, Gloucester, MA


October 25, 2013

Forage in yard or garden for spooky decor

Halloween can be more than jack-o-lanterns that glow and ghosts that bump in the night.

A night-of-fright look for any place in your home — mantel or table — can come straight from the nooks and crannies of your home and garden, according to Gardenista Erin Boyle —

First, examine your possessions to see what ominous items you have in closets and cupboards, dark stuff like a black vase, eerie portrait, old doll, bleached branch or anything stained or tattered, she says.

Stroll your garden looking for dark flowers, not black because they really aren’t any, but blooms that are dark red or maroon.

“Black dahlias are fall flowers that are deep, moody maroon, a color that’s positively spooky,” says Boyle.

Whites in calla lilies and mums can give you that ghostly look, while thorny things add their own botanical boos.

You can forage for things in the woods or your favorite native plant garden to collect berries from pokeberries, Virginia creeper and privet. Bittersweet provides a spot of orange.

Pokeweed, which bears pokeberries this time of year, is not always a gardener’s favorite plant, but the birds love the fruits. The plant grows 3 feet tall and branches almost as wide, according to Helen Hamilton, past president of the John Clayton Chapter, Virginia Native Plant Society

The plant’s reddish stems carry loose columns of small white or pinkish flowers July to September. In early to late fall, drooping clusters bear glossy purple-black berries. Preferring moist soil, pokeweed, or Phytolacca americana, is found in damp thickets, clearing, and roadsides in most U.S. states, according to Hamilton.

All parts of pokeweed are poisonous, specially the roots, seeds and mature stems and leaves. Songbirds, fox, raccoon and opossum eat the berries, and are apparently immune to the toxic chemicals, says Hamilton. These animals help distribute the seeds far and wide, which is why they sprout in your garden. Pokeweed is deer resistant.

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