The Ashridge Nurseries Blog

Have a horticultural Halloween!


Halloween plants

When it comes to plants at Halloween, it's about
much more than pumpkins...

The origins of Halloween are thought to be rooted in the Celtic celebration of Samhain, a festival to mark the season of bringing in the harvests in preparation for winter.

It was thought that on this day, the 31 October, the boundaries between the worlds became blurred.

The dead returned to haunt the living, causing terrible catastrophe and illness.

Many myths and legends surround this day, with various rituals being performed in order to protect people from wandering evil spirits, as well as to predict fortunes and destinies.


Witch's star in an apple

Apples have a strong association with Halloween, or All Hallows' Eve.

When it is cut through the middle the apple reveals the witch's five-pointed star, and this has led to it being held as a symbol of magic. In divination ceremonies, Druids would throw long strips of apple peel to the floor, and then study the shapes they made.

Bobbing for apples is a well-loved Halloween tradition that is still popular today. It is thought to have originated in Ireland in the 1600s. Apples were put in large buckets of water, and the first person to bite an apple without using their hands would be blessed the following year with health and prosperity.


Hazel nuts

Hazel trees were one of the most important and sacred trees to the Celts who held it with high regard for its divinatory and protective powers.

The wood was used for wands and is still thought to be the best choice when dowsing for water. The forked twigs were also thought to avert drunkenness on Halloween!

The nuts too were considered to have strong protective powers that, when worn in strings about your person, would ward off evil spirits and bring you good luck.

Young lovers would perform the ritual of roasting hazelnuts over the fire on All Hallows' Eve, which was also known as Nut-crack Night. The way that the nuts reacted in the flames was said to foretell the future of their relationship in the coming year.

The Ghost Plant

Ghost plant

Less to do with folklore, but equally spooky is the Ghost Plant – a flower that does without chlorophyll.

As well as being ghostly, it's quite the vampire too, surviving in dark, damp places by sucking the life out of mycorrhizal fungi.

These friendly fungi are certainly no monsters. They live in happy harmony with the roots of trees, in a perfectly balanced symbiotic relationship. The Ghost Plant is just a strange parasite living off them both!


Allium flower head

If the Ghost Plant is a vampire, what would it make of an allium or two?

The bulbs of the allium family have long been regarded as having properties to ward off evil spirits: cloves of garlic to help create white magic with the layers in onions representing the universe and all its goodness.

Spookily, it may not be a coincidence that planting alliums alongside your roses can prevent some nasty pests and diseases too.


Rowan branch

The Rowan or Mountain Ash were among the most sacred trees in Scottish folk tradition.

Rowans were planted next to new dwellings to offer protection from harm, as well as to aid in the fertility of starting a family. It is still a common practice in Scotland today.

They were also planted in graveyards and burial sites as it was believed that they would help the dead to stay sleeping. On Halloween crosses were made from their branches and sprigs were worn as protection from enchantment.


Holly branch

Holly bushes are widely regarded as Christmas plants, with their vivid red berries and glossy green leaves. But did you know that they have a link with witchcraft too?

No, not to make witches brooms (ouch)! Holly is believed to help catch witches and stop spells as they fly through the countryside. Some superstitious farmers will avoid cutting back the holly in their hedgerows so that they don't lose its magical protection.


Elder branch

Another tree that has long been associated with magic and protection is the Elder.

On Halloween it was traditional to bring in branches to hang over the doorway to the house and cowshed, to guard the house against any evil spirits trying to enter.

However it seems that there is a thin line to tread here; myth also has it that Elder should never be burned as it will release malevolent spirits and that you could end up coming face to face with the devil himself!

Now that would make for a memorable Halloween...


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