I like to keep an eye on fashion, although I’m not sure I always execute it as well as I’d hoped! In this blog, I’ll be having a look at which flowers are strutting down the fashion catwalk this season, all quaffed and preened and ready for the flashbulbs...
In terms of fashion, you usually can’t go wrong with black, and this is the same in the plant world. A bit of a long-term favourite, enthusiasts go crazy for any flower that’s black. But, you know I think everyone should give them a go and not be scared, either indulge and grow an all-black border (like HRH Prince Charles does!) or use them as jet-black accents. Pink and black, yellow and black… such mouth-watering combinations!
Last month, I told you the story of the newest, blackest climbing Fuchsia (Lady in Black). If black fuchsias are your thing, look out too for Fuchsia 'Roesse Blacky', probably Europe’s most highly-regarded black Fuchsia, from a key breeder in Belgium and named after his daughter.
There are also some great black flowers in our bedding staples too. Especially Petunias, which have come a long way since the lanky, weather-shredded varieties of old. They’re now bred with resilience for the changeable British climate and in almost every colour of the rainbow (*goes and counts colours...)
But Petunia 'Pinstripe' is the variety in vogue at the moment. Velveteen blooms, with a texture like a comfy cushion, and in the most scintillating deep, deep blackcurrant colour. In fact, I feel confident enough to call it BLACK. Linear raspberry smoothie stripes finish off the beauty of the bloom. And do you know the best, most crazy thing about this plant? The blooms look better the more neglected the plants are! Rich soils and overfeeding will produce far inferior blooms, which tend to be brighter and more purple. Keeping on the dry side encourages the best, TRUE BLACK blooms.
Its sister varieties 'Phantom' and 'Black Satin' are also worth looking out for, with variations on the black theme. Why not try them altogether? Ask any plant bod at a trade show and black petunias are the buzz words this spring.
If these Petunias have given you the 'black flower bug' and you want more, then why not check out the exclusive collection of black perennials: Black Flowers Collection.
Next, let’s look at Dianthus and Pinks. I feel the key word for Dianthus in 2012 should be simplicity, and the unique blooms of Dianthus 'Teardrops' fit the bill. They’re great border-sized plants, about 2 feet high, so great for those relaxed swathes a la Verbena bonariensis, but at that height they’ll also work well in containers too. Blooms have a single layer of petals, with clear patterning - I especially like 'Fen', which probably should have been called 'Florida Sunset' or something! They last 3 weeks in a vase, we’ve tested this for ourselves. The fragrance is gentle and won’t make you sneeze like many clove-heavy Carnations and Pinks, so that’s a bonus too!
And, while we’re on Dianthus, you can’t get more simple and beautiful than 'Green Trick'! Originally from Japan, I had to badger our Dutch supplier for a few years to let us bring this incredible product to the UK. Technically a Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus), but with the most intriguing blooms which are FULL GREEN, and a mass of those feathery green bracts that Sweet Williams open from. It’s almost like the Sweet William that never opened! Blooms last months, and open gradually from a fizzy sprig to a full-sized tennis ball. Amazing!
Lastly, Busy Lizzies. Now that shouldn’t be a swear word this season, for there are varieties which will NOT be struck down by downy mildew. As a general rule, any Busy Lizzie with 'New Guinea' blood is resistant to downy mildew, so this means Sunpatiens, Busy Lizzie 'Divine' and new Busy Lizzie 'Rokoko'. This is the year that Busy Lizzies get frilly! 'Rokoko' is a brand new type from German breeding, with crispy, curly, frilly blooms. I especially like 'Josephine' with sugary pink flowers. They are great for borders, patio pots or even trendy-looking pots for the outside dining table.
So, with all these gems, there’s no excuse not to be in fashion this summer. Get planning now!
Dianthus 'Green Trick'
Dianthus 'Teardrops Fen'
Scabious 'Ace of Spades'