PLANT A CHOCOLATE FEAST

Plant a chocolate feast for Easter. We pick our top 10 dramatic plants with delicious names. By Louise Midgley

Few can resist the lure of chocolate. It’s a heavenly edible that’s a feast for all the senses, with its distinctive aroma, velvety texture and addictive flavour. This spring, indulge your sweet tooth by creating a whole border full of plants infused with the sweet scent of cocoa or bestowed with deep, richly coloured foliage and flowers. After all, a garden would be extraordinarily bland if all the foliage was the same shade of green. It’s far better to plant an appealing mix of dark and light foliage and flower colours to create some definition and contrast between plants. A spectrum of mahogany, burgundy and dark chocolate tones provides a wonderful foil against which paler coloured flowers can radiate.
Here we’ve provided a delicious mixed assortment of rich, chocolatey plants to choose from, some with perfumes reminiscent of chocolate. Position them close to your favourite seating area and sit back and indulge in their delicious scent and beauty.  

 1. Cosmos atrosanguineus Chocolate cosmos unites the colour and heady fragrance of chocolate in one delectable plant. The deep maroon, long-stemmed flowers unleash a vanilla/chocolate aroma in the heat of the day. Plant in full sun for best effect. They prefer moist, well-drained soil and perform especially well in pots and containers with good compost. The tuberous plants are only half hardy and should be lifted at the end of the season and stored in a frost-free environment. H70cm (2ft 3in) S45cm (1ft 5in)

2. Akebia quinata Make use of a vertical space – perhaps a pergola or fence beside the patio – by growing this delicious chocolate vine. Sit out in the spring sunshine and savour the exotic spicy-chocolate aroma wafting from racemes of delicate plum coloured flowers. While this climber enjoys a small footprint on the ground, it will need space to climb, although some judicious pruning of mature plants in late spring will keep it in check. An easy plant, happy to establish in most soil types and in sun or shade. H10m (33ft) S2m (6ft 6in)

3. Heuchera ‘Chocolate Ruffles’ Now available in a veritable rainbow of colours, Heucheras have fast become indispensable groundcover plants for many gardeners. ‘Chocolate Ruffles’ forms a mound of heavily crimped burgundy leaves that reveal a silky, deep-purple underside. Creamy white, miniature bell flowers appear on purple stems in summer. More drought tolerant than other cultivars, this accommodating variety is happy in sun or part shade and robust enough to thrive in some degree of dry shade. H and S30cm (12in)  

4. Aquilegia viridiflora ‘Chocolate Soldier’ This unique, dwarf columbine differs from its lofty cousins, not just in height but in its rare yet elegant colour combination. Its two-tone, chocolate brown nodding flowers are encased in green petals and topped with long graceful spurs, which emit a sweet fragrance from late spring to early summer. As with all aquilegias, it prefers deep rich, free-draining soil in full sun or dappled shade. Give this coveted little beauty a prime spot to be seen and appreciated while in flower. H30cm (12in) S25cm (10in)

5. Digitalis parviflora ‘Milk Chocolate’ Find space in sun or shade for this scrumptious perennial foxglove. It’s delightfully quirky but unlikely to be sold in your local garden centre. Seek it out from good plant sales or specialist nurseries online. Tiny, densely packed, chocolate-bronze trumpet-shaped blooms encircle a rigid spire that rises above glossy foliage and lasts from summer well into autumn. A real winner for pollinators, bees and butterflies and contented to grow in any garden soil. H60cm (24in) S30cm (12in)

6. Iris ‘Dutch Chocolate’ Luxuriate in the beauty of a flag iris in full flower. This exclusive variety flowers for longer than average and may re-flower if conditions are favourable. It boasts voluptuous blooms of ruffled petals in hues of chestnut and deep tan and is richly scented. Plant with the rhizomes slightly exposed in well-drained soil in full sun. The rhizomes need to be baked under the sun’s warmth to promote future flowers. H80cm (31in) S25cm (10in)

7. Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’ Breathe in the deliciously intense, chocolate fragrance of these summer-flowering dahlias as it floats far and wide in the breeze. Buds of these decorative dahlias open to reveal velvety flowers with deep crimson petals and an almost ebony centre. Dahlias are greedy feeders, need plenty of water and a position in full sun to continually produce new blooms from July until the first frosts. A good plant for attracting wildlife to your garden. H90cm (3ft) S45cm (18in)

8. Coleus ‘Chocolate Mint’ Coleus in their many flamboyant, colour combinations make great bedding plants or specimens for the conservatory in winter. The name of this little gem perfectly befits its cocoa-coloured foliage with mint green scalloped edges. As an ornamental member of the mint family, it will grow well in a shady or sunny, sheltered spot. Coleus grow into uniformly shaped plants, which make them ideal for edging a border or growing as stand-alone plants in containers. H35cm 14in S35cm 14in

9. Aquilegia ‘Roundway Chocolate’ Double blooms in tones of milk chocolate with a hint of ginger are highlighted above a froth of delicate grey/green ferny foliage. Flowering in late spring/early summer, aquilegias combine well with other cottage-garden plants and late-flowering spring bulbs. They relish dappled shade and nutritious soil, although will pop up in most garden environments. Remove faded flowers if you want to avoid a profusion of seedlings (which don’t always come true from seed). H60cm (24in) S30cm (12in)

10. Physocarpus ‘Diabolo Chocolate’ A striking, deciduous, ornamental shrub that thrives in the poorest of soils in sun, shade or even a tricky north-facing aspect. Its warm, mahogany foliage is greatly enhanced by a profusion of pretty white-blushed pink flowers in June and July, followed by equally attractive reddish-brown seeds. One of the easiest shrubs to grow, yet most rewarding in appearance. Should it outgrow its space, lightly prune immediately after flowering. Fully grown H2m (6ft) 6in S1.5m (5ft)

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