There’s a plant for every occasion and a few that reflect the darker undertones of Halloween.
There are lots of poisonous plants but I’ve gone for mostly shady looks and evil stenches.
Here are my favourites…
Carrion flowers (Stapelia, corpse or stinking flowers) give off a powerful scent like rotting meat, usually to attract flies and beetles as pollinators.
Stapelia are small, spineless succulent plants. Most are native to South Africa, and people do actually grow them as pot plants. Stapelia gigantea, the biggest, can produce flowers 30cm in diameter.
If you’re looking for something a bit more well behaved for the conservatory, try Tacca chantrieri, the bat flower – with care, you can grow it from seed.
T. chantrieri has black bat-shaped flowers, up to 30cm across, with long ‘whiskers’ that can grow up to 70cm, with the plant growing up to 1m.
Thompson & Morgan sells three varieties – black, Nivea (a white version with green-veined blooms) and Green Isle (dusky green flowers and lime tentacles), visit www.thompson-morgan.com
The ghost plant (Monotropa uniflora) is difficult to grow in gardens. It contains no chlorophyll, hence its white colouration.
It gets its food via a complex three-way relationship – ghost plants are basically parasitic, deriving nutrition from certain fungi that have a symbiotic relationship (mycorrhizal) with trees. It can grow in very dark environments, near beech trees.
Cockscomb (Celosia cristata) is an easy-to-grow half-hardy annual. Look out for varieties that look like coral (or brains), such as bright red Fire Chief from Chiltern Seeds – www.chilternseeds.co.uk
The fuzzy, wavy flowers are caused by fasciation, which develops due to infections, insects or mutations.
The wonderfully-named Wolfsbane (Aconitum), also known as aconite, monkshood, leopard’s bane, mousebane, women’s bane, devil’s helmet, queen of poisons, or blue rocket, should give you a vague warning that it’s extremely poisonous.
These herbaceous perennials are native to the mountainous parts of the Northern Hemisphere and have a long association with werewolves, used to ward them off.
Chinese lanterns (Physalis alkekengi and P. franchetti) can be grown outside, although they’re very invasive.
The papery orange coverings of the berries fit right into the Halloween colour scheme, more so when they are ripe and the lantern rots away, leaving a skeletal covering to the fruit.
Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna, murderer’s berries, sorcerer’s berries, and devil’s berries) still grows wild in Europe – eating a few leaves or berries can be fatal to humans and animals. Even touching the plant can lead to poisoning.
Medieval folklore states that deadly nightshade was the devil’s favourite plant. It is still used medicinally in eye drops, for relaxing muscle spasms and to regulate the heartbeat.
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JOBS TO DO THIS WEEKEND
Plant spring bulbs if the soil isn’t too wet – if your garden has had tulip fire (related to grey mould), wait until next month.
Harvest squashes and pumpkins and ripen in the sun or under cover for 10 days before storing.
Sow green manure on bare ground in the veg garden.
Sow winter lettuces under cloches and sweet peas, broad beans and peas under glass, then move them to a cold frame when they have germinated.
Plant lilies in pots now to flower in May and June inside or July and August outside.
Plant wallflowers in their final positions.
Spread last year’s leaf mould where you plan to plant carrots and other root vegetables next year.
Lift summer bedding plants now, if there’s any still in. Cosmos and Nicotiana are usually the last to go.
Plant out spring cabbages, autumn onion sets and garlic.
Plant new strawberry plants and runners in their final positions.
Prune summer-fruiting raspberry canes to just above ground level. Tie new canes to the support wires.