Double, double toil and trouble…

Bottles on a dusty shelf

Fang-tastic flowers

In this weeks blog I’ve decided to explore some of the weird and wonderful flowers out there. All inspired by the flower carthamus which you will find in our arrangement this week, oh, and it’s halloween too of course.

Carthamus Tinctorius

This flower rather reminds me of a pumpkin and what an apt flower to put in the halloween arrangement. I mean look at it… It’s a hybrid of a pumpkin and a little firework and with it being halloween and bonfire night season it’s a perfect autumn arrangement.

A photograph of the flowers carthamus
Pumpkin, firework hybrids


Carthamus, also known as Safflower is one of humanities oldest crops. The Ancient Egyptians used it to dye their clothes and made garlands out of them. They even found them scattered about in the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun.

Death masque of Tutankhamun
Death masque of Tutankhamun @brisitishmuseum 

Not just a pretty (fluffy) face

Traditionally, the carthamus crop was grown for its seeds. The seed oil was used for preventing heart disease. And it was used as a cooking oil. It was also used to colour cosmetics and to dye fabrics.

Photograph of this weeks arrangement with carthamus, lilies and lorel
Lanterns, pumpkins and fireworks in this weeks arrangement

Shakespeare and his potions

To get in the spirit of all hallows eve here are some spells and potions. You may know Will Shakespeare for his poetry but did you know he’s a master of potions, too?

A image of love potion taking over Bottom from a midsummer's nights dream
Love potion taking over@thistleandtoad

Love potions

One of Shakespeare’s most famous potions is used by the fairy Puck in A Midsummer Nights Dream.  It’s made from a flower called ‘love-in-idleness’, otherwise known as the wild pansy (viola tricola).

The juice of it on sleeping eye-lids laid
Will make or man or woman madly dote
Upon the next live creature that it sees –

As you’ll remember, the stuff actually works (in the play) and it wreaks havoc on several characters. After Oberon drops the love juice in sleeping Titania’s eyes, the Fairy Queen wakes up and falls in love with Bottom. Puck also squeezes the love potion in Lysander’s eyes and, when he wakes up and sees Helena, Lysander forgets all about his girlfriend and becomes fixated on her instead. This goes on and on until Oberon and Puck take pity on their victims and whip up an antidote, which is the “juice” of a different kind of flower – “Dian’s bud”.


Is it really a Shakespeare play if there is no poison or potion in it? I don’t think so.

Apparently Shakespeare was not content with just being the greatest playwright ever in the English language but he was also an expert amateur botanist. With a deep knowledge of home grown and exotic plants showing in his work.

According to Mary Willes (Author of ‘A Shakespearean Botanical’) Shakespeare mentions 49 specific flowers, veg, fruit and herbs in his plays.

And another one bites the dust

Upon my secure hour thy uncle stole; With juice of cursed hebenon in a vial;And in the porches of my ears did pour.’

Hamlet, Act 1 Scene 5

King Hamlet, father to Prince Hamlet and brother to Claudius dies seemingly in his sleep, but the young prince soon discovers that poison in the ear was in fact the cause. With Shakespeare’s knowledge of botany he knew exactly what to mix up to make a deadly potion. (In the plays).

Scientists and scholars have wondered what Shakespeare meant by “cursed hebenon”. There may be a few possibilities including hemlock, nightshade, yew, ebony and henbane. Indeed henbane looks the closest in spelling, and the active ingredient in henbane is hyoscyamine, which if concentrated to a high degree could be lethal to humans.

A painting of the three witches from Macbeth
Double, double, toil and trouble @gettyimages

As it’s Halloween we can’t ignore the most evil and probably hands down the scariest characters in the whole of Shakespeare’s works; The Three Witches from Macbeth. I thought I would include their most gruesome spell. Don’t try it at home.

The Witches’ Spell

A dark Cave. In the middle, a Caldron boiling. Thunder.
Enter the three Witches.

1 WITCH. Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.
2 WITCH. Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin’d.
3 WITCH. Harpier cries:—’tis time! ’tis time!
1 WITCH. Round about the caldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.—
Toad, that under cold stone,
Days and nights has thirty-one;
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot!
ALL. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
2 WITCH. Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,—
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
ALL. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
3 WITCH. Scale of dragon; tooth of wolf;
Witches’ mummy; maw and gulf
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark;
Root of hemlock digg’d i the dark;
Liver of blaspheming Jew;
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Sliver’d in the moon’s eclipse;
Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips;
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,—
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
For the ingrediants of our caldron.
ALL. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
2 WITCH. Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

Act IV, Scene 1 from Macbeth (1606)

Plants to beware(wolf) of


Wolfsbane has long been associated with werewolves. In most stories, wolfsbane has been known to keep werewolves away. However, if you ask J.K Rowling, it also prevents a person from turning into a werewolf during a full moon.

A photo of wolfsbane outside
Beware of the werewolves

Witch Hazel

A detailed photo of witch hazel growing on a tree
Witchy witch hazel

Not only is this plant interesting because it blooms in the autumn, it also has some pretty cool seed pods. When the seeds are ready, the pods pop and the seeds shoot outwards. In fact, this pop is so powerful that you can actually hear it! Witch Hazel plants produce thin yellow petals that look wild and stringy.

Doll’s Eyes (Actaea Pachuypoda)

berries that are known as doll's eyes because of their eye like appearance
Creepy old dolls eyes

This plant is pretty toxic so most herbivores avoid them. However, birds appear to be immune. By carrying the berries, birds help spread the Doll’s eyes’ seeds to new places. This plant is named after its white berries, which look like old-fashioned china doll’s eyes. Sure, they are berries, but we wouldn’t want to be walking alone in a forest with hundreds of little eyes watching you? No thank you!

Dracula Orchids

A photo of the Dracula orchid which looks like an open mouth

Dracula orchids smell like mushrooms. This is done on purpose to trick fruit flies that pollinate mushrooms into pollinating them as well. Sure they are pretty scary but I’d take them any day over these guys up next.

Skull Orchids

A photo of a string of skull orchids
On all levels. No thank you.

Actually part of the snap dragon family. When in bloom, snap dragon flowers are absolutely beautiful. However, their seed pods look much more macabre, looking like little skulls hanging off a branch.

Ghost Plant

a photo of ghost plants that only grow in the dark
Probably the creepiest of all the plants

Ghost plants can only exist where this fungi is present, which makes it very difficult to grow in gardens (not that you would really want to unless you were Morticia Adams). Not only are Ghost plants white but they also live in the dark. Unlike most plants, they don’t rely on light to grow.

And on that creepy note I hope you all have a wonderful halloween. And if you’re not already a customer why don’t you not trick but treat yourself by signing up to Freddie’s Flowers.


If you’d like to turn your home into the best autumnal flower spot, why not sign up and have some Freddie’s Flowers delivered to your place? It’s only £24 a pop and I think you’ll be quite delighted.



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