Halloween at West Dean

Halloween didn’t really feature in my childhood and I only ever thought about it when watching American sitcoms. With a black and white telly the full force of the colour combination- black and orange was disguised but at this time of year in the UK we are all blasted with orange and black Halloween stuff in shops and there is no getting away from it- its burnt onto our retinas.

However there are a plethora of gourds, squashes and pumpkins that are easily grown in our climate resulting in beautiful fruit which can be carved, eaten or admired as an ornamental object. We grew Atlantic Giant this year, raised it under glass in gentle heat, potted it up to keep it growing then planted it out on a mound in early June in a warm position. The mound creates excellent drainage and keeps the roots warmer which the plants respond well to. The end result exceeded our expectations and I rather like the fact that the full force of the fruit is revealed as the foliage dies down. Our small ornamental gourds come into their own at West Dean during winter when many are used in all types of art courses, see www.westdean.org.uk for course details.

Autumnal clichés abound but it's true, now is a time of mist and mellow fruitfulness. Often my eye is caught by the gorgeous display of fruits on orchard trees, even those in the ornamental garden like Euonymus with its astonishing pink berries and glowing foliage. Winds allowing, brightly coloured autumn leaves are developing and on sunlit days the rays of the sun lift the effect and we all feel the benefit. Time can be enjoyably wasted by trying to create a wish list of best trees with good colour effect.

School half term is approaching and for the first time West Dean is getting into the Halloween mood with some spooky half term fun. Children can take part in activities in a marquee set up in the gardens where they can try their hand at Pumpkin decorating, listen to scary storytelling and get their face painted. They can order milkshakes and soft drinks from the ‘Addams Family’ themed bar. All visitors (no age restrictions!) are invited to come and win a treat! There will also be a scary treasure hunt through the gardens.

Tags: hallowe'en, west dean, pumpkins, ornamental gourds