I'm a sucker for dark, dramatic flowers and foliage. So when the much-hyped Black Velvet petunia hit garden-center shelves this spring, I sprung for 10 plants.


At the time, bloggers were buzzing about the new black petunias. Bailey Nurseries heralded them as a "breeding breakthrough."

We did some of the hyping ourselves, putting Black Velvet's picture on the cover of Home & Garden in mid-May as part of a story about local plant pros' favorite plants, both new introductions and old favorites.

I saw a lot of Black Velvet petunias around town this summer, mostly in display pots at garden centers. My Black Velvets spent the summer in containers on my deck, where I used them to set off the pink flowers and chartreuse foliage around them.

How'd they perform? Here's my take:

Color: A-. The blooms, such a deep aubergine that they appear black, stayed inky dark all summer long. There was no fading or bronzing, as I've experienced with other so-called "black" flowers. For those of us gardeners who like accenting with basic black, Black Velvet truly is a breakthrough. The minus is for one color quirk: Some of my Black Velvets started producing blooms with a yellowish streak down each black petal, a la Phantom, another new introduction.

Growth habit: B. Black Velvet was promoted as having a mounded form. But my plants did more trailing than mounding. They had a tendency to get leggy and flop over the side of the pot when planted near the edge, leaving an empty patch of black dirt on the other side. Next time, I'll put 'em in the middle and plant densely around them.

Flower performance: A. Most petunias are prolific, and Black Velvet is no exception, producing blooms consistently throughout the summer -- even without vigilent deadheading on my part.

One side note: There's so much pigment in these flowers that the fallen blooms left purplish-black stains on my deck, especially after rain. No big deal. The stains easily wash away, but can look messy.

Will I plant them again? Definitely. How about you? Did you give these a try this year? How did they perform for you? Or are black flowers too dreary for your taste?