Pretty much all of us adore rich, feel-good chocolate – that melt in your mouth taste, the warm, ‘comfort food’ brown.
You can indulge your passion by infusing your garden with flowers and foliage the colour of creamy milk chocolate, mocha, or dark, rich fudge. Just take care to resist the temptation to gorge on them. However, a wall-to-wall brown garden can be about as lively as a rest home knees-up – brown, after all, can look a tad drab, so use those rusty, bronzy shades sparingly.
Some browns aren’t drab at all. Coprosma acerosa hybrids have glowing chestnut colouring, and other natives like Libertia peregrinans, and Carex testacea, glow in warm orange hues. Libertia in particular has everything you want in a good plant – architectural and strong, but with a dash of daintiness in those glistening white flowers.
Choose glossy foliage if you can, to give your browns a boost. Coprosma “Beatson’s Brown”, for example, has a sparkle in its tiny leaves. It is a great plant to grow for hedging and topiary work. Growth is continuous, so clip into shape at least four times a year. The reward is a dense, glistening wall in richest chocolate.
The polished leather, strappy leaves of bronze phormium will help ground lighter, brighter foliaged companions such as Euphorbia dulcis “Chameleon”, and the rich, copper leaves of perennial Lysimachia ciliate “Firebird”, look great beside a hummock of the golden sedge, Carex elata “Aurea”.
Another brown-yellow combo that works well is Keith Hammett’s little dahlia “Sure Shot”. This is a blend of ferny leaves in copper, with single flowers in shades from lemon to fawn. The glossy brown leaves and chocolate-drop buds of dahlia “Redskin” also provide a good-looking partnership.
For a wonderful rose coffee-shot try Sam McGredy’s floribunda, “Brown Velvet”. I fell in love with this during a recent fund-raising garden walk – had to have it! The double blooms start off a bright rust-orange, then transform into a softer chocolate hue when fully open. Just before the petals drop the colour becomes overlaid with a smoky, grey-purple colour, giving an impression of true brown. It’s a fascinating shift of colours.
“Hot Chocolate” is another floribunda with a similar look. The warm chocolate-orange blooms cluster on a bushy plant with dark, glossy foliage.
If the smell of chocolate sends you into a spin, try growing the chocolate-perfumed cosmos. The perennial grows to around two feet, and has deep brownish-red flowers, with a strong chocolate or vanilla perfume in late summer and autumn.
The delicious fragrance of chocolate permeates the air whenever the daisy Berlandiera lyrata flowers. This hardy, drought- tolerant perennial has grey-green leaves and vibrant yellow flowers with striking red striped undersides. I believe the chocolate-coloured, fragrant stamens really do taste like cocoa or unsweetened chocolate.
Hot chocolates abound – “Chocolate Ruffles” heucheras, deep brown cannas, the Dianthus barbatus “Sooty” – such is the grip of anything the colour of a Ferrero Rocher.