Who doesn't love chocolate? Sure, there may be a few out there, but for most of us there's nothing quite like the rich, creamy succulent taste of this sweet treat - chocolate cake, chocolate pudding, chocolate ice cream, chocolate candy, chocolate covered strawberries, chocolaty hot cocoa, chocolate cream pie, chocolate truffles, and the list goes on and on. This much loved "sweet" didn't start out that way though...it was actually first enjoyed as a bitter beverage nearly 4,000 years ago. That's right, ancient Mesoamericans cultivated cacao plants (Theobroma cacao), the original chocolate tree from rainforests of Central America, and then fermented, roasted and ground the beans into a paste mixed with water, vanilla, honey, chili peppers and other spices to brew a frothy chocolate drink. And while it may not have been sweet, they loved it, and throughout history, chocolate lovers have all believed in its mood enhancing, and even aphrodisiac-like powers. For chocoholics like myself, the ooey-gooey goodness of chocolate can't be beat, and frankly, seems to make everything better still today. So what could be better than having your own chocolate smelling garden right in your backyard - a special place to enjoy some chocolaty bliss anytime you want, maybe even while you savor the flavor of your favorite chocolate treat. It's easy to do simply by growing plants that look and smell just like chocolate. Even Mother Nature would agree that these plants deserve a special place in the garden. With that said, here the top 10 plants for creating a chocolate-inspired garden: Chocolate sunflower (Helianthus annuus 'Chocolate') - Having various shades of deep red to maroon or chocolate colored petals, this sunflower is a surefire winner that will be right at home in your garden of sweet delights. Summer Chocolate mimosa (Albizia julibrissin 'Summer Chocolate') - With its tropical, fern-like chocolaty colored foliage and puffs of fragrant pink summer blooms, it's hard to resist adding this charming tree to the garden. And, unlike other mimosas, 'Summer Chocolate' isn't invasive. Chocolate Mint scented geranium (Pelargonium 'Chocolate Mint') - Scented geraniums are favorite additions to gardens for their aromatic foliage - hence the name. And the Chocolate Mint variety is no exception. While the plant smells more like mint than chocolate, it's the chocolate-colored vein of the leaf that earns its moniker. Chocolate cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus) - Dark reddish-brown to nearly black, the stunning Chocolate cosmos is more than just beautiful in the garden. The flowers look and smell just like chocolate. I grew these myself and can attest to this. Chocolate flower (Berlandiera lyrata) - This yellow daisy will not only brighten up your garden space but will make your belly growl for more of its chocolate-scented blooms. Plant chocolate flowers up close to enjoy their fragrance as it wafts through garden. Chocolate mint (Mentha piperata) - As with most mint plants, this herb is great for use in many dishes and drinks. And chocolate mint has the added bonus of smelling a little like those cool, refreshing Peppermint Pattie candies. Plant them in containers to avoid any invasive tendencies. Himalayan honeysuckle (Leycesteria formosa) - Commonly known as chocolate berry for the tiny purple edible berries said to taste like toffee or caramel, Himalayan honeysuckle plants offer something unique to the garden, white blooms that hang from brilliant scarlet bracts. Chocolate Soldier columbine (Aquilegia viridiflora 'Chocolate Soldier') - This unique columbine doesn't get its name for the smell of its flowers but does produce stunning, chocolate-brown to purple blooms, which earns Chocolate Soldier a special place in a chocolate-inspired garden. The compact form makes it a great choice for the front edges of borders and beds too. Chocolate vine (Akebia quinata) - Preferring a partially shaded location in the garden, planting chocolate vine plants can provide gardeners with chocolaty-purple flowers having a sweet scent of chocolate with hints of vanilla and edible seedpods that are said to taste similar to tapioca pudding. That said, without continuous pruning, they can become invasive. Chocolate boneset (Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate') - Also called chocolate joe pye weed, this boneset plant produces clusters of tiny white flowers above reddish cocoa brown foliage. In addition to these plants, there are many varieties of coleus and heuchera available with chocolaty names that offer attractive dark colored foliage. And there's even a chocolate rose variety that may tickle that sweet itch. Best of all, you won't be the only one that enjoys a garden filled with "chocolate," as all the above plants are known for bringing in pollinators too.
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Nikki Tilley has been gardening for nearly three decades. The former Senior Editor and Archivist of Gardening Know How, Nikki has also authored six gardening books.
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