bed is pretty well shaded by 5. The bed is alongside a patio where we frequently entertain in the evening, which is part of what makes the night-blooming plants fun, but nothing TOO allergy-inducing or that smells like a corpse.

The bed is just going in this year, and I'm experimenting a bit to see what will grow there well; it's been a touchy bed in the past. So I can make changes without too much problem, and I expect plenty of failures this year. But it'd be nice to get an anchoring bush (or tiny tree) going and give it a chance to grow.

No night-blooming jasmine as I am superfantastico allergic.
posted by Eyebrows McGee to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If you want to continue with the purple foliage them, you might take a look at Diablo ninebark, which, is a strikingly deep purple native shrub with white flowers in summer, and fairly tolerant of a range of sunlight and soil conditions.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 11:35 AM on May 19, 2011

Best answer: Would a black maple clash too much with your dark purples?

(I'm not entirely sure what would work best there, but I am totally stealing your ideas except all mine have to go in containers. And I love Japanese maples.)
posted by Lyn Never at 11:40 AM on May 19, 2011

Best answer: A Black Lace Elderberry would also carry through with the purple foliage accents, but the flowers are pink, so they might be unwelcome.
posted by TrarNoir at 11:43 AM on May 19, 2011

Response by poster: I am actually not super-picky about the foliage color but I wanted to be thorough in describing and help you horticulturally-talented people think of cool stuff. :) I even considered something plain green with white flowers just to add some color interest. I may not do the black coelus next year, for example, but I wanted to have some color interest this year while things get established and I can change my mind on annuals next year as desired.

Pink flowers wouldn't super-thrill me, but it's a big enough bed that I don't think they'd overwhelm the theme (and they'd look okay in coordination with some surrounding beds, I think). I do like the look of that ninebark, I saw one at the nursery and was intrigued but didn't know anything about it.

Lyn, isn't it a fun idea? I love black flowers but they're not that interesting on their own; then it occurred to me how COOL would it be if you're sitting out having drinks in the evening and the garden slowly closed up all its daytime flowers and became a totally different nighttime garden while you sat there and watched? And of course most night-bloomers are white, so ... yeah, I'm so excited I can hardly wait for things to grow. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:17 PM on May 19, 2011

Here's a list for a moonlight garden.

Black flower seeds.

More black flowers

Cotinus isn't dark all year round, but it's very cool and does come in a dark purple.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:33 PM on May 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have a black lace elderberry and it's beautiful - it looks kind of like a deep purple Japanese maple.

It does need regular trimming, otherwise it can get scraggly looking. But it's a beautiful plant.
posted by Ostara at 2:24 PM on May 19, 2011

Best answer: I think if it is just one shrub in a bed, you should go for something open, lacy, or fountain like so it is not just some big gumdrop blob. Try bridal wreath spirea, magnolia stellata, philadelphus, white lorapetalum. Or look for a perennial vine to espalier in front of your brick wall, like climbing hydrangea.

As a garden designer, some ideas: I think white flower beds always look better with some blue flowers mixed in, it makes the white look less dingy. "Black" flowers also go well with blue, and especially well with chartreuse foliage. The chartreuse sweet potato is a good choice, and continuity of foliage types with the black makes your composition more elegant. Same with chartreuse heuchera (I cut off the coral-pinky flowers). Too much red/bronze foliage makes a garden bed look muddy, so balance that. White variegated plants are another option besides chartreuse. Heuchera, thyme, liriope "Silver Dragon" are good.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:26 PM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are all great answers. I ended up going with the Diabolo ninebark, which suited the space well and plays well with local wildlife. I'll also keep in mind some of the other non-bush ideas as I go forward!

Thanks, all!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:46 AM on May 24, 2011

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