If you’re paying attention to the new plants hitting the market, you’ve probably noticed what I call the “black and bright” trend in plant color. Countless new introductions have striking black (or otherwise dark) foliage and flowers, while many others feature hot, bright colors that stand out from across the garden. One species that captures both these trends is Capsicum annuum, the common pepper plant from which we get bells, jalepeño, cayenne and numerous other peppers with culinary uses.
In recent years, this edible species has been bred to be a garden ornamental as well — some with striking foliage, others with gorgeous, jewel-like fruit. Today, I visited the Hartley Selections Garden at the University of Illinois Arboretum where they are trialing a large number of ornamental peppers. While I’ve never grown ornamental peppers in my own garden, today’s visit has me considering them for next summer.
Here are a few of my favorites.