Don't go in the house

Gardens have always been an important part of a home. People with little or no interest in botany or horticulture will still value their garden as an outdoor haven or at worst, an additional piece of real-estate on a property.

Apartment living is no different with balcony spaces and roof gardens treasured among homeowners. Warmer climates will view gardens differently to the wet and cold of Ireland and England. Mediterranean gardens double up as dining rooms, living rooms, play areas and sometimes even pool-side social spaces. But if the covid pandemic has taught those of us in colder climates anything, it is the value of an outside space. It may have begun with restricted movement including a limit to the distance we were permitted to travel. We then progressed to small outdoor gatherings where we could reconnect with people in a safe way and finally, we adjusted to a new normal and embraced the safety of meeting people outside, even in winter. All of this has led to more attention and care being paid to our outdoor spaces. Gardens became the new pub, park, café and by extension, living room.

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In the more Northerly parts of Europe and USA, October will see autumn roll in and with it comes those dark crisp evenings. The sun sets early, and the nights become pitch black but, it is not yet winter cold. Mist creeps along the grass often curling around tombstones and statues and the stillness of the night creates a surreal atmosphere in the silence. It is no accident that Halloween falls at this time of year.

Halloween was originally an Irish pagan festival, originating in the ancient Celtic tradition of Samhain, which had both harvesting and supernatural leanings. The word Samhain comes from ‘sam’ which means Summer and ‘fuin,’ meaning end.

It was always a harvesting event but the first day of the 11th month had another, stranger significance. Crops would be gathered and placed into storage for winter and animals were brought in for slaughter but as it was Samhain, something else was afoot. Autumn is the end of one season and the birth of another and according to legend, the night of the 31st of October is when the spirits roam free, released from their hidden world and on the search for a new home. To protect themselves from evil spirits on the prowl, people lit fires around the land as it was believed fire would ward them off.

Over the centuries, Halloween has become more of a fun celebration and rather than chasing ghouls and demons, we dress up as them. More recently, we have become quite Americanized in our celebrations with huge arrays of decorations and costumes now available. Trick-or-treating and fancy dress has evolved and today, gardens are festooned with cobwebs, skeletons, gravestones, and ghosts. We have evolved from the jack-o-lantern carved from a pumpkin into imaginative ghoulish and often hilarious decorations. Knocking on doors means kids and parents rarely come inside and yet again, the garden is the star of the show.

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The changing colours of Autumn leaves are truly a thing of beauty, but for one night, the garden is a graveyard, a dungeon, or a zombie paradise.

We may have moved on from Samhain, but nature still has the same needs. Crops need to be gathered and gardens need tending.

However, with a little imagination, the old traditions can be embraced using things you can find in your garden. It’s a good time to gather up dead leaves but rather than immediately dumping them into your compost, how about a deathly hand emerging from the pile?

Take rotten wood from the old shed and cobble together a coffin.

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Or perhaps some old branches could be dressed up as a menacing scarecrow?

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It is endless what can be recycled, upcycled, and refurbished.

The garden is an integral part of Halloween and one of the few colder periods of the year when people choose to be outdoors in the chilly dark. As you tend to your garden’s needs, have a little fun with it. It is time to clean up fallen leaves, tidy up your trees and cut back the roses. Furniture will need to go into storage and perennials will need to be trimmed but, all these jobs provide plenty of materials for you to play with. Halloween garden decorations can be fashioned from cut branches, stalks, and leaves and before you put the lawn chairs away for winter, place a woody skeleton in a seat and frighten the neighbours. They also look better than their store-bought counterparts.


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Written by: Fiona Byrne

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