Gothic Gardens can be wicked and wonderful

When a friend told me she was painting her red brick house black, I was surprised but excited. Then she said the trim would be black too. For a quick second, I thought she had lost her mind – until I remembered she is a style icon, and of course, it would be fabulous.

I feel the same way about Gothic Gardens. They sound scary but are pretty darn beautiful any time of the year.

Originally popular in the Victorian era these gardens brought about dark and brooding feelings and hinted at an interest in cemeteries and death. Today’s Goth gardens have come a long way. The deep dark colors can, of course, be spooky, but they can also be playful or elegant depending on your design choices and how you accessorize the area.

A winding pathway with no clear end instantly creates mystery and intrigue. Perhaps the path leads to a Victorian-designed seating area. Sculpted bench, antique planters, maybe even an ornate lantern either hanging or perched upon a stone base. And vines – there have to be vines.

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If you don’t have a pathway, you can create the same feeling with carved fencing and border markers that lead to a focal point of a cement or iron statue. Maybe instead of a lantern, you find a garden chandelier to hang. Chandeliers can be electric or solar. Check second-hand shops, then retrofit for the use of solar lights instead of candles or electric bulbs.

Once you have identified your Goth Garden spot, it’s time to think about plants. There are many deep purples (black) and deep red plants to incorporate into your designs. If you need a shrub, consider Little John azalea or even a dwarf Japanese maple tree.

Other plants that would work include’ Dracula’s Kiss ‘bearded iris,’ Queen of the Night tulips, ‘Black Delight viola, and ‘Primo Black Pearl’ Heuchera. I have ‘Black Scalloped’ ajuga in my garden. A fellow gardener has graciously offered to share her black mondo grass. I will plant the grass and a few coleuses along my pathway.

If you want to go all in and create a garden for spells and potions, there are several herbs that could be added to the garden. “Dark Opal” basil, “Ibis Hybrid’ lettuce, “Black Kim” tomatoes, “Purple Beauty” peppers, and “Black Spanish” radishes. Perfect for whatever is brewing in your cauldron.

If you want to accentuate the spooky this time of year, I suggest adding a few moss-covered tombstones, cherubs, and even stained-glass panels. Get clever and create windchimes that have just the sound that will give visitors a fright.

If whimsy is more your speed, maybe a gothic fairy garden is what you need. It’s hard to be truly afraid of a fairy garden, but the scale lets you go all in on the goth feel. You might want to add gnomes and trolls to your garden path. Plus, motion-activated haunted music never fails to enhance the mood. I recently visited a garden and met Ernie, a harmonica playing skeleton wearing sunglasses. Talk about fun!

A traditional Victorian Gothic Garden is just that – very proper and very aged. I like the idea of updating the concept and creating a Goth Garden that delights the senses and makes a bit of mystery for all who travel its path.