Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Garden Ghost Story

Centaurea 'Black Sprite' 
(Baldur Garten)
A gardening column I wrote 8 years ago; this year I updated some of the plants.  
At the edge of the woods not far from where I live sits an old and crumbling abandoned house.  But the gardens around it are well kept as though someone wants them to thrive forever.  A peculiar old woman used to live here all alone, never a visitor, they say she was a witch.  She died many years ago but under a full moon you can still see her ghost tending the gardens.
If you’re not afraid to go there in daylight you will be amazed to see the different types of plants growing.  The colour black is sacred to witches and there you will find many plants that are true to this belief.
Look at the front of the garden with the strange shape; there are ‘Black Prince’ pansies with their large purple-black petals and gold centers, Sweet William ‘Sooty’ the biennial with its deep black-maroon petals that blooms in early summer in the sun or in part shade.  Towards the back is cimicifuga ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ with ‘Black Sorbet’ violas under the leaves.  The velvety black blooms of the violas will flower from spring until snowfall if they are deadheaded regularly ………….and someone has been doing this.
Black hollyhocks have self seeded everywhere, their deep purple-black flowers on eight foot high stalks are very attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies.  The black variety is an heirloom plant over 200 years old so I guess it has been in this garden for many, many years.
There is the new centaurea (perennial cornflower) called ‘Black Sprite’ growing freely and reaching 30 cm tall with its spidery black flower petals.
And the coleus ‘Black Ruffles’ has been planted at all those pointy edges of this garden.
Walk around to the side of the house and an herbal medicine wheel is as healthy as any you’ll see.  Look closely and you can see where stems and leaves have been broken off to be used in ……potions?
Foxglove is abundant here because it is a source of digitalis and hemlock (the herb) which is a member of the carrot family is poisonous.  Monkshood contains the poison aconitine which slows the heart rate and wolf’s bane; I shudder to think what it does.  The mandrake root has a narcotic effect and vervain is for love potions while the opium poppies are used for sleep and dreams.  Yarrow, known as the Devil’s nettle and a witch indicator plant is used for a wound poultice along with plantain leaves.  All of these herbs that are used for black magic are only gathered during certain phases of the moon.
The moonflower against the building had me puzzled at first because it is a white flower that blooms at dusk and throughout the night.  Ah, but it is fragrant and would attract many moths and other bugs that would in turn attract many black bats.
I wouldn’t go near this place at night if I were you.  Footsteps have been heard shuffling through the thick layer of autumn leaves decomposing on the floor of the woods which will eventually become rich humus and... the perfect place to bury things.
Happy Halloween


  1. Hi Judith, Wish Mr. Lavender Cottage Happy Belated Birthday. Wonderful post, perfect for Halloween. Jen

  2. I didn't realize there are that many varieties of black flowers! Great story.

  3. Oh you got me so interested in the story! I was expecting pictures! Great post! Happy halloween to you!

  4. Happy Halloween Judith!
    What a fun tale... I never knew there were so many black flowers, perhaps you will wander into the garden and do some seed collecting :-D
    and Happy Haunting

  5. Judith, what a delightful story. I had a black hollyhock two seasons ago. Didn't know what color it was going to be. It bloomed once and then gone! I thought the witch in my Cottage was me but there must be another!.. Happy Halloween..Judy

  6. Eeek...I'm skerd! :) What a delightful story. LOVED IT girly!

    Happy Halloween!


  7. Loved your tale. I was so enthraled, I too thought I'd see some pictures. Enjoy your halloween.

  8. Hi Judith,
    that is a fantastic story about black flowers and magic plants. I think a garden like you described is somehow scary. The Centaurea is such a pretty bloom with dark lilac color. That was a perfect story for Halloween. Thank you for that delight and for your visit and the nice comment. I feel guilty that I always be so late with my visits.
    Best greetings, Johanna

  9. Nice story. I just pulled out my one black flower as I eliminated garden beds.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  10. A delightful and interesting story Judith. I didn't know there were so many black toned flowers. I'm going to try and find some for my garden.
    Wonderful post and have a Happy Halloween.

  11. What an awesome post, thank you Judith - loved learning about plants and tried to imagine how it all looks - you "conjured up" a visual treat for garden lovers on Halloween, to be sure!

  12. I loved the post and the plants was just wonderful.

  13. A spooky story, indeed - and I am left wondering how much embellishment you have lavished upon us here. But, always interesting to stumble upon old gardens to see what continues to thrive. Though - I could do without so much black - and those spider looking plants - in my garden.
    P.S. Thank you for your good thoughts and prayers concerning the storm. We are back to normal - but just 30 minutes away from us is absolute devastation. So much of our poor seashore - gone.

  14. I first checked out your tea time of yesterday and I love the beautiful fireplace with all the lovely pumpkins. Such a cozy setting for tea. The tea set is very beautiful.
    For this post I have to say that I really enjoyed your writing of the neighbor "witch." A wonderful article explaining each flower and it's use. The photo of the Black Sprite is stunning.
    Very enjoyable!

  15. Great story for Halloween, Judith! I didn't realize there are so many black flowers. I don't think I have any in my garden but I'll consider it for the future. I do have foxglove, though!
    Hugs, Beth

  16. Fun post. :) I just love those black pansies ~ gorgeous.

  17. The perfect Halloween tale for garden lovers!


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