While I like to dive into the Halloween mood by decorating with pumpkins on the porch and strings of orange lights, I have never thought to spruce up my garden for the holiday. But, according to the almighty TikTok, Pinterest, and Instagram apps, others are—by partaking in some goth gardening, an aesthetic that’s even made the list of 2024 garden trends.
So, what, pray tell, is goth gardening all about? To help me sort through this latest garden trend, I’ve asked Janet Sluis, director of the Sunset Plant Collection.
What is ‘goth gardening’?
Also known as Gothic gardening, and referring back to the Victorian Era, this style of gardening lets you embrace your dark, mysterious side, regardless of the season or the size of your space. If you have only a tiny deck, you can add some darkly hued containers filled with moody, broody plants. If your garden is larger, you can pick and choose several features of a goth garden to implement: winding paths that snake though a garden, moss-covered stones for a vintage vibe, densely planted secret areas with surprises around corners, and slightly sinister looking plants. Goth gardening isn’t reserved just for the Halloween season, though its dark drama certainly feels very appropriate for the holiday.
Why is the goth look trending?
“As far as hardscaping goes, there has been growing interest in all things old: crumbling stonework, rusted wrought iron, repurposed art. In general, gardening trends are moving away from straight edges and formal shapes to more winding paths and wilder looking plantings,” says Janet.
What plants are perfect for the goth garden?
Focus on plants that are dramatic, eerie looking, and/or have dark-as-midnight foliage or flowers. You can also search for scarlet red, dark purple, and burgundy-hued plants. “Now is the time to stock up,” says Janet, since nursery growers produce black foliage plants and flowers for Halloween and dark plants can be hard to find at other times of the year.
Below is a very incomplete list of potentially perfect plants. Remember: Although it is tempting and easy to pick plants based on looks only, please consider your growing conditions before purchasing, such as the climate, soil type, light exposure, and whether or not deer visit your garden.
- Phormium ‘Black Adder’
- Sempervivum supersemps ‘Onyx’
- Melianthus major
- Cotinus coggygria
- Cordyline ‘Design-a-line’
- Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’
- Mangave ‘Black Widow’
- Hollyhock ‘Black Night’
- Lobelia ‘Vulcan Red’
- Heuchera ‘Black Pearl’
What are some ghoulishly goth accessories?
For smaller gardens and more urban settings, Janet recommends getting creative with containers. “Repurpose scavenged items to use as planters and place found objects in and around them. Hunting thrift stores and salvage yards can yield all kinds of interesting pieces and are zero-waste (certainly more eco-friendly than importing heavy pots from overseas). Just make sure anything used for planting has drainage holes or can have holes drilled into them.”
Scrap yards, thrift stores, and flea markets are great places to find affordable weathered items such as old urns, fountains, lanterns, gargoyles, wrought iron gates, even old animal cages. Creepy shadows also add mystery. You can get the effect by hanging some string lights, decorating with LED candles, or positioning spotlights on the faces of antique statues.
Any other tips?
Consider leaving dead leaves, fallen stumps, brown seed heads, and faded flowers. This hands-off maintenance regime should be very welcoming to most—and especially to beneficial creatures like birds, frogs, worms, and even friendly snakes.
The bottom line is to use your imagination while exploring this trend. “Gardening should be fun, not anxiety-provoking,” says Janet. “Decorate your outdoor space with whatever brings you comfort and joy. Bring dark toned tapestry rugs and pillows out, use memory evoking scents (in plants or candles), and place a comfortable chair along with a small side table someplace where you can sit and enjoy your outdoor space.”
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