ISSUE 40  |  Nightshade

Curb Appeal: 15 Ideas to Steal from Brooklyn for Halloween

October 07, 2015 1:30 PM

BY Barbara Peck

All over my neighborhood, front yards and stoops, planters and tree wells look lush. Just another reason to love the Upper West Side. Could there be a prettier place to live in New York City?

As it turns out, yes. That place is Brooklyn Heights, which gets all dressed up for Halloween. Photographer Doug Thompson and I spent a blissful afternoon wandering around Brooklyn Heights, shooting whatever we could see from the sidewalk. You’d think there must be a competition going on. We did find one yard filled with plastic tombstones, skeletons, and a moth-eaten rat (it was on State Street, and sorry, you won’t see it here), but almost everything else showed an unerringly sophisticated use of color and texture. Read on for 15 Halloween ideas to steal from Brooklyn Heights for your own garden:

Photography by Douglas Lyle Thompson for Gardenista.

Black Backdrop:

Above: On the stoop at one townhouse on Sidney Place, a restrained black planter matches the black door and lends a Halloween air. Gourds and a pumpkin pop against the dark backdrop.

Above: A black window box at the same townhouse. Like the planter by the door, it resembles a miniature prairie grassland.

Ghostly White:

Above: Caladium seem to be everywhere these days, and no wonder. They’re hardy enough for an urban environment, and come in a wide range of colors. These in terra cotta planters on Sidney Place stick to white and green, and must be a ghostly sight after dark.

Vivacious Vines:

Above: Vegetation has priority on this stoop: lush coleus (coleus went nuts this summer), sweet potato vine, and a spreading tuberous begonia with white blossoms. Guests must circumnavigate the twining residents. (Watch your ankles.)

Plants on the Loose:

brooklyn-heights-vine-pumpkin-stoop-container plants-gardenista

Above: It’s hard to believe that Sidney Place is only one short block. Here’s one more on Sidney, where the vines are given free rein. At the foot of the steps, a pretty vine escapes from a pot of Japanese anemones, grasses, and pansies.

Unexpected Heat:

Above: On Henry Street, one block closer to the river, diverse plantings on a stoop and in a tree well. With a surprise . . .

Above: The pumpkin and chrysanthemum are to be expected, but check out the orange peppers on the right. And is that bamboo at the back?

Purple People Eaters:

Above: Purple works for Halloween, too (when doesn’t purple work?). A tree well combines boxwood with fuzzy celosia and lavender-edged ornamental kale–it wouldn’t be Brooklyn without kale. Luckily, Brooklyn Heights dogs are so well mannered they curb themselves.

Monster Plants:

Above: Feed me! Don’t be afraid to go big in fall. This variegated elephant ear at the top of the steps may well scare off pint-sized trick-or-treaters.

New York City’s Mascot:

Above: It’s rare that a rat is a welcome sighting in New York, but this guy on Henry Street is more charming than scary.

Ghoulish Gourds:

Above: Joralemon Street is busier than the side streets, but just as nicely decorated. This stoop has some especially well chosen gourds and pumpkins.

Rampant Roses:

Above: On Joralemon Street, a climbing rose laden with orange rose hips has decided to ramble over the railing and across a trellis. In this section of the street the pavement switches to cobblestones: I loved the sound of car tires rumbling along the block.

Above: At the same townhouse, more coleus run rampant in window boxes, along with some late-blooming fuchsias. The chartreuse-colored leaves are from the unstoppable “Wasabi” coleus, a recent variety that is the gift that keeps on giving. (Need a cutting? I still have plenty–from a single plant.)

Mini Pumpkins:

Above: A felicitous mix of plants at a house on Garden Place. Homeowners around here don’t hesitate to rip out tired petunias or ragged geraniums when summer’s bloom is done, and start anew with fresh fall plantings.

Above: These boxes fit the season, with their shades of orange, ivy, fuzzy grasses–and yes, mini pumpkins tucked in at the base.

Hawkish Owls:

Above: While Michelle loves Halloween, she confesses to hating the color orange. It’s a conundrum. How about rusty-orange, then, like this window-box owl?

Black Cats:

Above: Black cats are always in fashion on Halloween. Get one if you can. I spied this spooky character peeking around his front door on Willow Place, and quickly motioned to Doug to grab a shot.

Edith Wharton’s Halloween:

Above: A few blocks over on Columbia Place, a particularly handsome and well-kept townhouse has covetable stone window boxes.

Above: Here, the Casper-like shapes of peace lilies flit above white-and-green caladium leaves; boxwood and dwarf cypress fill in the gaps.

Halloween-to-Thanksgiving Decor:

Above: Our last stop on Columbia Place had an urn and window boxes that suited their spaces perfectly (aided by the lacy curtains behind).

Above: A mix of orange-and-gold crotons, mums, and asparagus ferns will look just as good on Thanksgiving, as long as the weather stays mild. That’s the risk you run putting houseplants in outdoor fall arrangements. But isn’t that half the fun of it?

For more Halloween decorating ideas, check out:

N.B.: This is an update of a post originally published on Oct. 21, 2014.