Speaking of Free Stuff


(FTC-required disclosure:  The following post involves the distribution of free products from companies with whom I have close personal and financial ties.  I have, in fact, shared cabs, cocktails, and Facebook status updates with representatives of the aforementioned companies and intend to continue to do so in the future.)

Well.  With that out of the way:  I have managed to talk the people at Timber, Storey, and Algonquin into giving away not one, but TWO sets of creepy botanical-themed Halloween-ish books to GardenRant readers.  The books are:

Blackplant Black Plants:  75 Striking Choices for the Garden,  a totally delightful little collection of black and almost-black plants by Paul Bonine, owner of a wholesale nursery called Xera Plants in Oregon. 

Ghoulish Goodies:  A Frightful Cookbook by Sharon Bowers.  Now, you may be Ghoulishwondering what this has to do with gardening, or why you need a cookbook of Halloween-themed cupcake recipes.  Trust me, you do.  Worms (in the form of gummy worms) and spiders (made from licorice, chocolate-covered something or others, and I don't know what all) and other such outdoorsy  themes come up throughout the book.  Plus, if you've ever wondered how to make cookies that look like fingers, or cheese balls that look like eyeballs, now's your chance.  I don't bake–EVER, for ANY occasion–and I thought it was a totally cute book.


And, of course, you get a copy of Wicked Plants.  I'm sure you saw that one coming.  Well, you know, Halloween is fun and all, but those teenagers who bang on the door at ten o'clock at night, long after you've turned off the lights and eaten the last of the Snickers yourself?  And they don't even bother to put on a costume?  And they try to claim it's for their little brother who's home sick?  Page through this book and dream up some revenge fantasies.  (FBI-required disclosure:  Please don't act on those fantasies.  Just don't answer the door.)

And what do you have to do to win these fabulous books?  You've got a choice.  Either post your very best-ever Halloween or Day of the Dead-themed garden photo–from this year or years past–and put a link to the photo in the comments so we can go check it out.  (And if it's a garden still in the making, tell us of your diabolical plans.  Perhaps we will be so terrified by the very description of your freaky garden-to-be that we'll declare you a winner even if you don't have a photo to share.)

OR–you know what a sucker for verse we are here at GardenRant.  Anything in verse that relates vaguely to plants and Halloween could win you a set of books.

And remember–we have TWO SETS to give away!  Two!

I'll choose the winners in my usual arbitrary and capricious manner and announce them next week.  With any luck, you'll get your goodies in time for Halloween.  

Now–go frighten someone!


  1. I love spooky plants. It’s one way I sneakily try to loop my teenage daughter into my gardening obsessions. At various times our goth garden experience has included black violets, alienish seedpods, and cosmos with flowers the color of dried blood. Awesome.

    Here’s my entry: a snap of Solanum atropurpureum from last year. Known as ‘Purple Devil’ for the forest of two-inch long thorns that emerge from stems and even from the top and bottom of the leaves. This totally creeped people out in late summer/fall:

    Solanum atropurpureum ‘Purple Devil’

    And just for fun, some bonus oddities with goth flowers and our scary house:

    Goth Pot
    (Ever notice how even happy flowers like poppies can be a freakshow pre- and post-bloom?)

    Scary House

  2. Don’t having anything to post for the contest, but if you have small male children at your home you need the cookbook. Biggest hit I ever had with son and his friends was the bug cake I made. I am sure the recipe will be in this book. It was a spider and involved a chocolate cake (made even darker with black food coloring), baked in a metal mixing bowl with very squishy lime jello innards. To my surprise, the lime and chocolate were a very tasty combination.

  3. Sadly, when I created this garden I was a 14 years old with no camera (I spent all my money on plants), so no photographic evidence, but: I gardened as a teenager on my parent’s mostly wooded 12 acres which were disgustingly overpopulated with deer — Deer which loved nothing better than munching roses (my first plant love) to death. I chased them away, threw rocks at them, even camped out in the garden to try and scare them away at night.
    Nothing worked.
    One day, hiking in the woods, I found a complete deer skeleton picked clean by vultures and worms and who-knows-what. After rejoicing that one of the vermin was dead, I had a wonderful idea. I picked up the skull and two leg bones and brought them back to the garden. I arranged them as a skull and cross bones and planted black viola and nemophila around them. I later returned for the rib cage and grew trailing blood red nasturtiums up and around it. The white bones with the black and red flowers were striking and menacing.
    And scary to the deer?
    Well, no.
    The deer simply gobbled up the viola from around the bones.

  4. The Wicked Plants book looks awesome and up my alley (not in the evil malicious poisonous plants way, but the historical interests way, as we seem to be doing lots of disclaimers around here lately…)

    Cool if I can win it!

  5. …And I am noob without coffee who missed the specific “comments in order to win part.”

    I’ve only been in my house a couple years and hadn’t thought about a Halloween themed garden, but here is my closest thing:


    Or… perhaps I can woo with verse:

    Beware little children of the Nepenthes distillatoria
    Just by the door,
    Ready to greet,
    with its honey mouth bowl.

    A bit too much fertilizer
    has made it a monster,
    with flies not suiting its current appetite.
    Beware, get not too near or you’ll get a fright!

    What you thought
    was a bowl full of candy
    is something more the unsavory type.
    Little children who dawdle their hand in, may take it out with a “Yipe!”

    Make note to your left as well,
    Dionaea muscipula,
    See it’s lovely green lips and gaping maw.
    It’s a “teeth” may be look a little hairy,
    So, be keep caution and stay wary!

    Meet too, at your right,
    Drosera tokaiensis,
    Those pretty droplets it secretes?
    Touch them, I insist!
    You’re sticky and stuck?
    Oh what a shame!

    Now you are running, far, far away!

    Oh well, it was fun, but Halloween’s a frightful time,
    Perhaps now you won’t be so rude
    by cutting in front of the candy line!

  6. persephone : the book is divine, & so is your verse !!

    Alas, I have no poetry skills & my Flickr stream is full of lovely ( perhaps even ‘bland’ )shots of flowers & plants… But maybe … Morning glories made Amy’s book, though my shot is far from frightening. This rosebush was certainly wicked, as was this cactus couldn’t find the Latin name so I’m not sure just how wicked, though.

  7. I’m a blogger, heaven forbid I win anything and have to declare it. I’ve already got Wicked Plants and have been treading ever so tentatively in my garden since reading it.
    Here’s my little story…I was decorating the back porch for fall and Halloween with the usual floral suspects when I decided to add these adorable little crows I had bought at the local hobby store. I arranged them as artfully and realistically as I could. Later that night I was scared to death when I heard our front door open. My husband had returned late in the night from a business trip and for the first time ever used the FRONT door. I asked him, “Why the hell did you do that?” He replied, “Well there were these scary looking birds all over the back porch” It was a mutual fright.

  8. With Apologies to Poe

    Once upon a midday dreary
    wandering through a garden eerie,
    I paused to ponder on a quaint and curious Corokia cotoneaster,
    an astonishingly twisted bit of vegetal décor.
    Distinctly I remember how spectral that September
    when each separate red-hot poker
    wrought its ghost upon the Gothic garden floor.

    Whilst a subtle susurration,
    a sepulchral sensation,
    issued from a weeping willow
    rising from courtyard’s core.
    Whence emerged a stately raven,
    with plumes black as the mondo grass
    the herbaceous borders bore.

    Recognizing, when I see it,
    an otherworldly spirit,
    I thus addressed this audacious avatar:
    “Did a weed kill Lincoln’s mother?”
    I expected “nevermore.”

    But the uncanny crow stayed silent.
    So I persisted, yet more violent
    to query the unforthcoming fowl.
    “Can a plant be wicked?” I asked the rook;
    quote he at last: “Just read the book.”
    If I win it, I’ll be grateful, evermore.

  9. Years ago, my ex-husband and I got the idea to get a bunch of busted-up Barbie parts and stick them in the ground of our little apartment courtyard and call it our Barbie Zombie Graveyard. We even had a Headless HorseBarbie complete with miniature pumpkin for a head.
    We improved on the theme each year for about 4 years until finally, during a Halloween party, some friends used fake blood and a giant serrated bread knife to create Airplane Crash Barbie (stuck in the tree) and Car Crash Barbie (don’t ask) and we all just grossed ourselves out.
    We put pictures of the first couple of years up on a webpage for a while. Right up until Mattel went on a rampage and demanded that anyone, anywhere take down anything even remotely related to Barbies. This was about when the book of Barbies came out (Trailer Trash Barbie was the most popular one I remember). So we don’t have the pictures up anymore, but we do have fond memories. Especially of our Very Mormon Landlord bringing her 4 y/o granddaughter by to trick-or-treat that first year, and complimenting us on our zombie action.

  10. If I had a public site to post pictures on I would post two:

    1) of my newborn first child having his head size matched to a pumpkin in our garden on his first day home from the hospital at the end of July and

    2) of my son three months later sitting IN that pumpkin-now-jack-o-lantern in nothing but a diaper.

    My daughter, born the end of this July, has no such pictures as the weather was terrible and we only had a few sugar pie pumpkins flower and grow in September this year. We did buy a carving pumpkin at the farmers’ market that we’ll put her in in a few weeks!

  11. On Garden Trespassers

    In my little wood
    I shall plant some Monkshood,
    Also known by the name Aconite.
    Or, perhaps as a trap,
    Some Venus Flytrap
    Would give the trespassers a fright.

    A small plant of Rue
    May cause a pustule or two
    And raise in me unholy glee.
    Whilst an Oleander leaf
    May give them some grief
    And give them a surprise in their tea.

    While down in the glade,
    Some Deadly Nightshade
    When slipped in an unwary purse,
    Will cause all sorts of fuss
    As they leave on the bus,
    But wind-up their trip in a hearse.

    I think it betimes
    To wind-up these rhymes
    As it’s now a quarter to four,
    But despite all the dust,
    Worms, chiggers and “rust”,
    A good garden’s worth killing for.

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