University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Perennial Publications : Book of the Month

Black Magic and Purple Passion
Karen Platt. 2004. Black Tulip Publishing, Sheffield, UK.  softcover, 240pp.

Color theme gardens, and books on them, have become popular once again.  Here is perhaps the first such reference on plants with black or dark (sometimes dark red or purple) leaves and flowers.  Many of these are newer cultivars which didn't exist in the past, and are among the 2750 dark plants covered in this book along with 425 color photos.  Beginning with brief chapters on using dark plants, and ending with plants by season, most of the book is an A to Z listing by genus.  Although an English book, with many of the cultivars unavailable or hard to find in the U.S., there is still much here for the American gardener interested in a dark garden, or adding such plants to the garden.

American gardeners not familiar with a wide plant range and availability might look at this book along with their favorite catalogs, or next to a computer for an online searching of ones they like.  Each genus has a few comments, a brief description on culture, then mainly a listing of species and cultivars with dark leaves.  Each entry has a brief description of the color, and other interest such as its origin or use.  At the end of each genus is a listing of companion plants to consider, making this useful for design choices.

Also helpful for design, at the beginning of the book, are many ideas of locations and types of gardens one might design with black plants, and some examples of plant choices.  Examples of locations are by the poolside, or woodland edge.  Examples of themes are black and white, or black and gold.  One plant for the latter, and one of my favorites as well, is the purple loosestrife Lysimachia ciliata 'Firecracker' with its very dark red leaves, and contrasting small bright yellow flowers in early summer.

The author has many years of practical and professional experience with black and dark plants, founding a nursery in England devoted to them, and the International Plant Black Society in 2002 (which you can learn more from on the internet).  She designs, writes, paints, photographs, and lectures in Britain and abroad on black plants.  This is her latest of 14 books, with another recent one on gold plants.  These may be ordered from complete book sellers, or online from Amazon.UK.


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