A spooky October bloom day

Salutations and welcome to a special October edition of Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Doom Day at Botanica Chaotica! And, when I say salutations, it is just my fancy way of saying ‘bah’ or ‘humbug’ or ‘I have something depressing to complain about’ and I was just hoping to drag you into it whilst still giving the pretense of sounding pleasant. Today, we are celebrating all things dying, dead, disgusting, disturbing, or decomposing in the garden. Starting things off is this seasonally appropriate photo of a harvester spider dancing on the corpse of a gloriosa daisy flower (Rudbeckia hirta).

Charlotte's distant cousin, Mil-dread posing on a recently deceased Rudbeckia flower

Witch’s claws dangle on the California pipevine (Aristolochia californica), serving as a warning that all good garden deeds will be punished eventually. When thrown, they are surprisingly effective at beaning marauding rodents in the noggin, and they can also be added to whatever is brewing in the witch’s cauldron on a cold, rainy, Oregon night.

I’d like to think these are masses of antlion larvae clustered around their victim. But, alas, they are only the seeds of the common garden pot marigold (Calendula officinalis). At least the gaudy, vibrant flowers are long gone, leaving me with the depressing grays that an October garden so justly deserves.

And what could be more gruesome that the translucent remains of a cyclamen flower lying on the ground waiting to decompose into the bleak afterlife? Beauty fades fast. Ugly is forever.

Mushrooms sulk in the shadows…

An over-ripe banana slug lies stunned nearby, looking all the world like a fresh poo. Someone wasn’t paying attention and accidentally put their bare hand on it while working in the garden. They will never be able to wash the slime (nor the shame) off, no matter how much soap, water, sandpaper, acetone, gasoline, and fire that they use. Might as well just chop that slimy hand off now and get it over with.

Although living, the macabre, leering tongue of the Gribblewart flower (Biarum tenuifolium ssp. abbreviatum) reminds me that true horror lurks around every corner.

A view down into the gaping maw to the warty, white protuberances at the base of the tongue. Those are the taste buds, waiting to sample a passing mouse or two (or hopefully three) on Halloween night.

Miss Wilmott’s Ghost made an appearance in the garden this evening. Her prickly personality will not be missed, although her sudden departure from this dimension was shocking. Murdered. No wonder her pallid, ethereal form remained behind, haunting us long after the moon was consumed by the scuttling clouds. Where did she go? Ah yes, I feel her sharp pointed teeth in my flesh now…

Speaking of ghosts, the phantoms of every single bug, moth, or fly that splattered across the windshield of my car this summer have appeared en masse, shuddering and swaying in the evening breeze that reeks of hemolymph and chitin. Although some may claim these phantoms are actually the seedheads of Clematis tangutica, they would be wrong. Very wrong.

More ghostly forms lurk under the shadows of the poplar. It’s nothing, nothing but the pale white leaves of Lamium orvale. They will soon be smothered under a thick pile of sodden poplar leaves. What an unpleasant way to go.

Mutant mouths of a modern day mandrake make an appearance elsewhere in the garden

Twin mouths of our own Audrey II

Fall is also the time when the fruit of Paeonia delavayi splits open, revealing the raw fleshy interior just dripping with blood red corpuscles and packed with poisonous, shining black seeds that unfortunately made their way into this suffering life.

Feasting on these poisonous berries is the fearsome Poncirus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’. Yellow flecks of mucus and bile splattered across sunburnt leaves, hooked claws.

Gah! Enough of this silliness and color, back to death! Mwah hah hah hah! An arched bridge of death, the backbone of deerfern (Struthiopteris spicatum) laid bare by the ravages of time, releasing spores into the air to incite your allergies. Your last wheezing breath is a celebration of it’s prehistoric revenge. Long after you pass, the ferns will remain, fronding forth from your eye sockets.

Little angry, alien skulls roll down the hill, scowls permanently fixed in place for an eternity. A reminder that snapdragons once lived here before their life was cut short by a misplaced boot.

An egg of Clathrus columnatus lies in the mulch. It will hatch soon.

After a day or two, rotting spongy fingers burst forth from the egg, clawing their way upwards into the light. Grasping at ankles, reeking of rot.

Eventually it opens fully, palm up, each finger smeared with a stinking, sliming mass of brown goo. Flies swarm, laying eggs in the putrefied mess. Maggots tunnel in and out, poking their waving heads into the air before retreating back into the damp mush. Are they waiting for you? A bad omen, surely.

A $45 Chamaecyparis, buffeted by gaseous fumes, waves sadly as a promenade of funeral cars drives by. Dead within a month after planting, it never even had a chance to experience a springtime romance with a browsing deer. Once blue and lush, now crisp and brown. Needles fried in the scorching summer heat, it’s roots couldn’t keep up with its unquenchable thirst. Torrents of winter rain will soon ceaselessly pound its corpse into the mud. You should have buried it quickly, before everyone in the neighborhood witnessed the aftermath of this horrible horticultural crime.  What sort of neglectful gardener would let this sort of tragedy happen? 

The charcoal remains of woolly thyme, reduced to lifeless carbon in the space of a single day. All that is missing is the chalk outline and the accusatory stares. Good thing you didn’t hold an open garden event.

Silene acaulis suffered the same fate.

Perhaps worst of all, the pile of dried Yucca flaccida roots, once full of life and promise, now desiccated, shriveled, lifeless. If only someone had taken just 15 minutes to plant (and water) them, they might still be alive. Who, who could be responsible asks the autumnal owl…You, you, you comes the distant reply.

The nodding, somber heads of Daucus carotus know what you did. Each nod acknowledges your guilt and complacency in the death of each plant in your garden. And, they know that next year’s garden will end like this one. Brown, cold, wet, and dead. Even the promise of spring can’t salvage this mess.

But wait, there’s one more horror to witness before this post ends. Nothing can prepare you for the terror of one of the world’s most vicious killers. Although only 6 months old, this is one of the top predators in the neighborhood, destroying houseplants with a swipe of a paw lined with razor sharp nails.

The hatred of chlorophyll runs deep in this carnivore's veins

The fearsome beast licks its lips in anticipation of a late night houseplant snack.

Don't look him straight in the eyes, he already has a taste for human blood too

I hope this post has sufficiently terrified you. Let it serve as a warning. The worst is yet to come. And remember, “We can have dead plants in the garden nearly every month of the year” ~ Botanica Chaotica

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day is an event hosted by Carol J. Michel on the 15th of every month over at May Dreams Gardens. Check it out to see what is blooming this month in other gardens around the world. I promise they won’t be nearly as frightening as this spooky October Bloom Doom Day post was.


This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Lisa

    I love how you handled the season with such clever photos! The seed heads on so many plants are so beautiful.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      Thank you, I appreciate it! It was fun to try and look at the garden through a different eye.

  2. danger garden

    Bravo! You had me at “Yellow flecks of mucus and bile splattered across sunburnt leaves, hooked claws.” I think I need to go curl up in the dark and watch one of my Addams Family movies while sipping some blood red wine.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      To almost quote Debbie Jellinsky from Addams Family Values, “So I-I killed. So I maimed. So I destroyed one innocent plant after another. Aren’t I a human being? Don’t I yearn, and ache, and garden, and shop? Don’t I deserve love….and more plants?

  3. Kris P

    Cleverly framed and phrased, Jerry! You had me cringing with your suitably sinister garden specimens. The banana slug may have been the worst but I was surprised by how much you found lurking in your garden. My favorite may be the Chamaecyparis as what gardener hasn’t experienced that kind of horror? I looked up Clathrus columnatus, which proved to be sufficiently spooky without any embellishment.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      The Clathrus was a real beauty. Found it in the mulch while walking along the river front in Little Rock, Arkansas last week. It was a fun post to do, trying to revel in the macabre aspects of gardening.

  4. hb

    What a fun, funny post! Made me smile and laugh. Mil-dread, hah!

    Sad though about the Chamaecyparis. Ouch! Sorry. They don’t grow well here–too hot and dry for them. Would not even try!

    Banana slug slime. The stuff of nightmares.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      Charlotte’s Web was one of those childhood movies that stuck with me for tackling some fairly heavy topics well.

      It was such a tough year to keep up on watering. Just missing a day or two made all the difference. It’s okay, I’m going to try a different plan for the hedgerow/screen soon.

      I am always shocked how hard it is to get slug slime off. Seems like something that would have an industrial use somewhere.

  5. Julie Witmer

    What a good idea! Love that angle. Definitely some scary stuff 🙂

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      Thank you. Glad you enjoyed it!

  6. Tracy

    Great post, both the pictures and prose.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      Thank you!

  7. Linda Brazill

    This has to be the most clever post I’ve read in I don’t know when. Gorgeous photos, esp. that first one. Since I lost three expensive evergreen shrubs in short order in our much hotter and drier weather this summer, I am in complete sympathy with your losses. Just pulled out most of my old and lovely Astilbes. Simply cannot give them enough water to survive drought. Given more heat and less rain seems like it is going to be our new normal, we are all rethinking who gets to stay and who has to go.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      Thank you Linda! The new weather patterns certainly are hard to adjust to. I also have one astilbe left, limping along, that I should probably rip out. We installed some irrigation last year, which has helped, but we are trying to keep watering to a minimum so that we conserve that precious resource.

  8. Yvonne

    I’m pretty sure all plants belong to cats, or so mine said when accused of perforating a load of houseplant leaves into swiss cheese one night after the lights were out. Love the humor in this post. It was an unexpected delight. I was laughing about the Banana Slug. Been there before with the slugs that live here. That Clathrus columnatus looks awesome. Is it a fungus? Thank you for making my reading experience complete. Have a happy rest of October.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      Hi Yvonne,

      it was fun to write and do something different for October Doom Day! Yes, Clathrus is a fungus and an unexpected surprise I found while walking along the riverfront in Little Rock, Arkansas. Seems like something I would find in the tropics, not the southeast US. Have a great October too!

Leave a Reply