31st October. Halloween.









We went out on our bikes today and I was astonished at how many houses were draped with cobwebs and skeletons and pumpkins. When I was a child, Halloween  with all its accompanying tat and begging  for sweeties had not yet been imported from America. Instead we had Bonfire Night on the 5th November which was called Guy Fawkes Night and was always celebrated on the correct day; it never happened on the nearest Saturday or any other random day.  On Halloween we were busy making huge bonfires and an effigy of the  would- be Catholic incendiarist, Guy Fawkes who would be burnt on the big night. Instead of begging for sweets, children used to beg for a penny for their homemade guy which they proudly displayed. Where I come from in the north, the night before Bonfire Night was Mischief Night where children would indulge in a little light vandalism such as stealing wood from each others’ bonfires or hanging gates from lampposts. There were few large public firework displays, everyone had their own private bonfire parties and  ate baked potatoes and bonfire toffee. Children were free to set fire to their body parts with Roman candles, rockets and bangers such as Jumping Jacks which sometimes jumped into the firework box and set off the whole lot. Whizzing Catherine wheels often escaped from their moorings to fly through the crowd to add a few more random injuries. I wonder how many injuries there were each year.  Now of course, we no longer burn effigies of people and firework displays are carefully controlled. But instead we have to put up with Halloween with its plastic skeletons and children begging for sweets whilst their parents hover in the background In the UK,  8 billion pumpkins were bought and then binned afterwards last year. It seems an awful waste. So this house is a pumpkin and skeleton-free zone.  Instead, let’s go into the garden and see what colours there are in leaves and fruit as we go into winter.

First some lovely berries. My Callicarpa is looking good this year, it is the first time that it has covered itself in lush purple berries.

Callicarpa bodineiri

The black -stemmed Cornus alba ‘Kessellringii’ has berries like bunches of eyeballs.

Cornus alba ‘Kesselringii’

I had a terrible apple harvest this year and that includes my crab apples. But Malus ‘Princeton Cardinal’ hasn’t let me down.

Malus ‘Princeton Cardinal’

I have a rare berberis which I grow for its amazing berries and although it is hermaphrodite it has been disappointing up until this year. But now I remember why I sought it out. It is called Berberis georgii.

Berberis georgii


This year is an amazing fungi year perhaps because of all the rain we have had. I’ll draw a veil over all the honey fungus toadstools which cropped up everywhere instilling terror and paranoia in me.  But here are some of the others.

Amanita muscaria. Fly Agaric.

Macrolepiota procera. Parasol Mushroom.

Acers are glorious in Autumn. I can’t remember the name of this one.


We have had several frosts but so far the dahlias are still standing and I am still gathering armfuls of them. This is Dahlia Cornel Bronze’ next the the glorious Acer osakazuki.

Acer osakazuki

But let’s not look at flowers now, here are more lovely leaves. The Forest Pansy is gorgeous all summer long and she goes out in a blaze of colour.

Cercis canadensis

I grow Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’  for the winter stems which are red but the leaves look good good in Autumn too.

Here is the best of several Euonymus which I grew from illicit seeds so I don’t deserve to have something so beautiful.


By this time of the year Ricinus communis has developed huge shiny leaves but I am always a little nervous growing it as it is such a deadly poison.

Ricinus communis

I have quite a few witch hazels and some of them colour up beautifully in the Autumn.


And talking about witches, it may be Halloween but I am safe from them here. The huge Elizabethan fireplaces  in my house were added in the middle of the sixteenth century and each bressumer beam has an abundance of apotropaic marks which were marks made in the wood to stop witches coming down the chimney. There are also some by the door and some of the windows. So that’s alright, no witches can get in here.

Apotropaic mark in beam over chimney

Thank you to lovely Beatrice for the spooky picture at the top of this post.


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37 Responses to 31st October. Halloween.

  1. Jane Strong says:

    I love this sentence: “So this house is a pumpkin and skeleton-free zone.” It describes my house as well, but much better than I could. Somehow i couldn’t bring myself to buy any squashes (pumpkins) I couldn’t eat. I am waiting for the pomegranates and persimmons to ripen to use them as decorations. Almost there.

  2. When I was young, we had bonfires too (in addition to our pumpkins and trick or treats). No effigies, just huge piles of leaves and sticks collected from the woods. Now, you can’t burn anything within city limits and, thanks to climate change and an extended summer, the leaves are still on the trees.

    • Chloris says:

      Hello Marian how nice to hear from you. I’m never quite sure about the bonfire byelaws here. We do have bonfires now and then but only when the wind is in the right direction so that the smoke blows over the fields and doesn’t bother neighbours. I am always hacking back trees and I couldn’t deal with all the mess I create without a fire. But I don’t burn effigies.

  3. No pumpkins here either. I Hate this American import. Demanding sweets with menaces, no thanks.
    Marvellous colours in your garden

  4. susurrus says:

    A great post. Your description of how Bonfire Night used to be had me gripped from ‘… a little light vandalism’ – how apt and atmospheric. I remember about that time seeing carved pumpkin heads, but certainly not the plastic fantasy I see in during a Mississippi Halloween if I’m visiting my sweetheart at the time. I can hardly believe the UK squandered 8 billion pumpkins – that’s a lot per capita!

  5. janesmudgeegarden says:

    I find Halloween to be a very unlikeable event and we bunker down at the back of the house with as few lights as possible to deter ‘visitors’. Your post took me right back to my childhood in NZ where we had exactly the same sorts of celebrations for Guy Fawkes night, and I loved my father’s special skyrockets to which he cunningly attached other fireworks to make the magic last longer.
    But the stunningly beautiful autumn leaves in your photos are better than any fireworks.

  6. Kris P says:

    Most people I know here either love or hate Halloween but I fall somewhere in the middle. I do like to decorate with pumpkins (which the squirrels often tunnel through in a single night) and skeletons but this year I have none of either as there’s already a scary mess of contractor debris to navigate and I didn’t think I needed to add to it, much less encourage children to run an obstacle course to knock on our door. My current neighborhood rarely gets trick-or-treaters but I usually keep a little candy on hand, just in case. This year I neglected to do even that. Our plague of fires is scary as it is – and I’m very glad we don’t do bonfires or fireworks at the height of our fire risk season! It’s bad enough that fools shoot fireworks off on New Year’s Day and Independence Day.

  7. Ellie says:

    I don’t like Hallowe’en either. I remember Bonfire Night with toffee apples and the rather random catherine wheels you mention. Holding the sparklers (ensuring you were wearing gloves) and writing with them was also a highlight… (and making sure they were dunked in a bucket of water afterwards, of course).
    You have some beautiful autumnal colours in your garden.
    Best wishes

    • Chloris says:

      Oh yes, I remember writing your name with sparklers but I don’t think anyone bothered with the bucket of water. Safety didn’t seem a big concern although every year there were horror stories about people being badly burnt in the papers.

  8. Heyjude says:

    You have described my childhood Bonfire nights perfectly. No wasted food then! So where oop north did you live?

    Lovely autumnal shades in your garden, but did you really mean to write crap apples? Even if they were… 😅

    • Chloris says:

      Oh, I’m mortified, no I didn’t mean to write crap apples, I’ve changed it. Mind you it’s a good description of my huge ‘Golden Hornet’ which is usually laden with yellow fruit. I’m from near Sheffield originally, but that’s a long time ago.

  9. This takes me right back. I remember bonfire potatoes being very hit and miss at our house … cooked on one side, but raw or carbon on the other.
    You’ve got a lovely selection of leaf colour. The rounded, heart-shaped leaves of cercis are always a winner!

    • Chloris says:

      Oh yes, I’d forgotten about the half raw, half burnt potatoes. Now I’ve written the post I realise I missed some lovely Autumn colour out so I may have to revisit it.

  10. Catherine Doran says:

    Your memories of Halloween/Bonfire night exactly match mine, Mischievous Night was very popular in York where I grew up, there the favourite trick was to lift people’s gates off their hinges and throw them onto the lawn, all quite harmless !

    • Chloris says:

      It was all relatively harmless when I was young but I think it has evolved into serious vandalism these days with considerable damage being done. It used to be very young boys but I suppose young boys are no longer allowed out to roam the streets in the dark.

  11. Alison says:

    I’m very sorry that the worst parts of our Halloween celebration have been imported into Britain and have overshadowed your own Guy Fawkes Night. My husband (who is English) remembers fondly his own childhood Bonfire Night celebrations, and I regret that I’ve never participated in one (Some day I would also LOVE to see a Panto, but that’s a different thing). I myself have an affinity for the macabre, so I like the idea of All Hallows Eve, but I don’t really decorate. I do like seeing little kids in costumes, but in our neighborhood there are very few, so we don’t put our light on any more. Trick-or-treating actually seems to be waning in popularity somewhat here, I think, as many parents bring their kids to neighborhood parties, rather than up and down the street.

    • Chloris says:

      Celebrating Halloween and all things spooky is an American tradition and that’s fine, it has been introduced here as another commercial occcasion to get people to spend money. Annoying neighbours is just an unfortunate extra irritation. You’ve never seen a panto? Or come across Widow Twankey? Don’t you have them over there?

  12. Eliza Waters says:

    I loved reading about the festivities of this time of year during your youth, Chloris. Guy Fawkes was something I knew little about. When I was young, Halloween was only for small children. Nowadays, it is so over the top, I find it annoying. (I blame those zombie apocalypse shows. So gruesome.) Give me those cute little fairies, princes, and bumblebees. 😉

  13. Your Callicarpa does look very healthy! Thanks for the background on Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night. It’s always interesting to hear how traditions begin and continue and change.

  14. gardenfancyblog says:

    Your shrubs and berries all look very beautiful in the autumn light — and those toadstools are creepy enough for Halloween! I’m sorry our American traditions have displaced your native fall holiday — I really enjoyed hearing your description of Guy Fawkes Night. Having grown up with Halloween, I notice that it has become a much more adult-centered holiday in the past several decades, and in the college town here we always enjoy watching drunken students walk down the streets in their costumes, which are often quite clever or just plain ridiculous — ever seen a giant banana stumbling down the street? But really it’s just another candy holiday now — and who can ever have too many of those? 😉
    Best, -Beth

  15. I confess to being one of those parents who hovered in the background while our small children collected candy. These days I even enjoy giving out candy at the door to the kids of our neighborhood. Bonfires sound fun, though I’m sure all the safety regs would severely restrict them around here. Love the berries on your Cornus and Berberis.

  16. snowbird says:

    Your description of bonfire night took me right back to my childhood. I always made a small fortune with my penny-for-the-Guy! Talking of light vandalism, local kids often nicked people’s gates for their bonfires! I always wonder why people don’t put the pumpkins out for the birds, they love the seeds. It is a shocking waste especially when you think of how many people go short on food these days.I love your anti-witch marks, how fascinating! Loved all the berries and mushrooms.xxx

    • Chloris says:

      I didn’t realise you had Mischief Night in Liverpool too. All my chimneys have anti- witch marks, some are daisy circles to confuse witches , some are VM for the Virgin Mary.

  17. tonytomeo says:

    That is unfortunate about Halloween being imported from here. It is such a dreadful day. Most of our former Holidays are now. Cinco de Mayo was supposedly a Mexican Holiday and excuse for public drunkenness, vandalism and sometimes arson of police cars, but Mexicans know nothing about it in Mexico.

  18. Cathy says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post, Chloris, not just because of your autumn highlights but because it brought back memories of the bonfire nights hosted by a schoolfriend’s family who lived on the edge of the moors on the fringe of Rochdale – with all the traditional stuff: huge bonfire, treacle toffee, black peas, baked potatoes and loads of fireworks (on the rare occasions my parents bought any it might have been just 3 little fireworks and a packet of sparklers…). Hadn’t realised that Cornus alba ‘Kessellringii’ has those pretty berries – mine is pretty much a stick still, but at least it is still alive!

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