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2016-11-18 11:39:18
10 Ways to Use Deep Purple Foliage in Your Garden

Add depth to small gardens and drama to planting beds with dark tones

Dark, moody and dramatic, purple can be a versatile tool in garden design. In the same way that a pool beneath a shady tree canopy gives you a sense of cold water before you’ve touched the surface, dark purple foliage can have a visually cooling effect in a landscape. The leaves absorb light and enhance the shadows of a garden. Conversely, planted amid a sea of green, purple foliage activates a garden bed as an eye-catching focal point.

Whatever effect you’d like to achieve, here are 10 ways to incorporate dark purple hues in your garden:

1. Add garden depth. Dark foliage visually falls to the back of a garden bed or series of containers, while brighter greens and white flowers spring forward. Use this to your advantage in a small garden or urban roof terrace.

2. Showcase dark foliage as living art. Many dark-leaved plants have an unusual beauty. Examples include the nearly translucent burgundy leaves of ‘Royal Purple’ smoke bush and the delicate plum foliage of Japanese maple display their rich colors and interesting leaf forms against the back of rusted metal walls, pale fences or spilling over large boulders.

3. Enhance shadows in the landscape. Dark foliage planted at the edges of a landscape makes the back recede into shadow. Fences, walls and unwanted views seem to disappear. In this San Francisco garden, the purple, shadowy foliage colors at the landscape edges screen adjacent buildings and blur the garden’s boundaries.

4. Cool down a courtyard. Purple-leaved foliage visually cools a gravel courtyard by more than just the shade it casts. In hot summer climates, use dark-leaved shade trees such as purple-leaved plums, copper beech and purple cootamundra wattle to create shade for cool, inviting retreats.

5. Create a dark back to highlight perennial flowers. Planting dark foliage and bright or pastel blooms in close proximity can have a dramatic effect in containers or in planting beds.

6. Showcase as a focal point. Plant a single specimen with dark purple foliage amid a primarily green planting bed, and it will act like a punctuation mark in the design. Showy purple shrubs, such as cascading Purple Pixie fringe flower particularly stand out when planted in a large container set into the planting bed.

7. Bring contrast to garden beds. Use dark-leaved plants as a rich counterpoint to bright green and pale silver foliage placed nearby.

8. Plant a dark leafy screen. Most hedge plants are medium green — think Podocarpus, Ligustrum and Pittosporum. Mix it up with an unexpected screen of purple Florida hopbush. The bronze, waxy foliage creates a striking back for bedding plants, and coordinates well with warm mahogany tones in buildings. 

9. Deepen hot-colored flower beds. Fiery late-summer and fall flower beds or containers can tend toward garish without the balance of cooling swaths of dark foliage. 

10. Plant en masse for an modern look. Edgy and unexpected, dark foliage pairs well with contemporary architecture. For the biggest impact, plant a single species of a dark-leaved plant en masse.

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