Dark Nightshades


From the time I first spotted one in a seed catalog, I have taken an interest in black flowers. Black is often a relative term in the botanical world though. Black petunias and calla lilies were all the rage in plant nurseries a few years ago, but the more I looked at them, the less black they appeared. Burgundy or brown seemed to be more accurate descriptions. This was disappointing. I didn’t want a brown garden, I wanted a black one. Fortunately, I don’t give up easily and am now cultivating a sizable collection of dark plants.

It started with nightshades, specifically, Cherokee purple tomatoes and black pearl peppers. It has expanded to include other varieties. Opal basil, Purple okra, black sweet potatoes, purple cabbage, and dark, red veined chard. Alongside the fence there is a towering wild poke sallet bush, its deep red-violet stems and dark berries giving the back yard an autumn mood. Nor is the season over. I have seeds for black violets and pansies that I hope to get started soon. In the sheltered area of our east facing porch, the chances are good they’ll bloom well into November. .

I like dark, mysterious things, probably because they are my opposite. Halloween may only be on the calendar one month out of the year, but this doesn’t stop me from wearing black throughout the other seasons. Naturally, since I wear concert black while playing my harp and black silk shirts or tee shirts when I’m not clowning, it seems logical that certain areas of my garden should wear black too.

My favorite so far is the black pearl pepper. I bought one from a nursery last year and fell hard for the blue-black, almost iridescent foliage and shiny, color changing peppers. I even tried to eat one. It tried to burn my face off. They are more a novelty than a food crop, but I collected the seeds and, wonder of wonders, was able to cultivate more this season.

Some people claim to have a black thumb. I must have the blackest thumb ever. Every seed I planted in the flat sprouted. Since there were two or three in each compartment (They were slow to germinate, so I added a new seed each week), I ended up with more than a dozen thriving seedlings. Later in the season, I re-used the soil from the original plant pot for other projects. Low and behold, I began finding baby Black Pepper plants amid my verbenas and butterfly bushes. If last year was a good one for black pearl peppers, this year might be an even better one.


Sadly, while the concept of a black garden is a popular one, examples of a successful execution are rare on Pinterest. I am having to make mine up as I go along. Hopefully, next year I’ll get some striped and speckled plants for contrast and a few accents. Currently, I’m setting pickle buckets in a row and considering planting arrangements for next year. Maybe some nicer containers or perhaps I’ll dedicate an actual patch of ground to the project.

Meanwhile, the year itself is growing dark. Gardening in an area with seasons is an ongoing race with the changing year. All too soon, the first frost of winter will be upon us and most of my garden will run out of time. It’s a metaphor, I suppose for my own anxious observations of a growing collection of silver hairs and wrinkles. Time has a way of moving forward and it’s something we cannot change. We can only make our own kind of peace with it. Perhaps this is why gardening is so popular with older folk.

It’s not winter yet though, so for now, I’ll take up my spade and do what I can in the time that remains. All any of us really can do in the long run is make the best use of the time given us. Perhaps, in nurturing dark plants and flowers, I’m making my own sort of peace with the ultimate mystery.


ROW#80 Update

  1. Get Hunt Club set up. I’m making progress. There were a few days in which I had to play catch up on other projects, but I’m putting in solid time on the final clean up and format.
  2. Average ½ hour a day working on new novel. Yes! I had to put some solid hours into this in order to catch up, but this and the Hunt Club formatting are running even on time spent, which is how it should be.
  3. Average ½ hour a day on promotion and blogs. Up to date and then some. I skipped another blog because on my grid, the time spent blogging was overtaking my time spent writing. I’m putting a severe time limit on my blogs in an effort to learn some brevity.
  4. Finish reading a book and write a review. Nope.I understand this session is approaching an end and am considering with some excitement what my next set of goals will be. Meantime, I’m looking with a bit dismay at my unfinished ones. I need to hurry up and complete a few projects.

2 thoughts on “Dark Nightshades

  1. It looks like you did a nice job this round. Personally, I like having year-long goals, round goals, and monthly goals, and I accept going in that I almost certainly won’t finish everything. I see the end of month, round, or year as arbitrary. If things are mostly moving forward, I’m happy, and I can always try again in the next cycle.

    I love the little peeks into your life and your garden!

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