By Sean Conway
Are you one of those people who plant the exact same thing in your containers or gardens every year? Well, why not take your gardening up a notch this spring? Try something new. Plant something exotic, something that will awaken your senses. Consider livening up your plant mix with a little chocolate.
Chocolate in the gardening world refers to foliage color, of course, but for those of you who are passionate about actual chocolate, believe it or not there are a few plants whose flowers exude the fragrance of roasted coco beans.
The deep maroon-red color that gardeners often refer to as "chocolate" is not uncommon in the plant world. This color is often found on plants that are adapted to full sun conditions. Some plants, such as certain varieties of Japanese maple, will retain the color in their leaves all season, while others, such as sparkling burgundy pineapple lily, start out with a deep red wine color only to fade to green as the season progresses and temperatures warm.
Plants with these rich chocolate tones are wonderful additions to both gardens and containers alike. They compliment any shade of green, adding visual interest and giving the eye a place to rest.
Chocolate-leafed plants also work well as contrasting colors for plants with yellow, gold, silver or variegated leaves. One of my gardens is planted exclusively with silver- and chocolate-leafed plants. Visitors often remark at how eye-catching it is.
If the extent of your gardening is limited to a container or two, consider adding a few chocolate leaved plants to mix it up a bit. This is especially true of containers for exposed to full sun, as most plants with chocolate colored leaves attain a deeper color in those conditions.
This week on "Cultivating Life," container expert Sue Champagne from The Farmer's Daughter garden center in Kingston, R.I., demonstrates how to successfully incorporate chocolate colored plants into a mixed container. The results are spectacular, so tune in.
Below is a list of chocolate colored plants that Sue recommends to add a touch of drama to your garden or containers.
Ajuga reptans 'Chocolate Chip'
Carex comans 'Milk Chocolate'
Carex tenuiculmis 'Cappuccino'
Coleus 'Chocolate Drop'
Coleus 'Chocolate Mint'
Coleus 'Mint Mocha'
Colocasia 'Black Magic'
Corn Zea Mays 'Double Red' (Chocolate Corn)
Cosmos atrosanguineus (Chocolate Cosmos)
Dahlia 'Chocolate Sundae' (Dahlia)
Dahlia 'Karma Choc' (Dahlia)
Eupatorium rugosa 'Chocolate (Joe Pye Weed)
Geranium maculatum 'Espresso' (Perennial Geranium)
Hemerocallis 'Sweet Hot Chocolate' (daylily)
Heuchera 'Chocolate Ruffles' (Coral Bells)
Heuchera x villosa 'Mocha' (Coral Bells)
Heucherella 'Chocolate Lace'
Mimosa 'Summer Chocolate' (Albizia julibrissin)
Nicotiana 'Chocolate Smoke'
Nicotiana ' Hot Chocolate'
Papaver orientale 'Royal Chocolate Distinction' (Oriental Poppy)
Penstemon whippleanus 'Chocolate Drop'
Rose 'Hot Cocoa'
Tiarella 'Mint Chocolate'
Chocolate lovers might consider adding a few cocoa-scented flowers to your garden this year. Chocolate Cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus) and Chocolate Daisy (Berlandiera lyrata), also known as Chocolate Flower, have a strong chocolate fragrance that is wonderfully intoxicating -- and luckily not fattening!
So if you're stuck in a rut with your gardening choices, why not shake things up a bit this year and garden like a chocoholic. For additional photos visit the Cultivating Life TV page on
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© Cultivating Life by Sean Conway