Well, isn't it a beauty, looking so fresh-faced after a rain?
We all have plants with sentimental histories. The iris was a gift from a friend who was leaving the community and for that reason I feel a special attachment. This black beauty did not bloom last year, making its return all the more sweet.
As I have since learned, 'Suspicion' was hybridized by Schreiner's Iris Gardens in Oregon's Willamette Valley and introduced in 1977. It's a mid-season bloom.
Some may not consider my iris "black" enough, although I think it holds its own against the three dark cultivars pictured below.
The appearance of my dark beauty got me thinking about black flowers. It is said that there are no truly black flowers; that in fact, natural black flowers are a deep, dark red or purple; it's their rich pigmentation that makes them appear nearly black.
The black flower has been a source of fascination – even obsession – for plant collectors and breeders for generations. In the Victorian era, collectors returned from the farthest corners of Asia and South America with exotic new plant species. Those with dark blooms were much desired. As the fascination for black flowers grew, Victorians developed entire gardens dedicated to dark flowers and foliage. Garden writer Nikki Phipps offers a fairly thorough list of plants for recreating a Victorian black garden, if you are so inclined.
Funny that in gardening, as in many other things, what's old is new again. Dark blooming plants and dark foliage are trendy at the moment. Trends don't persuade me, although I admit that I find rich burgundy foliage very attractive and well suited to my garden.
Euphorbia dulcis 'Chameleon'. This lovely spurge adds mystery and character to a mixed perennial bed. I hope it will prove as hardy as my old stand-by Euphorbia polychroma (Cushion Spurge).
I agree with Nikki Phipps' advice to place dark-colored plants in sunny areas or "against a lighter backdrop in order to stand out more effectively." Plants with light foliage and flowers make a wonderful foil for the darkest blooms.
Memories of my black iris linger still. So glad I photographed her mysterious dark self. She will – I hope – come again next year.
Bearded Iris 'Suspicion' - There Blooms a Garden
Iris cultivars - Schreiner's Iris Gardens
Euphorbia dulcis 'Chameleon' - Bailey Nurseries via Fine Gardening Plant Guide