Bravo all around on this one. First and foremost to Mr. Schlossberg, for such an entertaining theme, and also to Mr. Shortz, for choosing to run it in the last week of October. I didn't know what was going on until I hit that revealer, and what a fun pay off!
I like the look of the open corners in the NW and SE, and right off the bat we get some nice entries like DEMURE (Modest and shy), MEADOW (Place for daisies), my preferred spelling of AMOEBA, and one of the many variant spellings of LAOTSE. AMANAS isn't too terribly exciting, but I enjoyed the clue for BOBA (Word before tea or Fett). Heh. All in all, not a bad starting quadrant.
Moving right, BEEBALM (Flowering plant also known as horsemint) made me smile, because it reminded me of my sister who put "catmint" in her garden. She was surprised that a neighbor's cat made regular trips to her garden to sniff, rub, and even lie right in the plant. It was only later that she realized that catmint is also known as catnip!
BEGONIA is colorful, ROUSE is unusual, and EGOSURFS is fun, but there are also some loose spots. ENGR is awkward, I've never really thought that OHO was a real expression, and are ECHECKS real things? Isn't that kind of payment just called a wire transfer?
But I won't complain too loudly, because honestly, I enjoyed the theme enough to allow for almost anything. I hope you also enjoyed it.