Black Flowers

Find here tips for sowing and growing the flowers that came with your ‘Black Flowers’ seed box.

Black Hollyhock (Alcea rosea var. nigra): Sow directly in spring, from April to June. Sow the seeds flat and cover with a thin layer of soil. Keep evenly moist. The seeds germinate fast, usually within the first 2 weeks. Hardy biennial to short lived perennial, up to 150-200 cm tall. Plan for 4 plants per m2 or plant every 50 cm. Likes a spot in full sun or half shade, in nutritious, well drained, humus rich soil. A traditional spot is in front of a sun exposed house wall or by the fence. Plant together with clary sage and coneflower. Flowers nearly black, from June through to September. Will die after setting seed. Remove faded flowers and cut back for another flowering season. Old cottage garden plant, belonging into any witch or occult themed garden. The flowers are used as a medicinal tea herb and food color. They are rich in anthocyanins (from Greek: anthos – “flower” and kyaneos/kyanous – “dark blue”), which solve in water and color it deep red without changing taste. The tea is drunk to ease bronchitis symptoms and mouth ulcers. The flower extract is used externally as a wash against skin inflammations.

Purple Angelica, Dangquai (Angelica gigas): Cold germinator, self-seeding. Sow directly in autumn, on moist, humus rich soil. Or cold stratify in the fridge. Keep evenly moist and out of sunlight. May need several months for germination and requires patience. Don’t dispose seeding containers too early. Hardy biennial or short-lived perennial, up to 150 cm. Plant 2-3 plants per m2 or about every 75 cm, in the background, in groups or solitary. Teams well with coneflower, foxglove, fennel and various types of ornamental grass. Favors a place in full sun or half shade and requires a moist or damp, humus rich soil. A good place is for example by a pond or river. The roots need to be kept in shade. Extravagant appearance, with dark purple stems and green-purple, beak-shaped flower buds, unfolding into deep purple flower umbels from June to August. Attractive to pollinators. Will die after setting seed. Remove faded flowers and cut back for another flowering season. Originally from Korea, hence also known as Korean angelica. Edible.

Dark Columbine (Aquilegia atrata): Cold germinator, self-seeding. Sow directly in autumn, winter or early spring (can be sown from October through to April the following year). Sow flat and cover with just a fine layer of soil or just press on gently. May germinate irregularly, so be patient and don’t exposes sowing containers too early. Hardy perennial, up to 60 cm. Plan for 11 plants per m2 or plant every 30 cm, along hedges, in the foreground or between other medium high flowering plants. Teams up nicely with mountain knapweed and lady’s slipper orchid. Prefers a well lit place in full sun or half shade, on calciferous, well drained, humus rich soil. In the wild it is found growing in forests, on fens and as part of tall herbaceous vegetation. A rare plant, with gothic dark purple flowers from May to July. Requires little care and easily spreads through self-seeding. Fits well into any cottage and wildlife garden or also on graves. Poisonous!

‘Chocolate Soldier’ Columbine (Aquilegia viridiflora ‘Chocolate Soldier’): A rarity, this columbine was first cultivated in England around 200 years ago, and is currently experiencing a revival. It is different from other columbine species in several ways: 1.) It does not hybridize as easily and self-seeds rarely. 2.) It has a more compact growth, gets only about 40 cm tall and can be planted in rockeries. 3.) Its peculiar flowers are fragrant! Sow early in spring or late summer. Sow flat on moist soil and only press on gently. Do not cover with soil! The seeds for this columbine germinate quickly, usually within 1-2 weeks, at about 20°C. After germination, put the seedlings in cool shade, and protect them from frost. Plants sown early may flower the same year, plants sown in late summer should be overwintered in a cold frame. The flowers are chocolate-brown and enveloped by yellow-green sepals, which form spurs at the top. Bright yellow stamina form a beautiful contrast to the dark bonnet-shaped flower. Flowering time: April-May. Short-lived or biennial. Won’t self-seed, or yield only few seedlings, which are not as robust as in other columbine species. Collect the ripe seeds and sow in containers to keep this rare columbine a stable companion in your garden. (See also)

Black ‘Barlow’ Columbine (Aquilegia vulg. ‘Black Barlow’): See above. The “Black Barlow” is a hybrid form of common columbine, with dark purple or nearly black, filled flowers. It is common in English cottage gardens and an easy to grow classic for any gothic black flower themed garden. Poisonous!

‘Black Pearl’ Chilli (Capsicum annuum ‘Black Pearl’): An award-winning chilli variety! Up to 50 cm, compact growth, with dark-purple to nearly black foliage. The pearl-shaped pods are about 2 cm in diameter and change color from black to red, as they ripen. Prime seeds in fresh tepid water. Sow indoors, in early spring. Sow about 2 mm deep, in low-nutrient soil or kokohum. Cover with transparent foil or glass. Keep evenly moist, but not sopping. Transplant outdoors after the last expected frosts, in a warm and sunny position. Water frequently. Use a nutritious, well-drained soil, e.g. adding perlite or vermiculite. You can also use ready tomato soil. Then you may have to start fertilizing with liquid fertilizer after a few weeks. During hot days, water in the morning and evening. Edible. Hotness: Capsaicin is the active ingredient that gives peppers their pungency. The number of SHU is related to the amount of capsaicin. Caution: hot! Scoville Units: ~ 30.000 SHU (named after, Wilbur Scoville, who developed the scale in 1912 to measure the pungency of chilli peppers). (see also)

‘Royal Black’ Chilli (Capsicum annuum ‘Royal Black’): Ornamental chili, with edible pods. 60-90 cm tall, with dark purple to black foliage and stems and violet-purple flowers. The pods are a deep black, and slowly turn red, as they ripen. Maturing time: 75-90 days. Prime seeds in fresh tepid water. Sow indoors, in early spring. Sow about 2 mm deep, in low-nutrient soil or kokohum. Cover with transparent foil or glass. Keep evenly moist, but not sopping. Transplant outdoors after the last expected frosts, in a warm and sunny position. Water frequently. Use a nutritious, well-drained soil, e.g. adding perlite or vermiculite. You can also use ready tomato soil. Then you may have to start fertilizing with liquid fertilizer after a few weeks. During hot days, water in the morning and evening. Edible. Hotness: Capsaicin is the active ingredient that gives peppers their pungency. The number of SHU is related to the amount of capsaicin. Scoville Units: 5 000 – 30 000 SHU (named after, Wilbur Scoville, who developed the scale in 1912 to measure the pungency of chilli peppers). (see also)

Black Ball Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus ‘Black Ball’): light germinator, self seeding. Sow from April to May or August -September, directly in the place, where you wish to grow them and later prick out. Sow flat and just press on gently. Annual, frost tolerant, up to 50 cm. If sown in late summer, it will act as a biennial, flowering the following year. Plan for about 16 plants per m2, or one plant every 25 cm. Teams up nicely with white corn flowers, poppies, cosmos and other field flowers. Grows in full sun, on low-nutrient, well-drained soil. Cut flowers will last for 5-8 days. Edible, astringent, anti-inflammatory, used in tea blends and for decorating salads.

Chocolate Cosmos ‘Black Magic’ (Cosmos atrosanguineus ‘Black Magic’): Easy to grow from seed. Use normal seeding compost, e.g. peat, which is low in nutrients. Moisten thoroughly. Then sow the seeds flat on the surface and sprinkle them with only a fine layer of soil. Cosmos can be sown outdoors in May, but for an early flower, you should sow indoors in early spring. Then you can plant it outdoors in May, respectively after the last frosts. Plant about 30 cm apart. Cosmos likes a spot in full sun and a moist well-drained soil. You can use a ready rhododendron soil mix, or blend normal humus rich flower soil with some sand. The ph should be neutral. This rare variant is called “Black Magic” and has dark-brown, or nearly black flowers and gets about 60 cm tall. The seeds are one of the priciest I have come across yet. It flowers from June throughout September, and sometimes October. The flowers can be cut and added to bouquets. You can grow cosmos in containers or as part of flower borders. As an annual, it self-seeds in autumn. Alas, there is no guarantee for the next cosmos generation to show the same color, since their genetics are highly variable. So be up for a surprise! Either way, cosmos is a bee plant and a must in any cottage garden.

Black Devil’s Trumpet (Datura metel ‘Fastuosa’): Preculture: sow indoors in February or in a warm green house. Or sow directly in May. Prior to sowing, soak seeds for 24 hours in fresh tepid water. Sow ca. 0,5 cm deep in moist soil, under glass or cover with plastic wrap. Germination may take 3-4 weeks or longer. Plant outdoors after the last frosts, in containers or directly to the ground. Annual, not frost tolerant, up to 150 cm tall. Set single plants about 90 cm apart. Favors full sun or half shade and nutritious, calcareous, clayey, well-drained soil. Tall thorn-apple plants may fall over if planted in too loose soil. Shelter from strong winds and lend growth support. Bushy growth, stems may turn semi-woody. Bizarre appearance, with shiny, dark purple or nearly black stems and filled flowers, that are white on the inside. Naturalized in Israel, the black flowering datura is found along roadsides. Flowers from June on until late fall. Fruits are smooth, lacking thorns and contain the yellow-orange seeds. Selfseeding. Caution: all parts of the plant are poisonous! Do not ingest, wear gloves and wash hands after handling!

Sweet William ‘Sooty’ (Dianthus barbatus nigrescens ‘Sooty’): Selfseeding. Sow directly from April to July, or preculture indoors from September to October. The soil needs to be raked and stones removed prior to sowing. Sow ca. 6 mm deep and 30 cm apart. Cover loosely with a fine layer of soil. Germinates usually within 2-3 weeks. Plant outdoors after the last frost, in containers, baskets or flower beds. Frost tolerant, biennial to short lived perennial, about 40 cm tall. Favors full sun and rich, clayey, very well drained soil. Make sure the soil is not sopping wet during the winter time. Cut back to 2-4 cm after first frost. Deadhead for continuous flowering. The fragrant flowers occur from May to August and attract various pollinators. They can be cut and made into bouquets. Both foliage and flowers are a deep ruby-black in color and a classic in cottage gardens.

Dusky Crane’s-bill ‘Raven’ (Geranium phaeum ‘Raven’): Cold germinator, selfseeding. Sow in autumn or late winter. Or cold-stratify the seeds in the fridge for 3 months at ~4°C. Sow flat, one seed every 2 cm, and cover with a fine layer of soil. Keep moist and in low temperatures, ideally at 5-10°C. Germination may take 1-3 months. If the seeds do not germinate, do not give up yet. Instead, simply leave the sowing containers outdoors over the next winter. In the wild crane’s-bill easily sows out itself and spreads quickly. It favors a fresh but well drained soil and grows in damp shade, half shade or full sun. Usually up to 60 cm in height, it makes a beautiful ground-cover plant. Plant 30-40 cm apart. Cut back after the first flower for a second flowering period. Flowering time: May-July. Flower color: dark brown to purple. Origin: Russia, Europe. Other names are ‘Black widow’, ‘Mourning widow’, ‘Trauernde Wittwe’, ‘Teufelsregenschirm’.

‘Black Magic’ Sunflower (Helianthus annuus ‘Black Magic’): Sow indoors in early spring, one seed per tray, about 2 cm deep. Plant outdoors after the last night frosts. Or sow outdoors in May/after the last night frosts. If you sow outdoors, prepare the ground by blending in compost soil and after sowing about 5 cm deep, adding a layer of moist leaves on top. For optimal growth, plant at least 50 cm apart. Sunflowers demand a spot in full sun, protected from wind and a moist but well-drained, nutrient rich soil. They grow large and wide-spreading roots, which absorb a lot of nutrients. It is recommended to frequently add liquid fertilizer to sunflowers grown in pots. The “Black Magic” cultivar is one of the darkest available, with deep brown-red or nearly black flower heads. It gets about 120 cm tall and may flower from June to October, depending on the time of sowing. Sow successionally, a couple of weeks apart, to have flowers all summer and up into autumn. Sunflowers are annuals, which self-seed, if allowed to. Let the heads with seeds stand throughout winter to provide food for birds. Collect some seeds, to sow again next spring. Bee and bird plant and a must in any cottage garden. In addition, sunflowers increase soil quality.

Black-flowering oriental hellebores (Helleborus orientalis hybrids): Cold germinator, self seeding. Sow directly from June to February, or preculture indoors. First soak the seeds for 2-3 days in warm water prior to sowing. Then sow flat on moist well-drained seeding compost and cover just with a thin layer of soil or grit. In nature the seeds are first exposed to autumn warmth, then winter cold and finally snow melt. To imitate this process, you may have to move them from warm to cold (-4 to +4°C for 6-8 weeks), and then to about 10°C and eventually repeat for a second time. Hellebore seeds are known to germinate very irregularly, sometimes staying dormant for 1-2- years. So please do not give up on them. I have had Hellebore seeds germinate in the flower bed even 4 years after with no sign of life in between. Once germinated, the little hellebore plants will need another 1-2 years, until they set flower in late winter or early spring, which is why their are also known as Lenten roses. It is easier, to propagate hellebore by taking cuttings. Or simply allow to self-seed once established. Contained in this mix are seeds from both filled and plain ruby-black as well as ‘slate’ black-flowering hellebore strains from our garden. Btw. if you keep the sowing containers outdoors, you may want to cover them with wire mesh to protect them from birds or rodents. This still does not prevent ants from carrying them away… Yes, ants feed on the little oil bodies (elaiosomes) attached to hellebore seeds and carry them into their nest. Which is in fact one way, how hellebore spreads in nature. 😉 And finally, all parts of hellebore are poisonous! Do not ingest, wear gloves and wash hands after handling!

Egyptian henbane (Hyoscyamus muticus): Another member in the nightshade family, and related to black henbane, Egyptian henbane is native to desert areas of North Africa. Like other nightshades, it contains alkaloids that are useful in pharmaceuticals. It is used locally as a painkiller and a recreational drug. In high dosages it can be fatal. Opposed to the biennial black henbane, Egyptian henbane is a perennial with a height of 40-80 cm, sometimes up to 1,5 m. Adopted to desert heat, drought and extreme temperature changes, it grows in the shape of a stout succulent with long stems and many branches. The stems are purple in the beginning. The foliage is downy and sticky, and emits a pungent odor when crushed. The flowers vary in color from white to yellow-green to a deep dark purple at the center and upper lip. They are accentuated by white veins. However, the flowers of the one I got seeds for, had a broad dark throat and only bright-purple to green edges, which is why I included it here. Sowing: sow Egyptian henbane seed flat on seeding compost or your preferred medium. It’s important that you use a medium which is low in nutrients! I always soak the sowing containers 1 day prior to sowing, so that the soil is evenly moist but not sopping. Then carefully scatter the seeds on the soil, or put 2-3 seeds per pellet. Then only press the seeds on and maximum cover them with a very fine layer of sand. Then cover the container with transparent plastic foil or glass. Water indirectly (from below). The seeds need at least 22°C, better 25°C to germinate. I had mine indoors for a few weeks and first only 3 out of 30 germinated. As temps got warmer outdoors, I planted them outdoors in a raised bed, but protected from direct sun and wind. I also emptied the sowing pot right into the bed. A few days later (along with our first really hot days in May), ALL the other seeds germinated and grew faster, than my original seedlings, which did not like the transplanting at all. So, you can try to cultivated Egyptian henbane indoors, but my advice is to sow them outdoors and directly in the bed, as early and as late as possible (after the last night frosts). As a desert plant, Egyptian henbane demands a spot in full sun. The soil should be sandy and contain some loam, but make sure it’s still loose and not too tight. Egyptian henbane is described as a perennial in its natural habitat, which grows into a small shrub. However, it won’t survive North- or Middle-European winters. Hence it is grown here as an annual.

Crimson Loosestrife (Lysimachia atropurpurea ‘Beaujolais’): Sow in spring or autumn, when temperatures are cool, but not freezing. Ideal are 14-18°C. Sow the seeds on the surface and do not cover them or sprinkle just a thin layer of soil over them. Germination may take 1-3 months. Plant outdoors after the first frost, leaving about 45 cm space between single plants. If you sow in autumn, over-winter seedlings in a heated green house. Hardy perennial, up to 70 cm tall, with silver-green foliage and exotic dark-purple flower spikes from June to September. Prefers a spot in full sun or half shade and a loamy, well-drained, evenly moist, nutritious soil. Dead-head before they set seed to ensure another flowering season. Manure with mulch applied to the base of the plant in autumn. Decorative, ornamental plant, originating from the Balkans. Attractive to butterflies, perfect for cutting. Not to be confused with the noxious weed Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)! If you plan to collect the seeds, you may consider wearing gloves, as they are equipped with barbs.

Himalayan Mandrake(Mandragora causlescens): Cold germinator. Seeds need to be kept at temperatures below 5°C for several weeks and with constant moisture. Germinates irregularly, from 1 month up to 1 year. Do not discard sowing pots too early. Likes a spot in the sun or light shade. Requires a well-drained, chalky soil, with some gravel, sand and loam. Fitting for a rock garden. A stunning relative of the mandrake, its flowers may be nearly black in the beginning, and later turn a greenish yellow. As suggested by Sarah of banefolk, the dark color comes from pigments that protect the young flowers and stems from the UV light emitted by the spring sun. Not only the color of the flowers, but all parts of the plant can vary greatly in shape and size. Four subspecies are known. Different from Mandragora officinarum, Himalayan mandrake grows a short stem and sometimes branches. The leaves are basal, but sometimes also occur along the stem. The root is sturdy, fleshy, elongated and about 5-20 cm long. Flowers from April or May to July or September, with fruits appearing until October. The fruits are greenish white to yellow berries, about 2,5 cm in diameter and contain numerous yellow, reniform seeds, which are about 2 mm long. Himalayan mandrake is a “Sino-Himalayan” species, native to Nepal, northern India (including Sikkim from where it was first described), Bhutan, Myanmar, and south-west China. It grows in open areas, such as grassland, moorland, pastures and stony slopes and screes, particularly among Rhododendron shrubs. It is found in the subalpine and alpine zones, at altitudes of 2,200–4,900 m. Poisonous. The roots contain hyoscine and anisodamine, and are used medicinally in China.

Dark Purple Love-in-a-mist (Nigella Papillosa ‘Midnight’): Self seeding, easy to grow. Sow the seeds flat and cover them with only a fine layer of soil (ca. 3 mm). Best is to sow in rows, directly in the place where you wish to grow them, leaving about 30 cm space between each row. The seeds will germinate in 2-3 weeks. Thin out seedlings, leaving about 25 cm between each. Sow in spring or autumn. If sown in autumn, it will act as a biennial and flower the next summer. Prefers a nutritious, well-drained, evenly moist, mildly calcareous soil and a spot in full or sheltered sun. Hardy annual, up to 90 cm tall, with decorative dark purple-blue flowers from June to August, and dark purple, spider-like seed pods. Both the cut flowers and dried seed pods are used in flower arrangements. To enjoy both, it is recommended to remove part of the fading flowers, but leaving some to develop into the decorative pods.

Black ‘Peony’ Poppy (Papaver somniferum var. paeoniflorum ‘Black Peony’): Self seeding, easy to grow. Sow in rows leaving about 15 cm space between each row. Will germinate within 2 weeks. Thin out, leaving about 20 cm between each seedling. The biggest mistake to make with poppies is to sow them too densely. The more space is left between seedlings the larger the flowers and pods will be. Can be sown in spring or autumn. The poppy seedlings are hardy. If sown in autumn they will flower the next year. Annual, hardy, up to 90 cm tall, with dark purple, nearly black filled flowers that start blooming in June and may continue flowering until August. Likes a wind-protected spot in full sun or sheltered sun and normal soil. The ideal soil would be loamy and sandy and a bit calcareous. If you sow different colors you will get hybrid seeds, as bees and other pollinators don’t stick to one color. If you prefer single-variety flowers, then remove flowers with other colors before they open. Will self-seed once the pods are ripe. Dead-head flowers and pods to prolong flowering and avoid self-seeding. Note: in Germany a license is required to grow Papaver somniferum, even if it’s just for ornamental purpose.

Dark Beardtongue (Penstemon whippleanus): Rare, short-lived perennial, late-flowering border plant, attractive to bees, butterflies and other pollinators. Native to the Rocky Mountain regions, northern Arizona and southern New Mexico. Can be sown from February to April or in September. The seeds germinate within 3 weeks at 15-20°C. However, another source claims, they would require a 3 months cold-moist stratification. Perhaps try both methods. In any case, use a sowing medium, which is low in nutrients. Cover the seeds with a fine layer of grit or compost, as thick as the seed itself. Plant with the top of the root ball showing out of the surrounding soil to avoid burying the crown of the plant. Give young plants winter-protection. Loves a spot in full sun and a well-drained, rockery soil, which is rather low in nutrients. Waterlogging will kill it quickly. Mulch with gravel or pine needles in arid climates. Fertilize sparingly. One time each year in the fall is enough. Apply a light application of an organic or natural fertilizer. In nature it is found in subalpine areas, clearings and on roadsides. Flowers from mid-summer into autumn. The flowers are a dark purple-brown and arranged in spires. They are covered in glistening glandular hairs, which appear jewel-like in the right kind of light. Belonging to the Plantaginaceae family, in high altitudes it gets just about 20 cm tall and is somewhat unassuming but fascinating in appearance. Keep spent foliage until the following spring (it acts as a covering and protection during winter). Hardy up to -15°C (add winter protection during long cold periods). Allow to self-seed. Fitting for a rock garden.

Black Rampion Flower (Phyteuma nigrum): Cold germinator, best sown in autumn from October to December! Sow the seeds flat and just press them on. The seeds germinate within 3-4 weeks. If not, give them an additional cold treatment for 2-4 weeks. Thin out to 25 cm between seedlings. Perennial, up to 70 cm tall, with a basal rosette of leaves, a turnip-like root and black-purple to deep-blue flower spikes from May to July. Prefers a humic, lime-deficient, acidophilous, loamy soil and a spot in sheltered sun or half shade. In the wild it frequents deciduous forests and alpine meadows. A member in the bellflower family, native to middle Europe. Known since antiquity, in the past black rampion has been used as a food vegetable. A rare and beautiful addition to a wildlife garden. In Germany it is also known by the name “Schwarze Rapunzel” and “Schwarze Teufelskralle” (not to be confused with the African devil’s claw root). More info here: http://www.natur-lexikon.com/Texte/MZ/004/00312-schwarze-Teufelskralle/MZ00312-Schwarze-teufelskralle.html

Black Pasque Flower (Pulsatella pratensis ssp. nigricans): Rare, protected wildlife flower. Cold germinator. Sow the seeds flat and gently press them on. Sow in late summer, from August to September. Or pre-culture from January to March. The seeds require changing temperatures in a warm-cold-warm succession: 2-4 weeks at 18-20°C, 4-6 weeks between -4 and +4°C and finally 5-12°C. Place the sowing containers outdoors and allow the seeds to germinate under natural conditions, ideally keeping them covered by winter snow and exposing them to spring snow melt. Or simulate this process in your fridge. Plant outdoors from May until October, 25 cm apart. Prefers a spot in sheltered sun or half shade. Prefers a well-drained, sandy, mildly calcareous soil. Hardy perennial, about 20 cm tall, with dark purple bell-shaped flowers, from April to June. Pasque flower has been used in folk medicine. It is said to act diaphoretic, diuretic, anodyne and anticonvulsant. The roots have been used as a nerve tonic. A tea from the root and an unguent from the leaves supposedly help ease symptoms connected to rheumatic diseases. Note: all parts of the plant contain toxins. The toxins dissipate when cooked.

Western Coneflower (Rudbeckia occidentalis ‘Green Wizzard’): Preculture indoors during spring or sow outdoors in early autumn. Sow flat and cover with just a thin layer of soil or vermiculite. Use moist and well-drained seeding compost and keep evenly moist but not sopping. Germinates within 2-3 weeks. Plant outdoors after the last frost, leaving about 60 cm between single plants. Divide plants in spring every 2-3 years. Prefers a spot in full or sheltered sun and evenly moist, well-drained soil. Mulch if the ground is prone to drying out quickly. Hardy perennial in the asters family, up to 1,80 m tall, flowering from July to September. Perfect for high borders and as a background planting. The peculiar flowers consist of a large, central, dark brown, dome-shaped boss, which is surrounded by stiff green, petal-like phyllaries, from which the ‘Green Wizzard’ variety receives its name. Cut flowers last long!

Sweet Scabious ‘Black Knight’ (Scabiosa atropurpurea ‘Black Knight’): Pre-culture in spring, under temperatures between 15-18°C. Sow about 3 mm deep, cover with a fine layer of soil. Germination takes 2-3 weeks. Plant outdoors after the last frost. Or sow in autumn and overwinter in a cold frame and plant outdoors the following spring. Plant 20 cm apart, water regularly. Prefers a wind-protected spot in full sun and evenly moist, well-drained, mildly calcareous soil. Annual, up to 1 m tall, with long tender stems, flowering from July to October. This variant has black-red flowers, some of which are plain and others with contrasting white stigmas. The sweetly fragrant flowers are loved by bees and butterflies and last long in cut flower arrangements.

Black False Hellebore (Veratrum nigrum): The name is somewhat misleading, since this tall plant in the order Liliales has nothing to do with true hellebores. It is however poisonous in all parts, containing more than 200 steroid-derived alkaloids. Lucretius and Pliny the Elder both knew of its medicinal emetic as well as deadly toxic properties. Among others, the herb causes irritation of mucous membranes. If introduced to the nose, this mucosal irritation will cause sneezing and coughing. The plant drug was sold as a sneezing power (which is possibly why it was confused with black hellebore). It is still in use in TCM, but a safe and effective dosage is extremely difficult to prepare. This hardy Eurasian perennial is found in nature on meadows and waysides. It prefers a spot in shade or partial shade and a deep, moist, nutrient-rich ground. The plant can get up to 1,20 m tall and ends in long spike racemes with deep purple-black flowers in early summer, which last for several weeks. However, in intense summer heat it can go dormant. It is equipped with broad foliage, with veins running parallel along the leaf and creating a pleated look. When fading, they leave behind a web of black threads around the base. Veratrum nigrum was used as an ornamental plant in European gardens at least as far back as 1773. It was in common use in 1828, and Charles Darwin grew it in his garden in the 1840s. The plant is still widely used in gardens in Europe and Asia because of its striking black flowers. The large crimson seed heads make for a striking winter ornamental seedpod plant as well. Cold greminator. Best sown in autumn or late winter. The 1,5 cm long seeds should be sown about 3 cm deep. The seeds first require a 2-4 week long warm period, at 18-22°C. Then expose them to temperatures between -4°C to +4°C for 4-6 weeks. Ideal would be to keep the sowing containers outdoors during winter and covered under a snow blanket, which provides optimal conditions (ideal temperature and even moistness). In spring the temperatures rise slowly and the seeds germinate. Optimal are temperatures of about 5-12°C. Be patient and do not empty sowing containers. The seeds germinate irregularly and may take several months. Plants grown from seeds will generally push through the earth and sprout leaves in early spring. A plant generally takes seven years to reach maturity and flower.

‘Black Bowles’ + ‘Black King’ Pansy (Viola tricolor ‘Black Bowles’, Viola x Wittrockiana ‘Black King’): Self seeding, easy to grow. Sow flat and cover with only a fine layer of soil. Germination takes about 3-4 weeks. Sow in spring or autumn. Annual to biennial, hardy, 20 -40 cm tall, with purple-black flowers, that have a little yellow eye in their center. If sown in autumn, it will act as a biennial and flower the following year. Likes a well-drained, sandy, mildly acidic soil. Flowers almost through the entire year and easily sows out self. Ideal for dynamic planting. The ‘Bowles Black’ variant has a compact growth. Viola x Wittrockiana ‘Black King’ has some of the deepest black flowers.

Black Sweet Corn (Zea mais var. japonica): Similar as with other annuals, sweet corn should be sown as late and simultaneously as early as possible. So, if you sow outdoors, do so in May and after the last night frosts. Sow ca. 3-4 cm deep and leave about 45 cm space between single plants. The soil should be nutrient-rich. Ptrepare it, by blending in compost soil and horn meal. Or sow indoors in early spring. Then use normal seeding compost, which is low in nutrients, e.g. peat. Sow one seed every 5 cm. Before sowing, moisten evenly, and provide good drainage. You can also prime the seeds in fresh tepid water, for about 8 hours prior to sowing. Then place the seeds vertically and about 3 cm deep in the soil, with the tops pointing downwards and loosely cover them with sowing compost. Then put the sowing containers under glass or transparent foil. Plant outdoors after the last night frosts, in full sun and protected from wind. Try to keep the soil around the roots and simply move the whole bale. Form a soil pile around the root. Best is to plant in 45 x 45 cm blocks (not rows). This way the plants can support each other during storms. Another reason to plant sweet corn beside each other (rather than in a long row) is, that the plants pollinate each other by wind. Sweet corn forms a deep tap root and gets about 2 m high. It needs to be watered and fertilized frequently. E.g. mulch with fresh grass clippings or moist leave compost. Do this again, when the plants are about knee high. Until the middle of July it is also recommended to add a second round of horn meal. Traditional companion plants are beans and pumpkins – beans use the sweet corn stems as a growth support, the pumpkins use the space on the ground. If planting with companions, leave at least about 60 cm (better 70 cm) space. This way the planting space is used efficiently and in addition the three plants can support each other. Besides this classical trio, you can also plant radishes, salad and spinach or tomatoes, beans and cucumbers in between, especially at the beginning of the growing season. Peas, radish and asparagus on the other hand, do not go well with sweet corn. Harvest sweet corn in August and keep a few seeds for future culture. The seeds are ripe, when they have their typical color and feel soft inside. Harvest by turning the corncob a few times on the stem. Leave the stem until autumn or spring and then compost it. Or chop them up and use for mulching. This variant has shiny black-red seeds, and can be prepared and consumed as any other type of sweet corn.

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