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So what’s our obsession with Halloween? To state the obvious, it features witches, pumpkins, fangs, lanterns, sweets, pranks and great excitement amongst small people. Basically, it’s a good excuse for a jolly. Dress up on a dark evening, have fun with a bunch of mates and overdose on sugary treats. Hopefully, all supervised by a responsible adult or two. Get into the spooky spirit with some scary plants...
The celebration of the season has moved a long way away from the origins of ‘All Hallows’ Eve’ or ‘hallowed evening’ when people dressed up as saints and visited homes during the time of ‘Allhallowtide’. They remembered various saints (known as hallows), martyrs and other departed souls who were dear. This has led us along to our present-day form of Trick or Treating.
People of yore would go from door to door, asking for food during harvest when some seemed to have a surplus. In exchange for items for the larder, visitors would sing songs, recite poems or say prayers. They were often rewarded with ‘soul cakes’ which were little buns with a cross on top, rather like hot cross buns. When eaten, it was said that a spirit was freed from purgatory. It was also believed that Halloween was the night that a door between this world and the next was opened. Spirits were able to pass between the two, allowing communication between the living and the dead.
It now marks a relatively harmless way to end the summer and enjoy the harvest. A time during which crops are brought safely under cover, to be enjoyed during the following weeks and months when growth outdoors slows. In America, this celebration is said to represent one of the major commercial occasions. So it’s no great surprise that it has grown like Topsy here in the UK as organisations make the most of some extra business. Embracing the season is probably a sensible way to go. Like the march of time, it’s not going to stop just because you would prefer it to go away.
Entering into the Halloween ‘spirit’ can be a lot of fun and there are plenty of scary beasts out there that can haunt your house or act as a witch’s muse. It all depends on how you look at things.
- Take Physalis, for example. The Chinese lantern plant is a hardy perennial that produces the most amazing fruit cases in late summer. They turn into deep orange ‘lanterns’ in autumn, each case enclosing a scarlet bright berry that looks like a glowing candle. These cases can be dried, after which they will keep their colour and shape for many months. Hang them in the porch like a string of spooky fairy lights. Alternatively, leave the lanterns on the plant where they will turn into ghostly skeletons that catch the sparkly frost during winter.
- The indoor tarantula fern or bird’s spider fern, Davallia tyermannii is a must for lovers of all things creepy or crawly. This unusual plant looks like it has hairy spider-like legs and it gives the impression it’s climbing out of its pot. Add a ghostly light and your doorstep visitors will be enthralled.
- Then we have the fascinating Venus flytrap, Dionaea muscipula. A real-life carnivore that snacks on insects for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s the stuff that nightmares are made of (in miniature). What could be scarier than that (except a giant, people-eating carnivore)?
- If your idea of fun is to bring a skull or witch to life by adding living ‘hair’, you could try Hoya linearis. This dangling, succulent house plant trails to more than a metre long and it can certainly create a spine-tingling experience. Hoya retusa is almost equally as versatile and this trailing house plant has a slightly more chaotic appearance that could make for some spooky fun photos.
- Or for the ultimate in ghostly presence, look no further than the tall, stately Euphorbia ingens ‘Ghost’, also known as ‘White’. This giant can grow to well over 2m tall, given the right, bright, indoor conditions. On a dark night it can certainly take on the appearance of a spooky spectre. Grow a forest of them if you dare!
- Of course, there are pumpkins galore in October and November, and where would Halloween be without them? Did you know there are creamy white, ghostly varieties, together with yellow, green, stripy orange, green and white, and of course the traditional orange. Some are better suited to carving than others, but what a show you could produce on your doorstep with a whole gang of flickering pumpkin faces!
Many of these plants available from Perfectplants.co.uk