Monster Spotlight: the Horror Flora of Target’s Ghoulish Garden

People have occasionally asked me why I named my site “Horror Flora.” There are two answers: the first is that I think “Horror Flora” is really funny to say, and the second is that I have a deep love of plant monsters. Some people are surprised to hear that, because I don’t talk about them as much as, say, dragons, retrosaurs, vampires, demons, and my other prominent areas of fascination within the large catalogue of monster archetypes. Well, the sad truth is that life just doesn’t give me as many opportunities to talk about the horror flora of the world, because most are relegated to be little more than a background detail, rarely if ever given a starring role.

That may be changing, though, if the offerings of retail chains are any indication. The last few years have seen a BOUNTY of new plant monster Halloween decorations, finally giving these botanical beauties the spotlight they deserve. And being a materialistic person, I have of course collected a bunch of them.

So let’s shine the Monster Spotlight on one particular line of plant monster decorations, Target’s Ghoulish Garden series!

The name Ghoulish Garden has such wonderful alliteration that I could have sworn it was an Edward Gorey reference when I first heard it, though unfortunately the story I was thinking of is actually titled The Evil Garden (but is about a bunch of different murderous plants, so it still fits in spirit). The line has been going for three years now and, given how each year the store chain has struggled to keep them in stock, is apparently insanely popular.

I have to emphasize that. Collecting these was not particularly easy. There are four Targets in my general area and I had to visit them all repeatedly in 2019 to get the ones I wanted. It took all of my cunning, determination, and excessive free time circa 2019 to track them down. But it was worth it.

The plus side is that Target has re-released the old ones each year since they started, and the re-releases have been stocked well enough to let people who missed them the first time around have a second shot. They’ve also released at least one new plant monster each successive year, and the downside is that these… aren’t as well stocked as the re-releases. So if you want to collect your own Ghoulish Garden, prepare for a hunt.

I don’t have a full collection of the Ghoulish Garden myself (I’m not made of money, after all, and I only have so much room in my living space). Instead, I’ve taken it upon myself to collect at least one specimen of each plant monster “species” present in the line, and will no proceed to go through each one and babble about them for a bit. None of them technically have official names, as Target slaps different alliterative plant puns on each item and shifts which ones are called what each year. But I’m going to go ahead and use specific names for each “species” because that’s how my brain works.

Audrey Jr. and Audrey Sr.

Let’s start with the classic, the king of all plant monsters, the Audrey II-inspired killer flytrap, which we will call by one of the names Target has given it: The Blood Succulent. In the original lineup, these were released at every pricepoint, from the tiny sprout with just a single flesh-eating pod to the largest item in the line to date, an enormous vase with THREE snapping jaws and a vast array of tendrils and leaves! The Blood Succulent is perhaps the least surprising of the Ghoulish Garden’s offerings, but you know I’m a sucker for “obvious”/”boring” designs. Archetypes exist for a reason, and sometimes you just want a big exaggerated flytrap with nice chompy jaws!

And for all their simplicity, there’s a marvelous personality in the sculpts of the Audrey II imitators. Look at the baby Blood Succulent, jaws wide and ready to take a bit out of the world!

Meanwhile the big one has a stately, regal quality to it, befitting its stature as the largest plant and the most famous killer plant archetype in the lot. A true king of botantical beasts.

A close relative of the Blood Succulents is the Biting Blossom, whose pod jaws are longer and more serpentine, while its three tongue-like fronds are far more prominent than its cousin’s. I like how similar-but-different these two species are, it makes the garden as a whole feel more like an actual collection of plants that just happen to be animate and hungry for flesh.

A third and final member of the Blood Succulent family is what I’ll name the Singing Succulents, because this particular killer plant prop is an animatronic, singing the song “Legally Distinct Pastiche of Feed Me (Git It) from Little Shop of Horrors.” These probably have the most piranha plant feel of the entire lot, and I love how they’ve got little frilled lizard-style collars made of leaves around their wide, snappy jaws.

Leaving the world of flytrap-inspired monsters, we get a monster inspired by the pitcher plant, a woefully underused basis for a plant monster! Let’s call this the Vipitcher Plant, since it also clearly takes inspiration from vipers and other venomous snakes. The addition of fangs and slit-pupiled snake eyes is small but makes a big impact, clearly marking these as plant monsters rather than mundane pitcher plants. I wish we could get this one in multiple sizes too – it’d be fun to have one with a pitcher big enough to fit, say, a rubber rat in, or even a skeletal hand.

Next on our list are the Peeping Poppies! What a perfect name for flowers with eyeballs in them – another common plant monster archetype, albeit one that more often than not shows up purely in the background. Like the Vipitcher Plant, it’s a fairly simple twist on a standard flower, but one that has a big impact.

I technically have two different breeds/color morphs of Pepping Poppies. The small specimen has blue petals and strikes me as the meeker of the two.

While the larger specimen, with its more complex petal shapes and coloration of dried blood, strikes me as a big more aggressive.

Following the trend of sticking a non-plant body part into the center of a flower are what I call the Leech Lilies, although I also accept the alternate name of Preying Posies (Leech Lillies just feels less likely to be confused with Peeping Poppies, you know?). With ragged-edged petals and a big, lamprey-like sucker at the center of their flower heads, you can just imagine these nasty little things unfurling as a person strolls by and lurching forward to stick onto their ankles and suck all the blood out of their legs.

They’re not quite as blue-ish in person as they appear in my photos, instead having a more vivid warm purple coloration.

Alright, we’re moving onto this year’s (2021’s) offerings, which I barely managed to snag on the day they hit the shelves before they went out of stock. Our first new species is The Kiss of Death, and I’m not sure where to place this one. Is it a relative of our Blood Succulents, or merely a result of convergent evolution?

Honestly, when I look at the pod of this one, I’m reminded less of a flytrap and more of a ripe tomato or some other fruit. It’s a really interesting idea for a plant monster, and would almost look natural if not for those little Dracula fangs. I wasn’t sure what to make of this one when I first saw it, but it’s really grown on me with time. What a freaky little piece of horror flora!

I also like how the larger version of this one doesn’t go for bigger pods/flowers like the other Ghoulish Garden offerings, but rather just more of them. I guess it would make sense for the Kiss of Death to keep its plump lips roughly human size.

Quite possibly my favorite of the non-Blood Succulents is the Gorechid, and in this case the reasons are intensely personal. My mother loves plants, you see, and her favorite plants of all are orchids. So when she saw this, she was ecstatic, because not only was it an orchid monster, but it’s an exceptionally accurate orchid monster, capturing everything she loves about real orchids while still giving them a monstrous twist.

And what a twist! SNAKE HEADS! Adorable, beautiful little snake heads growing out of the orchid flowers, resembling structures many real orchid have while also making this a sort of branching orchid hydra!

Even the little buds are snake-like heads! that’s adorable! As a lover of snakes and plant monsters, the Gorechid is just a marvelous work of monster design!

Our final species of horror flora today is the Dreadful Daisy. Like the Kiss of Death, I wasn’t sure what to make of this one at first, as it seemed a bit cartoony compared to the other plants. But I’ve come around to it. The simplified skull and black petals reminds me of Edward Gorey’s illustrations (remember him? The Evil Garden? It’s all come back around!), and there’s something charming about the idea of a plant that’s grown a bud shaped like a caricature of a human skull. The little skull buds also have a nice bumpy texture, selling them as an organic grow that just resembles a skull, like the markings on the back of a Death’s Head Moth. It’s very old school Gothic Horror.

And really, who can say no to such a sweet, spooky little face?

That’s it for this year, though I hope Target will give me reasons to do a sequel to this article (or at least an update) in the future. The world needs more horror flora in it, doesn’t it?

This entry was posted in Creepy Columns, Monster Spotlight and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s