Actaea simplex cultivars
Common name: Bugbane
When bugbane (Actaea simplex) blooms in fall, the bees and butterflies can’t stay away. Native to Asia, this perennial used to be called Cimicifuga. Thankfully, common names don’t change. And bugbane is still repelling bugs.
In the Black Garden, its dark purple-leaf cultivars (‘Hillside Black Beauty’ and ‘Black Negligee’) are beautifully set off with golden hakone grass nearby. The pink-tinted white flowers in slender, bottlebrush racemes are extremely fragrant and smell like grape bubblegum. These two cultivars are similar. Both grow up to 2 m/6 ft and their leaves stay purple-black if planted in full sun. A rich moist soil is key too. If the soil dries out too much, their leaves will fade.
Actaea ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ first showed up in 1991 in the garden of Ann and Fred McGourty. It was a special seedling from Cimicifuga ‘Brunette’ that was much darker than its predecessor. This plant became C. ‘Hillside Black Beauty’, named after their famous garden. Actaea ‘Black Negligee’ has deeply cut, purple-black leaves on branched dark stems. The foliage has a lacey negligée effect.
Text and photos for the above by Hughie Jones.
Photo taken in the Garden Nov. 2009 by Midge Oke