Search Results for: halloween


A customer came in today, faulting me for a lack of materials for the Halloween holiday.  It could be she was right.  I have no materials that are overtly aimed at the Halloween holiday.  But I believe a thrillingly scary Halloween display is more about the presentation, than the materials.  Any material can be scary, given the right environment.  This client has small children, and they like their front door pots planted for fall.  6 stems of the elegant feather grass from my roof garden makes for a wildly hairy pair of centerpieces that will look just right Halloween night.  The cabbage and kale will look good until the weather turns bitterly cold.

I will confess I am a fan of Halloween.  I do not have kids, but I have better than 300 kids who visit my house Halloween night.  I make my front door landscape as spooky as possible that night-this is part of the fun.  Jenny wrapped this serious antique stone bust in the shop in some open weave burlap erosion mat, and added a little flock of birds.  Ghoulish, isn’t it?  None of the materials are particularly scary-what is scary is what Jenny did with them.  

1 spider is tolerable.  3 spiders is manageable.  Hundreds of spiders will elicit dread.  I buy mine by the hundreds from the Oriental Trading Company.  It is the numbers that count.  Whatever you plan for your Halloween display, do lots.  Hundreds of spiders.  A flock of too many blackbirds.  Lots of grinning pumpkins.  Plenty of webs.  These pumpkins have hemp hairdos; packing materials can be a great source for a Halloween display. Should it get wet and soggy, all the better.      

The materials at the farmers market right now are great.  For a Halloween display, I choose the grass, cabbage and cut pods as they look half dead, or from another planet.  This container planting would never satisfy me over the summer, but it is perfectly in tune with the Halloween season.  The plastic skulls are a contribution from the kids.    

Redbor kale is a dark purple that deepens with colder nights.  We plant plenty of these in fall pots.  Looking to introduce some Halloween apprehension to the mix?  Centerpieces out of vertical, pots of plants laying on the ground, displays askew-horrifying.  My landscape installations aim for square and true. Halloween displays should dispute that idea.  No matter what ordinary materials you have to work with, setting them   off center, up side down, or out of kilter will endow them with a little holiday terror.  Though I do plan to plant these kale that the wind blew over, this is a desolate scene, as is.   

Canadian thistles are a vicious weed- so difficult to eradicate.  That said, I love the seed pods in the fall-as do the goldfinches.  This planting has a dead and prickly centerpiece, some very warty gourds, and some black/ purple eucalyptus-very Halloweenish.   

 I stay away from hay bales.  They are messy beyond all belief, unless they are securely bound up.  I like the wood shavings that are known as excelsior for Halloween. These wood shavings stick together.  The look is great. The cleanup is easy.  I like broomcorn much better than cornshocks-their drying seed heads look great on a windy day.   

Pumpkins do not ordinarily scare anyone. The pumpkins and the gourds are the mainstay of the October harvest season, so they are a natural for Halloween.  What makes them creepy is the carving, and the lighting.  I also like long twisting stems.  If I grew my own pumpkins, I would cut them with as much of the vine and dead leaves intact as possible.     

A Halloween display may need a  little structure-these fence panels fashioned from stout branches are a great backdrop, and provide plenty of hanging opportunities. The fence post finials-romanesco broccoli and birdhouse gourds.  I will admit the giant spider, crows and faux webs are especially creepy-these courtesy of my local Halloween store.   

The most ordinary of materials can help bring a Halloween tableau to life.  When it gets dark, the pumpkins and company will appear to be floating-excellent.  A little ghoulishness is great fun.

More Fun Than I Bargained For

carving-pumpkins.jpgI will confess that I look forward to Halloween. Though it is first and foremost a low budget fright night celebrating demons, devils, and the walking dead, it is also a garden party.  The worst horror for me-after the harvest, the garden season is done until next year.  Halloween, by contrast, is an angst free celebration of the coming of the dark time.  Though no childhood celebration of Halloween of mine was complete without carved and lighted pumpkins, every year I consider foregoing this ritual.  The pumpkins are incredibly heavy.  Gutting them is a messy and slimy affair.  The carving takes more time than you think.  No one lights pumpkins for a week or two-it is a one night delight.  Are you in?

carved-pumpkin.jpgYes, every year I relent.  I carve pumpkins.   Prielipp Farms at my local farmer’s market has someone load my choice of carving pumpkins into my car-they are really swell about this.  Rob carts them from the suburban to my workroom.  There they are, looking at me.  My carved pumpkins come last-after I carve them for clients. So they day before Halloween, I have 6 pumpkins to carve.

carved-pumpkins.jpgI have no use for patterns.  What fun is that, to follow a pattern that someone else has imagined? I make a few marks on the surface with a marker, and get cutting.  Every pumpkin carving evolves from the first cut to the finish.  Like most other garden projects, one move suggest another.  A big idea sketched out, a plan for the placement of walkways, porches and trees will eventually come down to the closing details.  Once a carving begins, all those other issues clamoring for my attention fade away. It’s just me, a vague idea, and a knife.

carved-pumpkin.jpgThis pumpkin carving began with a drill-and ends up looking like it was drilled.  It may be a foolish pleasure, but I highly recommend carving pumpkins for Halloween.  It is the last event of the fall.  How I enjoy it.  Enjoyment of the garden is rarely an academic exercise.  It is a shockingly sensory loaded enjoyment of nature, in all of its forms.  The sound of wind or the cicadas, the smell of the roses, the sounds of the birds, the tulips opening the first really warm day of spring, watching the Boston Ivy change color, the geese flying south, cutting the lids off the pumpkins-I call this experiential and primary source material for a life appreciative of nature.  Halloween is just the right dose of mock horror I need at the end of the season.

Halloween-garden.jpgI do get lots of visitors on Halloween.  I want to make it worth the while of the both of us.  Once my carved pumpkins were set, I was pleased.  I had company coming.

Halloween-night.jpgOur Halloween was perfect.  Rainy and ominously windy.  I only worried for a moment that no one would come.  Of course they would come.  Halloween is but one night every year.  And come they did.

Halloween-night.jpgI was so worried that my votive candles in my pumpkins would blow out, considering the gusty winds and rains.  Rob sent me home with 6 Belgian made candles whose claim to fame is their willingness to burn in adverse conditions.  The wind does not blow these candles out.  These candles not only stayed lit in the wind and rain, they blackened the insides of the pumpkins-to great effect, I might add.

Halloween-pumpkin.jpgEarly in the evening, I could see that my pumpkins were cooking, given the strength of the Belgian candles.  At my request, Buck vented all of the pumpkin lids with florists picks.  Who knew those Belgian candles would provide another dimension to my Halloween garden!  The carved pumpkins promptly blackened-this was a horrifying event I had not anticipated.  The smell was rather delicious, and the steam rising was dramatic.  I was scrambling to make sure they wouldn’t collapse before the end of the evening.

Halloween-pumpkin.jpgTrick or treaters coming up my walk were treated to the smell of cooking pumpkin, and the visual experience of superheated pumpkin in the rain steaming from every cut.  Rob and I spent some time observing the scene from the sidewalk.  Every little visitor was talking about the pumpkins.  Which one they liked the best. There were lots of questions at the door about who carved them.

fiery.jpgMy garden design life is a serious life.  I see it that way.  But there are those moments in the garden that are memorably and simply great fun.  I suspect that I enjoyed my Halloween at least as much as my guests.

lighted-pumpkin.jpgThe only time I see this group of kids who live in my neighborhood is Halloween night.  They don’t have an appreciation of my yellow magnolias, or the shapes of my boxwood.  But they do respond to what I have carved from the fruits of the harvest.  Every one of them says thanks.  The very youngest children say thanks too, prompted by the parents accompanying them.

lighted-pumpkin.jpgThe hauling and heaving around of my big pumpkins in the process of carving them-it took its toll.  I have the old lady backache, and my hands are still sore.  So be it.  This Halloween was more fun than I bargained for.

lighted-pumpkin.jpgThe garden’s most memorable moments seem to revolve around that surprise I did not see coming.

Halloween-night.jpgOnce it was dark, these faces took on another dimension, given the interaction of rain, wind, and fire.

trick-or-treater.jpgThis Halloween visitor could not have been more than 3 feet tall.  I would guess he was 9 years old.  His costume- sensational.  We were all having fun.


Have A Horrible Holiday

I do have a horribly soft spot for the Halloween holiday. As much as the gardener in me loves the colors, varieties and shapes of the squash and pumpkins that come to market in the fall, I especially relish the ritual carving of these large roundish fruits into faces of all kinds-silly faces, spooky faces, the faces of the dead, damned and long suffering, the terrifying faces, the simply terrified faces. A client who needed a number of fanciful carved faces-how could I  speedily scoop and carve?  Though I love my dremel tool, its grinding wheel coated me in pumpkin juice and bits in seconds.  I needed a time out to wash my windshield.         

My battery operated drill was a lot more friendly.  After a ink sketch on the pumpkin rind, I drilled holes in every spot I neede a curve.  A florist’s knife is sharp as heck, but generating curves with a straight blade on a curved surface-a blisteringly difficult job. Any child would be thrilled with this pumpkin in its current state- holes from which worms seem to be emerging-perfect.  Another reason to really like Halloween-kids.  They care nothing for the elegance of your execution. They are ready willing and able to climb on the gestalt wagon and go-no questions asked.  They like ripped hems, things that don’t match-plastic in any form is perfect.  Pools of blood, skulls, spiders, bones and rats- poorly represented in plastic-kids like me to bring all of that on.     

My client was not interested in horror-she had a birthday party for a sister planned.  She asked for fanciful-but the pumpkin medium has its demands. The finished pumpkins-try as I might-would never enchant an adult like they would a child.  I finally quit worrying-carved pumpkins lit from within will warm up any end of October celebration. No trouble-she was pleased with what I carved.  Would that I could see them lit up, and beckoning visitors. 

Any Halloween celebration can have an aura of horror given an army of spiders. Multitudes of little plastic spiders can make anyone’s skin crawl. The fruits of the gardening harvest seem to settle right in with all the Halloween plastic. A bale of hay and some hemp can put a composition together; I have no fear of making an unfinished mess of a Halloween celebration.  Ask any kid-but be prepared to hear an answer you may not be ready for.  A natural and gentle Halloween-thank heavens I have not seen that essay.  Every kid I have had occasion to meet encourages me to bring on the dirt, the graves, the blood, the guts, the bats, the skeletons, the worms-are these kids not gardeners in the making? 

Broom corn is a plant that for hundreds of years has been cultivated for utilitarian purposes. A corn broom-do you not have one? Fresh broom corn is beautifully multicolored-some stems are droopy-others upright.  A giant tie of orange raffia ties this entire arrangement to a porch pillar. Seeding broomcorn stems and stalks-this is my late October fireworks.    

I used to finish all of my carvings like they might be cited by the Library of Congress-no more.  The truth of the best part of Halloween-a loose and fast gesture will do just fine. Buck and I so enjoy Halloween-as we have hundreds of visitors.  They never critique my decor.  My Halloween at home is all about meeting kids, photographing their costumes, sending them out into the night with some decent chocolate.  I meet, see, and talk to every kid living in my community but once a year-Halloween night.  

Gardening is an obsession, a serious business, an organizing metaphor for a life.  I could go on, but this is Halloween weekend.   I would turn everything over to those kids for this weekend.  Who knows how many of them might might grow up to be gardeners-growing their own pumpkins for their kids to carve.  

I feel really confident that gardeners all over my area have decorated from the garden, and from the plastics industries- and are ready for Halloween just like me.  Sunday night, Buck and I will be ready.  I cannot entirely explain why we both enjoy Halloween so much-but fun has a lot to do with it.      

A love of the garden can be satisfying in ways I never imagined in advance. I anticipate, and plan to enjoy my Halloween.   I am hoping you will have an equally horrible holiday.

Halloween Week, Day 2

Penske 1005 (5)Though I was surprised to hear from this client that Halloween was one of her family’s most important holidays, she had good reasons.  A sister living in Brazil came to visit every Halloween.  The family spent Christmas week skiing, away from home.  Last but not least, she has a slew of kids.  She had boxes of Halloween props-we used them all. A large antique English stone urn took the insult rather well, I thought.  Bamboo dyed black, and a  stick stack of decidedly unnatural color provided perches for three ravens.  Green millet and orange integrifolia clashed noisily.  The giant spiders -they were creepy to look at in broad daylight.

Penske 1005 (4)We would put up the Halloween decorations the beginning of October.  For this reason, the use of wood props and plastic carved pumpkins seemed like a good idea.  Though I am not a big fan of mums, these bushel basket grown plants add big splashes of color.  The skull lights along the walk are a favorite of the kids. 

Penske 1005 (13)Though the scarecrow witch seemed sweet and benign, those spiders create an unmistakeable mood.  We managed to find a spot for every bat, skull and skeleton in my client’s collection.  At Halloween, more is always better.  

Penske 1005 (9)The side porch columns get dressed up in broomcorn, sticks and whatever else is available at market, all of which is held in place with zip ties covered in giant raffia bows. The corn gets zipped  on in three layers, from top to bottom.  Each new layer covers the construction materials of the preceding layer.  I have also dressed tree trunks in similar outfits.

Penske 1005 (17)The side porch door gets the most family traffic in and out, so we give it the full treatment. All of the carved pumpkins are lit from the inside.  Good and spooky night lighting is a key element. 

Penske Halloween (3)Another year we went for more gloom.  Black millet, maroon lettuce and dead grass make a good nest for the spider. New skull lights illuminate the walk.  Don Taylor grew the impossibly long gourds; he trained the vines up and over a pergola, so the fruits would grow upright and down. One gourd was closing in on eight feet long. 

Penske Halloween (2)I bought boxes and boxes of little spiders.  These we attached to every available surface with a hot glue gun.  This was tedious work, but the effect was suitably revolting. At the time this picture was taken, we still had at least 500 spiders yet to stick up.

Penske Halloween (4)The side porch got giant webby garlands of hemp fiber and grapevine. And more spiders.  Amazingly, the big spiders were entirely wired, permitting us to place them in the most threatening positions we could dream up.

Penske Halloween (5)
This sweet little vintage farm girl peeking out of her pumpkin home seems oblivious to the coming invasion of the spiders. Poor thing; pity that!