Chocolate easy to grow, better to eat

The Compleat

Home Gardner

Marianne Binetti will be speaking at the first “Wine and Chocolate Festival” at Enumclaw Fairgrounds on Saturday, Feb. 7 at 1p.m. and 4 p.m. Wine and chocolate tasting, free child care, vendors and music. Go to for more information.

The first week of February means crocus, forsythia and...chocolate? Yes the velvety textures, sweet scent and deep rich colors of chocolate are making a splash in the garden. The inaugural Wine and Chocolate Festival will take place in Enumclaw at the King County Fairgrounds and I‘ll be speaking at 1 and 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7 about creating a wine and chocolate theme garden – so here are three steps to enjoying calorie-free chocolate in the garden:

Step One: Start with a tall chocolate tree

No, you really can’t grow chocolate beans on trees in our climate, but you can find a “Summer Chocolate Silk” tree at local nurseries. This sweet new tree (Albizia julibrissin) has chocolate colored leaves during the summer when it blooms with bright pink nosegays that fill the garden with a sweet fragrance. You’ll be attracting bees, butterflies and birds to your chocolate garden when this delectable tree flowers. Drought-resistant and tolerant of poor soil, the foliage is fine and feathery which is why it is also called the silk tree and the chocolate mimosa tree.

If you want a smaller tree, go with any Japanese maple that has wine-colored foliage. Wine and chocolate is a rich mix and the perfect background for this dramatic theme garden.

Step 2. Plant three wine or chocolate-colored shrubs around the tree.

You can chose from a burgundy weigela, a trio of barberries in a deep rose or the rich sambucus “Black Lace” to add to the dark taste of your chocolate garden.

The secret to this design is framing your focal point tree with companion shrubs in rich, chocolate brown or wine tones. Don’t worry about creating a dark spot in the garden – we’ll be lighting it up with contrast in the next step.

Step 3. Wrap your fine chocolate in silver, serve your wine with gold.

A chocolate and wine garden is all about the presentation. This garden plan needs the contrast of silver and gold as a foil for all the dark, rich tones. Use golden shrubs such as euonymus fortunei “Sparkle and Gold,” dwarf Japanese barberry “Golden Nugget” or the hardy “Goldthread” or “Gold Coast” juniper.

A splash of silver from Dusty Miller, artemesia or lavender will wrap your chocolate garden in elegance and provide the all important color contrast.

If you would prefer just a taste of chocolate, try these chocolate-inspired plants in a container garden: Carex comans “Milk Chocolate,” Coleus “Chocolate Mint,” dahlia “Chocolate Sundae” and for a tall perennial bloomer that deserves your affection a Delphinium “Kissed by Chocolate.”

Indoor gardeners, you still get to nibble on a chocolate garden treat. There’s a chocolate-scented orchid called “Sharry Baby” that blooms to perfume any room with the heady fragrance of just-baked brownies.

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