Apprehension

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.

Mystery Mum

My next door neighbor has the most beautiful pair of chrysanthemums planted around a tree in her tree lawn. Every year, the end of September, it begins to bloom, and goes on blooming for weeks.  I never see it get any care or water, and I am sure it has been there 6 years.  There has been no deadheading, dividing, or weeding.  This plant appearts in the spring, grows all summer long on its own, and blooms like crazy for 4 to 6 weeks.  

It is a beautiful peachy cream color.  The growth is loose and large. The flowers are single-this I like from the start.  The foliage is dark green, and shows no signs of damage from pests or fungus. It has been in bloom since late September.

To my mind, this is a first class perennial-low maintenance, easy to grow, and very long blooming.  Should you know the name of this chrysanthemum, will you write and tell me? Years ago, I remember perennial chrysanthemums in my Mom’s yard that looked very similar to this.  The closest relative I can think of is Clara Curtis.  Help me out please, should you have a mind.

At A Glance: Milkweeds Seeding, Fleeing

ff

Near To The Last Of The Lead

I sold this lead fountain cistern 3 days ago.  Stunning-isn’t it?  I so clearly remember a constellation of feelings regarding its purchase, some years ago.  I was afraid to commit so hefty a chunk of my budget to one ornament.  I was equally afraid not to commit to it; I am in the business of making first class garden ornament available to my clients.  Some first class ornament involves only a great eye, and not so much money.  But lead garden ornament, both new and antique, is very expensive.  You may think that committing to a very expensive garden ornament takes nerve.  Truth be told, I would not describe myself as nervy.  I try to focus on what I cannot live without. Lead in the garden-this I would want.       

Lead in the garden has long history.  English lead ornament has a  long long history-this I respect.  Lead is poured into molds, and cooled. An artist takes the castings from a raw set of molds, and hammers and sculpts the lead into the finished ornament.  A large lead egg cup may take 60 hours of hand work to finish. The finished ornament is very heavy; lead is the densest of all the elements.  It is equally as soft. This makes it difficult to transport, and easy to damage.  Yet lead is the ideal material for a garden ornament; it is all but impervious to weather and maintenance-free.  

The English company known as Bulbeck produces very fine lead garden ornament.  Pots, sculptures, fountains and cisterns.  Hugo flew over, and paid a visit to us some years ago-he was so pleased that an American garden store was featuring his work. I have four of his lead egg cups available now.  They are based on pots from the National Trust garden Anglesey Abbey, and feature four medallions-pears, oak, roses and grapes.  I doubt I will be able to buy more, once these four egg cups are sold.  The cost of lead has increased so dramatically in the past few years, as has the cost of transport.     

 Eighteenth century lead ornament has inspired many of the pieces produced at the Bulkbeck foundry-and no wonder.  The production of lead garden ornament and architectural pieces was a flourishing business during that period.  Only a few companies deal in lead now; I hope their business stays strong.  It has been my pleasure to design and plant around lead ornament; to follow are a few pictures.   

 plain Bulbeck egg cup

lead tapers with grape garlands

lead fountain ornament

lead round from Kenneth Lynch

English lead box with lion medallions

English lead square with rose medallions

English lead square with contemporary zinc planters

Canadian lead egg cup

tapered English lead planter

This 17th century English lead cistern is near to the last of my lead.  I am looking here at the very best reason I have to find more lead ornament-there is nothing else quite like it.