The Art of Darkness

Gothy Gardens

July 13th, 2010 by Cobwebs

Herby SkullI haven’t done a gardening post in ages, largely because most of my gardening this year has tended toward the mundane rather than the spooky: I’ve been planting things to make the bees happy, and their preferences aren’t particularly gothy. However, I’ve been saving a list of plants that would be perfect for a spooky garden, so even if I haven’t had the chance to plant any at least I can share them with you.

Obviously, check any plant for suitability (size, temperature requirements, invasiveness, etc.) before you stick it in the ground; depending upon your location, some of them may have to be grown in pots. You can use one or two as accent plants in a garden or mass a lot of them in a single bed to create something more blatantly spooky. That latter is my preferred approach; I like to give visitors the impression that my front yard might eat them.

One of my favorites is Spilanthes oleracea, also called the “Peek-a-Boo Plant.” It’s got round yellow blossoms with burgundy centers and essentially appears to be a bunch of eyeballs on stalks.

Ricinus communis, the castor bean plant, is a big, showy ornamental. Depending upon the variety, foliage can be purple, dark green, or reddish, and the seedpods are colorful and spiky. The plant is also highly poisonous, so do NOT plant it if you have children or animals who might nibble at it.

The Butterfly Bush species Buddleia davidii ‘Black Knight’ is a tall, attractive plant with blackish-purple blooms. It has the added benefit of attracting hummingbirds and butterflies to your garden.

The Bat Flower, Tacca chantrieri ‘Black’, has black blossoms that look sort of like a bat. If you squint. It’s a really striking houseplant, though, with huge glossy flowers and dramatic whiskers.

There’s a variety of broomcorn (Sorghum nigrum) that has shiny black seeds is often sold under the name “Black Witch’s Broom.”

The daylily Hemerocallis ‘Bela Lugosi’ is a gorgeous purple-black flower with the added benefit of a wonderful name.

Speaking of that, there are actually a lot of daylilies with evocative names, like Forbidden Desires, Goblin MoonMerry Witch, Wicked Witch, Creature of the Night, Banshee, Deep Secret, Autumn Sunset, and Night Song; irises named Dracula’s Shadow, Ominous Stranger, and Ghost Train; and tulips called Queen of the Night and Tattoo. Let’s just say that if there’s a popular flower you happen to like, it’s probably got at least a few varities with spooky names.)

A variety of sea holly, Eryngium giganteum ‘Miss Willmott’s Ghost’ is a tall, greenish-grey plant that has prickly flowers. It’s a striking landscaping plant and would also look nice as part of a dried-flower arrangement.

One of my favorite shrubs is the Corkscrew Willow, Salix matsudana tortuosa: Its twigs are twisty and contorted, which not only give the whole bush a peculiar look but also make wonderful additions to a vase of cut flowers. The Corokia cotoneaster is another great shrub; it’s also called a “wire netting bush,” and its grey foliage and mounding habit make it look odd and ghostly.

Japanese Blood Grass is an extremely arresting ornamental grass, with tall garnet-to-burgundy blades. Eleusine coracana ‘Green Cat’ is another ornamental grass that produces strange claw-like flowers.

Carpet Bugle (or Bugleweed), Ajuga reptans, is a nice ground cover which has several dark varieties like ‘Burgundy Glow’ and ‘Royalty’.

Other, non-specific suggestions for a gothic garden is to look for twisty trees, vines and other trailing plants, black or other deep-colored flowers, and perhaps some night-blooming plants. The Victorian-type garden with a wide variety of plants stuffed into every available place is a great look for this kind of garden. Gazing balls, menacing statuary (I’m partial to pleurants), sundials, and wrought iron are all attractive additions. Even better, use a big cauldron as the focal point of a flower bed and plant it to overflowing with trailing plants.

What’s your favorite gothy plant? I’d love to hear more suggestions in the comments!

(Image from Skull-a-Day. Isn’t it fabulous?)

Posted in Unhallowed Ground | 3 Comments »

3 Responses

  1. Laurie Brown Says:

    The darkest ricinus is “New Zealand Purple”. The only place I’ve seen it is at J.L. Hudson. They are DARK purple!

    Roses have a number of dark specimens, too. Many of them I can’t grow because they won’t take the cold here, but I have ‘Black Garnet’, ‘Raven’, ‘Burgundy Iceberg’, ‘Night Owl’ and ‘Midnight Blue’. (I have a lot of other roses, too; these are only the dark ones)

    There are a large number of dark heucheras out there, all bred out of ‘Palace Purple’. Also for dark foliage are ninebark ‘Summer Wine’ or ‘Diablo’, a ligularia that I can’t remember the name of, ‘Black Prince’ snapdragon (with bonus dark red flowers!) and lysimachia ciliata, which is taking over my yard at the moment.

  2. Beans Says:

    If only I could grow a garden!

  3. Judy Says:

    Oh, my teenage daughter and I started a Goth Garden this year at our new house. It is still in it’s infancy. Our current favorite is our Black Pearl Pepper. Black foliage, tiny, HOT black peppers that turn a bright red. I can’t wait.

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