Orange may be the new black, but ProfessorRoush believes black will always remain in style, nonetheless. Women never go wrong with a simple basic black dress and pearls, and well-turned out gentlemen seldom look out of place in black suits and white shirts. In contrast, black tulips and dark roses and chocolate zinnias are novelties craved by many gardeners, but I've never jumped on that bandwagon, myself. Does black really ever belong in the garden?
I was excited, however, late in the season last year, when I found a number of Black Diamond Crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica) at the local Home Depot. I had never seen or heard of these varieties before. Crapemyrtles as a rule are only marginally hardy here, but I couldn't resist that dark foliage as an accent plant. Several varieties were available, but I didn't like the combination of red flowers and dark foliage on 'Best Red' , nor the off-red shading of slightly lighter 'Crimson Red'. I chose to try out 'Blush', a white-flowered variety that is technically a very light pink, but looked primarily white in the parking lot.
This spring, it was killed back to the ground (as were the rest of my crapemyrtles), but I left the spot untouched and, sure enough, in late May, a single dark stem arose that I babied and protected throughout the past few months until it began to bloom. And here it is, stunning at last, the earliest of my crapemyrtles to bloom and the most noticeable. Tell me, what do you think? An entire forest of Black Diamond 'Blush' might resemble a scene from a Tim Burton movie, but I'm pretty happy with it as an accent plant. With a little more global warming, perhaps it won't kill back to the ground and I'll be able to see it get a little larger and more prominent each year. Happily, it seems to be both drought-tolerant and able to withstand wet spring feet, and it has been unbothered by pests, both six- and four-legged in form.
There was a little bit of sleight of hand in the introduction of the Black Diamond series. A little bit more research led me to the information that this commercially-offered series is the same as the Ebony series bred by Dr. Cecil Pounders and registered with the U.S. National Arboretum in 2013. Black Diamond 'Blush' is the same plant as 'Ebony Glow'. The breeding background of these plants are detailed in the HortScience article linked above.
Now, I think I'll watch for the new purple-flowered 2015 introduction, 'Purely Purple'. The black foliage and purple flower combination of this new crape seems tailor made for a K-State oriented garden bed, don't you agree?