I have to admit, I sometimes give up on Halloween. Plastic pumpkin lights and hairy spiders may delight my kids, but they make me depressed. This year, rather than relinquish the holiday to my children altogether, I found a way to express my own dark side.
With nothing more than a little imagination and what was available in my own New England home and yard (before the storm!), I conceived a collection of ghoulish bouquets. To make your own, all you have to do is think outside the box and embrace the macabre.
Above: The first step to creating a macabre bouquet is to reexamine your possessions in search of anything with a potentially ominous aspect: a black vase, a dark portrait, an old doll, a bleached branch, or anything stained or tattered. Here I grouped items from my home that are not usually displayed together: an antique portrait of "Uncle John," my grandmother's Wedgwood pot, and an antler that my stepfather found in Alaska, to create an eerie vignette.
Above: Embrace the thorn. At Halloween, "undesirables" like these red barberries reach their pinnacle of deathly beauty. Even with no berries, any thorn, a gnarled branch, or even a dead flower, perfectly capture the baleful season. Available in several varieties at Nature Hills; $27 to $40.
Above: Celebrate your enemies; weeds and vines are now your friends. Much like its equally invasive cousin bittersweet, the dreaded Virginia creeper is actually quite pretty in the fall. Paired with my grandmother's absinthe-colored Vaseline vase and a fox skull that my son found on a beach walk, a single sprig of the crimson-leaved creeper is quite striking with its inky berries.
Above: Don't be so obvious. In this hit-you-over-the-head-with-theme holiday, it's nice to be a bit subtle. Even against a pretty blue wall, the dripping stems of poison pokeberries placed in the spectral hand of a Victorian vase are enough to send a chill down your spine.
Above: Let your arrangements run wild. A Halloween bouquet is never contained. Nature should look like it's straining against a civilized mantel, ready to over-run at any moment.
Above: Still too sinister? Add a few bittersweet berries for a more autumnal feel. Other great Halloween sprigs include: purple privet berries, burning bush, red sumac (beware of the poison kind without berries), and rose hips.