Halloween is just around the corner and if you are feeling in the mood to design up a ghostly garden or a petrifying planter here are some of my favorites…bwhahaha.
Thuja plicata ‘Whipchord’
Just look at this thing, if this little guy doesn’t remind you of Cousin Itt from the Addam’s Family and cry out for a pair of glasses and a beret then I am a monkey’s uncle…or aunt. When it is a young plant it looks vaguely spidery...well not even vaguely. Let’s just say when it was covered in dew the other day and misted in the fog I gave it a wide berth just to be safe. It is a hardy little guy growing well in Zones 5-7 in moist well drained loamy soil in sun to part shade. It is a slow growing little waterfall of a plant eventually reaching 5 feet by 5 feet. In the winter it takes on a coppery green tone.
Twisty Baby Robinia
Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Lace Lady’
Delicate and artsy in the spring and summer with its soft green leaflets but by Halloween…its naked and twisty stems bring to mind Macbeth’s witches for some reason. The branches are great for cutting and sticking in your planters for Halloween to dangle spiders and other creepys from and then do double duty when you spray them with glitter to create some eye catching Christmas and winter interest. This contorted small tree or large shrub, depending on how you want to look at it, is hardy from Zones 4 to 9. It prefers average well drained soil in sun or part shade. It grows 15 feet tall and wide, though you can keep it a bit smaller if you regularly use the branches for arrangements.
Cobweb Hens and Chicks
Sempervivum arachnoidum ‘Cebenese’
Think of the savings…you won’t even need to buy that spiderweb stuff and get all tangled up in it so it looks like damp clumps of snow hanging from your Japanese maple (sorry flashback of Halloween decorating from last year). I love these little cobwebby guys, just look at them!! Hardy from Zones 4-6, this clumping evergreen grows only 3 to 6 inches tall. A full sun position in well draining soil will set this little guy off nicely and it will thrive even with indifferent watering. Great for pots and xeriscaping.
The last place you would think I’d find a spooky plant is the Rhododendron house right? Wrong! The long (sometimes up to 7 inches!!) slender recurved leaves with brown indumentum (that’s fuzz for newbies) on the underside and white fuzzy new leaves just screams out witches fingers to me…though possibly I’d just eaten too much candy corn at that point. Granted the cheerful soft pink trusses of flower bells, slightly spotted with red (could be blood) might ruin the spooky effect in spring and make this plant…gasp…look charming, we won’t worry about that right now. This evergreen rhododendron from the Yakushimanum family is hardy in Zones 5b to 8 and thrives in a moist, loamy, well drained slightly acidic soil in part to dappled shade and can even tolerate full sun. Notice I said tolerate, kind of like a teenager tolerates Big Band music. It is a slow grower to 4-6 feet high and wide. This lovely….er spooky shrub has also won an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural society so there.
If I had a nickel for every time a customer asked me –“Hey, is that plant dead?” - I’d be a very rich lady. This kind of got me thinking about…Zombies!!! This plant wins the zombie plant award with its silvery and gunmetal grey zigzagging branches and its tiny grey green leaves (total zombie colours I might add) it looks somehow not really alive, almost artificial. One of its other names is Wire Netting plant and in the winter it sure does look like that. It is a borderline hardy plant at zone 8-10 and it seems like our wet knocks it out rather that our cold weather. If you have a spot against your house or can keep in in a pot and bring it in to a greenhouse, cold frame or a garage with a window it should do just fine. It needs well drained soil and full to part sun. Now it does get clusters of butter yellow tiny flowers in the spring and they are fragrant and…well…dainty and cheerful…but like the Rhodo makinoi, we won’t worry about that right now. A little dry ice and Walking Dead theme music and you have yourself a zombie plant.
Black Mondo Grass
And then there is the Bleakly Black Ophiopogon planescapus ‘Nigrescens’ or Black Mondo Grass. Yes, purple black grass and its ALIVE bwahaha!!! It actually looks cool against orange and white pumpkins in a pot. This creeping ever-black perennial produces small purple flowers in spring and purple black berries (zombie eyeballs) in fall. Makes great ‘Pumpkin Hair’ if you decide to plant up your pumpkins after carving…special note, pumpkins start to decay once your carve them so carving them up closer to Halloween is best…unless you want them all mushy which is extra scary. This wicked perennial is hardy in Zones 5 to 10 and can take full to part sun in a moist well drained humic soil. If you want this plant to really show, under-plant with a light leaved ground cover.
Have a great Halloween and don’t eat too much candy corn…you never know what creepy plant you’ll run into!