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Darkly romantic goth gardens are having a moment in the sun — here's how to grow one

 A slipper orchid clonal hybrid known as Paphiopedilum Saint Albans "Dark Red" from the Smithsonian Gardens Orchid Collection
Hannele Lahti
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Smithsonian Open Access Collections
A slipper orchid clonal hybrid known as Paphiopedilum Saint Albans "Dark Red" from the Smithsonian Gardens Orchid Collection

Gardens are blooming across the country, and while you’ll likely see plenty of roses and brightly-colored zinnias on porches and patios this summer, one much-hyped trend is moodier. It's Victorian and romantic and very, very dark.

Trend watchers have pounced on goth gardening. Google searches for “goth garden” more than doubled over the past five years — with a pronounced spike after the heroine of the Netflix hit series Wednesday started finding comfort in a creepy conservatory filled with ghost orchids and carnivorous plants.

Want to make an atmospheric goth garden of your own? We have some tips.

Use dark plants (duh)

“I can tell you that dark varieties have consistently been among the top-selling items,” said Michelle Johnson, a spokesperson for the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, in an email to NPR. “For example, the Chocolate Cherry sunflower is the top-selling sunflower; Black Magic cosmos is one of the top cosmos flowers and our dark red and black vegetable varieties (tomatoes, carrots, etc.) always sell very well.”

That’s right: don’t forget your vegetables (and herbs)

“I like the dark red basil there,” said James Clawson, an event designer in New Orleans, pointing at a pot of herbs gleaming darkly on the patio behind his shotgun cottage.

“You can plant vegetables there, too,” he added. “Dark red lettuce will be beautiful. Kales are really pretty. “

Don’t use ONLY black plants

Experts at the nonprofit National Garden Bureau made a YouTube video filled with tips.

Tempting as it may be, they advise against leaning too heavily on black foliage because the plants won’t pop without contrast.

And consider a mix that might include darker shades of hollyhock, false indigo and coral bells among the “thrillers, spillers and fillers.”

Try some decorative objects

Even the generally ungoth HGVTV and Better Homes & Gardens are rhapsodizing over wrought iron gates and broken statuary. The website Gardinista suggests “old animal cages” as decor. And while weeping angels might strike some as clichéd, they can still go hard, as one admiring commentator noted on the instagram post above.

Add spikes

Finally - spiky plants will give your garden a pleasing air of menace.

A bromeliad in Miami, Fla.
Rhona Wise / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
A bromeliad in Miami, Fla.

James Clawson suggests bromeliads for more tropical climates. Commonly found in gardening stores, they’re a member of the pineapple family with long green spiky leaves and a dramatic bloom in the middle.

“Those last forever. and they die pretty too,” he said.

Goth gardens shouldn’t actually be deadly

A final piece of advice:

“Don’t go spraying lots of poison," Clawson suggests. "Butterflies are a good thing.”

Even Wednesday Adams might agree that goth gardens can use a little fluttery joy.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.
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