THOSE looking for a riot of colour at this year’s flower shows are in for disappointment: black is back and this time it is set to take a hold over the nation’s gardens.
Just as floral prints have been banished from the house in favour of muted tones and minimalism, so the same is set to happen in our gardens and parks, with black flowers now the must-have item.
After decades of failed experiments in producing a monochromatic bloom, one nursery yesterday confirmed this trend, unveiling the world’s first black hyacinth.
The flower, a mass of bell-shaped petals, was produced from three ancestor bulbs bought for 50,000 each and has been given the appropriate name ‘Midnight Mystique’.
The seed firm Thompson & Morgan, of Ipswich, has spent 15 years hybridising blue and black varieties of the hyacinth, and is now ready to sell several thousand of the black flower bulbs in special presentation boxes at 7.99 each - more than ten times the normal price for hyacinth bulbs.
The price reflects a growing interest in black flowers, which have long exerted an allure for poets and artists.
A spokesman for the Flower and Plants Association said: "Black flowers were beloved of the art nouveau designers at the previous turn of the century. Victorians and Edwardians at the cutting edge of fashion used to collect them, going to great lengths to track down exotic species."
However, although several black flowers are marketed, including the black tulip, black pansy and black rose, in reality no pure black flowers exist - hardly surprising when the purpose of colour is to attract pollinators. Most are very dark purple, and the black rose is an extremely dark red.
As with other varieties of black flowers, the powerful allure of the mythical black orchid is likely to remain and grow stronger for breeders.
Neil Cummings, the group plant buyer for Dobbies garden centres, said: "The reason black plants have maintained a timeless appeal over the years is because it is the pursuit and creation of the unachievable.
"The one thing about the UK public is that they want to have something different in their garden. That’s why the popularity of black plants will increase. It is a fashion thing.
"If you go back and look at Paris fashion shows, then brown and black were very popular over the past two years, and this is following on from there; gardening is becoming extremely fashion-led."