Purple passion

Ipomoea purpurea, Tall Morning-glory
Ipomoea purpurea, Tall Morning-glory

I love the colour purple — it combines the cool restfulness of blue with the heated excitement of red. While a blue garden is calm and peaceful, adding reds and pinks to the mix will contribute to a warmer setting — whether in rich foliage or showy ornamental flowers a purple garden seems brighter, but restful.

There are a range of choices for this gentle hue in the garden — several climbers put on a great purple show, including clematis, Ipomoea purpurea (which produces fast-growing tendrils and a flush of purple flowers in summer), wisteria, Passiflora and the purple coral pea (Hardenbergia violacea – a hardy, fast-growing evergreen that produces a mass of showy rich violet/mauve flowers).

For a lush, tropical look plant the velvety-purple Tibouchina organensis ‘Grandiflora’, and for those shady spots try the royal-purple of cinerarias.

Drought-tolerant plants include statice (Limonium perezil), salvias, echium and the richly-scented heliotropes, and don’t overlook hebes and their many purple cultivars. Hebe ‘Sandra Joy’ has deep wine-coloured buds that open to reveal large purple flowers, and is great for dry, coastal gardens.

Plant sun-lovers such as lavender (many shades of purple and mauve), bee balm or bergamot, and have the added bonus of a bee-filled garden!


Foliage plants to try include copper beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea’) which has a dark canopy of dense, purple, almost black leaves – an attractive sight in full leaf, this deciduous specimen reaches a mature size of 10m x 6m or more.

Purple sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus ‘Purpureum’) is less intense than the copper beech, but the undersides of its leaves are tinged a lovely reddish-purple, making a distinctive display, especially on breezy days.

The deciduous smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Grace’) is a favourite of mine with its crimson-purple tipped leaves and purple/pink flower clusters – this vigorous growing beauty also has the added bonus of fine autumn colour.

There are a variety of purple native shrubs, including akeake (Dodonea viscosa ‘Purpurea’ — great for coastal sites), purple flaxes (Phormium ‘Purple Haze’ is a good dramatic cultivar), and cabbage trees such as Cordyline ‘Purple Tower’.

For groundcover Ajuga ‘Caitlin’s Giant’ scores on both fronts, with dark purple evergreen foliage and deep purple-blue flowers in spring.

Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ is great for the dry, succulent garden with its dark purple fleshy leaves.

Seasonal bursts of purple colour can come from spring crocus and hyacinth (both great in pots), the stalwart Liriope muscari, irises, tulips, gladioli, ornamental onions and purple pansies, which bring instant cheer to any garden – grow in containers and move to spots in your garden that lack colour