Chocolate Week in the UK – a good reason to eat lots of chocolate.
For chocoholics with gardens, why not plan to have a chocolate garden with plants that smell good enough to eat?
Well, okay, maybe not all of the chocolate themed plants smell of the cocoa confection, but if not, they certainly have rich brown foliage or velvety chocolate coloured flowers.
This chocolate garden planting scheme was inspired by the thought and taste of chocolate week, and has a range of plants including shrubs, tender perennials, tubers, grasses and herbaceous perennials. Although predominantly giving spring, summer and early autumn interest, by bringing one or two of them inside the house, you can enjoy chocolate plants years round. Read on for some sweet cocoa inspiration…
Cosmos astrosanguineus ‘chocca-mocca’. This is probably number one in most people’s list for a chocolate plant. A native of Mexico, this cosmos is a tuberous perennial. It is generally treated or used as an annual in northern climates, but it is possible to lift the tuber before the frosts and store until the following year. Chocolate Cosmos ‘chocca-mocca’ has the richest chocolate scent and deep brown velvety petals.
Dark Chocolate Coleus
Solenostemon scutellarioides ‘Dark Chocolate’. This Coleus has rich dark purple leaves and will grow in sun or shade. Unfortunately the only chocolate involved is in the name, but it does make a good houseplant if you bring it inside for the winter.
Hot chocolate Day Lily
Hemerocallis ‘Sweet Hot Chocolate’. I’m very fond of day lilies, and this one has amazing mahogany-purple flowers in summer. All Hemerocallis have edible flowers, but sadly these blooms don’t taste of cocoa.
Hot Cocoa Rose
Rosa ‘hot cocoa’ or ’Rosa ‘hot chocolate’. A floribunda rose, which won the UK Novelty Rose of the Year 2006 award. Rusty pink-orange buds mature to a warm brown blooms, set off by dark green foliage. Personally I felt the scent was a slightly fruity sort of chocolate, but very pleasant for all that!
Heuchera plants, also known as ‘coral bells’, are very useful ground cover plants with foliage in a wide range of colours. For our theme of chocolate in the garden we can use Heuchera x villosa ‘mocha’, with deep purple-bronze foliage and Heuchera ‘chocolate ruffles’ with ruffled leaf edges.
Carex comans ‘Milk Chocolate’. This sedge has arching milk chocolate coloured leaves and forms a neat clump. If you’re not a lover of ornamental grasses, you’ll just think it looks dead, as it’s a brown grass. But for a chocolate themed planting scheme it’s a must, adding another layer of texture and form.
White chocolate shrub?
Eupatorium rugosum ‘chocolate’ also known as white snakeroot, boneset. Hardy in temperate gardens, this small herbaceous shrub has purple stems carrying dark bronze-brown leaves in spring and summer. The foliage gradually turns green as it matures, and also has clusters of white flowers in summer and early autumn.
Helianthus annuus ‘Chocolat’. A bit of height for the flower border from these bronze coloured blooms. Although neither chocolate flavoured or scented, the glossy petals follow the sun and are easy to grow from seed. Like the more usual yellow sunflower, this is an annual, but has a longer season of interest and a wildlife benefit if you leave the seed heads on the plant.
Chocolate Mint Scented Pelargonium
Pelargonium tomentosum ‘chocolate mint’. Now we’re talking! You get an ‘after eight’ chocolate covered mint aroma with this pelargonium! Yes, we’re back to proper chocolate garden plants that smell of sweet food treats. A tender perennial in northern climates, this pelargonium can be planted in a container to be enjoyed outside during the summer and then inside over winter. An added bonus are the pretty pink flowers and leaves which are marked with a dark centre and turn a rich red as they age.
Pelargoniums are also commonly called Pot Geraniums or scented leaved Geraniums (where they have aromatic foliage)
Akebia quinata. This perennial climber is commonly known as chocolate vine for its pretty flowers, which are, perversely, vanilla scented! Still chocolate and vanilla is a pleasant mixture, and Akebia is a decorative climber, with berries following the flowers.
Can’t get enough chocolate? If filling your garden with plants that have dark purple-brown flowers and foliage or cocoa-scented blooms isn’t sufficiently chocolatey, then you need one of these –
Theobroma cacao – Cocoa tree
A tropical rainforest native, the cocoa tree was discovered to be edible and tasty proabbaly as long ago as 4000 years by the sensible inhabitants of Central America. You could possibly grow it yourself if you can generate enough warmth, light and humidity in your greenhouse or conservatory. In the wild it grows slightly north and slightly south of the equator in West Africa, South and Central America, Southeast Asia and Oceania.
In Latin, ‘theobrama’ means ‘food of the gods’ – think that probably sums up our chocolate garden planting design inspired by the chocolate we like to taste with our tongues and stomachs!
The cocoa tree illustration is by the famous botanical artist Marianne North and can be seen at Kew Gardens in the Marianne North Gallery.