A chocoholic's garden
The aromas of fudge, flower petals of rich browns and milky tans: A new fad provides sensual indulgence that isn't fattening.
By Yvonne Swanson, Special to the
Published February 9, 2008
Unfortunately for chocoholics, it's just about impossible to grow the heat-loving chocolate tree (Theobroma cacao) in the Tampa Bay area. This small tropical tree, which produces foot-long pods that encase precious cacao seeds, is at home in the rain forests of South America and Africa, or in a moist, warm, shady greenhouse.
But if chocolate is your thing, you can still fill your garden with plants that smell like chocolate and produce foliage and flowers in colors ranging from deepest dark chocolate to mocha to rich burgundy. You can place a plant here or there in the garden, or designate an entire area of your landscape as a chocolate garden.
"Chocolate makes people feel good. It's a symbol of so many positive things, like Valentine's Day," says Marie Lincoln, co-owner of Chocolate Flower Farm in Langley, Wash. "What do you do when you're depressed? Eat chocolate. It's the most popular food group."
Lincoln and partner Bill Schlicht opened the specialty nursery three years ago as a part-time mom and pop operation. Little did they know they were starting a gardening frenzy, not only among chocolate connoisseurs but among gardening enthusiasts as well. "I don't think anyone even knew about a chocolate garden until we came on the scene," says Lincoln.
The quaint Chocolate Flower Farm, which was once a horse pasture on idyllic Whidbey Island, north of Seattle, quickly grew into a must-see garden and mail-order and online source for all things chocolate, including plants, seed kits, garden accessories and chocolate candles. (Visit www.chocolateflowerfarm.com or call (360) 221-4464.)
The farm regularly supplies plants and seeds to botanical gardens and commercial properties throughout the country, including Walt Disney World in Orlando.
Next thing they knew, Lincoln and Schlicht were getting calls from national publications, including Better Homes and Gardens and Martha Stewart Living (look for articles this spring). HGTV filmed a segment to air later this year.
"Everyone was telling us that this is the hottest new gardening trend and we started it," says Lincoln. "It has a life of its own, and we are just along for the ride."
The farm offers hundreds of plants and seeds, including perennials and annuals in varying shades of brown, black and maroon. From sun-loving flowers, vegetables and herbs to tender tropicals that thrive in shade, there's a plant for every garden.
Horticulturists traditionally called dark-foliage plants "black plants." Simply renaming them increased their popularity. "But as soon as you start calling those plants chocolate, everyone can't get enough of them."
Walt Disney World ordered a variety of chocolate plants, including the aromatic chocolate vine (Akebia quinata 'Silver Bells'), sweet-smelling chocolate columbine (Aquilegia viridiflora 'Chocolate Soldier') and the bronze and burgundy coral bells (Heuchera 'Chocolate Ruffles').
Lincoln's favorites for Florida also include the aromatic chocolate orchid (Oncidium 'Sharry Baby'), the exotic dark-leafed 'canna (Canna 'Australia'), black-colored day lily (Hemerocallis 'Ed Murray'), dark-burgundy pineapple lily (Eucomis comosa 'Oakhurst') and tropical black elephant ear (Colocasia 'Black Magic'). See the box at right for more recommended plants.
Plants for this year start shipping in April, but you can buy seed kits any time of year. Seed packages are grouped by theme, including edible plants (chocolate varieties of cherry tomato, mini bell pepper and nasturtium) and children's favorites (nasturtium, sunflower, snapdragon, viola and black-eyed Susan).
The chocolate orchid is also available year-round. This easy-to-grow plant is extremely fragrant and blooms several times during the year. (Mine is in full bloom and smells wonderful - just in time for Valentine's Day.)
Yvonne Swanson is a freelance writer in St. Petersburg and a master gardener for Pinellas County.
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Some bonbons for the garden
Many garden centers have dark-foliage plants for sale, typically purple fountain grass, black elephant ear, ti plant, purple queen, canna and coleus. But for more unusual selections, you'll have to shop at specialty nurseries, seed catalogs and mail-order nurseries, such as Chocolate Flower Farm (www.chocolateflowerfarm.com or (360) 221-4464). A Sharry Baby orchid costs $25 to $50 at a specialty orchid dealer. Here's a sampling of the farm's chocolate-scented or deep-shaded plants for Florida:
Chocolate sunflower (Helianthus annuus"Chocolat"):Large flowers on tall stems; rich, brown petals.
Pineapple lily (Eucomis comosa "Oakhurst"):Spearlike maroon-purple leaves and pinkish-white flowers shaped like pineapples.
Delphinium (Delphinium elatum "Kissed by Chocolate"):White petals brushed with chocolate.
Dahlia (Dahlia "Chocolate Sundae"):Near-black petals and bright yellow center, just about a foot high. "Karma Choc"is dark reddish-black with dark foliage.
Pincushion flower (Scabiosa "Ace of Spades"):Dark burgundy flowers on 3-foot stems.
Viola (Viola x williamsii "Velour Frosted Chocolate"):Chocolate-winged petals with a bronze center.
Korean angelica (Angelica gigas):Unusual, large black-purple flower heads.
Canna (Canna "Australia"): Darkest and most exotic canna with deep-burgundy foliage, bright orange flowers.
Calla lily (Zantedeschia "Black Pearl")
Chocolate vine (Akebia quinata)
Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus ex. "Black Prince")
Chocolate columbine (Aquilegia viridiflora "Chocolate Soldier")
Aster (Aster lateriflorus "Lady in Black")
Coleus (Coleus "Chocolate Mint")
Chocolate cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus)
Iresine (Iresine "Purple Lady")
Nasturtium (Nasturtium "Black Velvet")
Pansy (Pansy "Black Devil")
Salvia (Salvia guaranitica"Black and Blue")
Weigela (Weigela "Midnight Wine")
[Last modified February 8, 2008, 13:19:31]
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