The color specialists at Pantone have declared Marsala the 2015 color of the year. When I look at their paint chip I see dark brick. Maybe I’m colorblind, but when I look at a glass of Marsala wine, it’s a rich burgundy hue, and that’s what I’m sticking with.

According to the Pantone people, this naturally robust, earthy wine red enriches our minds, bodies and souls. I don’t know about painted walls and fabrics, but it sure does the trick for me in a glass or a garden.

I don’t think of myself as a trendsetter, but more than a decade ago, I declared that burgundy was my new beige when it comes to leaves on plants, trees and shrubs. Actually, I think I said purple, but that’s because Heuchera “Palace Purple” was crowned the perennial of the year by the Perennial Plant Association in 1991, and since then dark leaves in the landscape are all the rage in my view. My, how time flies.

Dark leafed plants come in a variety of colors ranging from purple to burgundy to maroon. No matter, I love them all.

One of my favorite “dark” leafed shrubs is the native Ninebark, Physocarpus “Diabolo.” The dark-purple-leafed beauty climbs to 10-plus feet in height, which means it must be pruned back every couple years to fit in many landscapes.

A big trend in the green industry is the introduction of dwarf and miniature shrubs. They fit better into smaller landscapes and require much less pruning.

“Tiny Wine” Ninebark, a Proven Winners, Color Choice selection, is a lovely 3- to 4-foot dwarf bronze-maroon leafed Physocarpus that’s mildew resistant and hardy to Zone 3.

The dark wine red “Summer Wine” Ninebark typically grows 4 to 6 feet in height, with a more compact growth than “Diabolo.” It’s also mildew resistant.

The Ninebarks can be used in mass plantings, as hedges or screening or as accent plants.

Another wine red native, Cotinus “Grace,” or smoke bush, grown as a tree or a shrub, is a stunner in a full sun landscape that will quickly rise to 15 feet.

Weigela “Wine and Roses” produces wine-colored foliage the entire growing season on a 4- to 5-foot frame.

“Spilled Wine” Weigela matures to just 18 to 24 inches in height and makes colorful filler for the front of a border or an edger along a walkway. Mix in some colorful petunias, and you you’ve got knock-your-socks-off seasonlong color.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and a Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Friday’s in Homestyle. To ask her a question, go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at

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