Forage in your yard or garden for spooky Halloween décor

Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)October 26, 2013 

Halloween can be more than jack-o'-lanterns that glow and ghosts that bump in the night.

A night-of-fright look for any place in your home — mantel or table — can come straight from the nooks and crannies of your home and garden, says gardenista Erin Boyle of Gardenista.com.

First, examine your possessions to see what ominous items you have in closets and cupboards. She suggests dark stuff like a black vase, eerie portrait, old doll, bleached branch or anything stained or tattered.

Stroll your garden looking for dark flowers, not black because there really aren't any, but blooms that are dark red or maroon.

"Black dahlias are fall flowers that are deep, moody maroon, a color that's positively spooky," Boyle says.

Whites in calla lilies and mums can give you a ghostly look, and thorny things add their own botanical boos.

You can forage for things in the woods or your favorite native plant garden to collect berries from pokeberries, Virginia creeper and privet. Bittersweet provides a spot of orange.

Pokeweed, which bears pokeberries this time of year, is not always a gardener's favorite plant, but the birds love the fruits. The plant grows 3 feet tall and branches almost as wide, says Helen Hamilton, past president of the John Clayton Chapter, Virginia Native Plant Society.

The plant's reddish stems carry loose columns of small white or pinkish flowers July to September. In early to late fall, drooping clusters bear glossy purple-black berries.

It's important to note: All parts of pokeweed are poisonous, especially the roots, seeds, and mature stems and leaves.

For your Halloween montage, you also can forage at the grocery store or farmers market, looking for black and orange peppers to work into your arrangement. Gourds are good, too.

Once your macabre bouquet material is in front of you, resist the urge to make it look refined and perfect. After all, Halloween is all about strange-looking things that look tattered and torn, rough around the edges and wildly wonderful.

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