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.

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.

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.

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!

Halloween Week

payne halloween 2006 (5)
 Roll your eyes if you must, but I do celebrate Halloween week.  Better than any other holiday, it celebrates the process of the garden going down-the harvest ripening, the changing of the seasons, the shortening of the days, stormy weather, and the biggest horror of all-the land of plenty is transformed into the land of the dead.  This sounds like plenty of fun to me. Decorating for the Halloween holiday has become very popular in my area in the past five years.

2008 Payne, Lisa 10-24-08 (1)
My Mom, who spent the last of her professional career teaching high school, once told me that a smart mouthed kid once told her that if she thought the music was too loud, she was too old.  Unbeknownst to that nameless and undoubtedly unfocused 17 year old, he made a big impression on her; naturally she passed this on to me. When I think the music is too loud, I try to get into the spirit of it. 

payne halloween 2006 (3)Though I plant plenty for the fall season, the kids for whom the music is not too loud have the right idea. Trolling for treats in costume on a dark, windy and ghostly night –  peopled by the spirits of the dead and doomed; terror-ific.  This client called to say her kids were making fun of her-could she not loosen up, and get a little ghastly? We gave it a whirl. I did tell her the kids needed to supply me with their gruesome best in the way of props.

2007 Payne Fall (9)The fruits of the late season are beautiful; their thick skins coloring up speak to the finish of a summer’s worth of serious growing.  The broomcorn, the bare branches on the trees, the hubbard squash-all of this speaks to a season coming to a close.  The rust red sedum is one of the latest blooming perennials. If you want to represent the season, do lots; we piled the pumpkins up everywhere.   

2007 Payne Fall (13)A porch pillar is encircled with broomcorn, and corseted with dried peeled willow sticks.  I picked gourds with astonishing shapes, and the Hubbard squash too big for anyone else to haul home.  Is it not astonishing how heavy the squashes are?  Every pumpkin and gourd is chosen for its spook factor. Spider webs of hemp fibers complement the lacy shapes of the kale. One of the best things about pumpkins from the market is the stems that are left intact.

2007 Payne Fall (10)
The hanging witches, ghosts and skeletons set a menacing tone on the porch; all we’ll need are some carved and candle-lit pumpkins, a dark and blustery night-and the kids.  Last year Buck and I must have had 300 visitors.   

2007 Payne Fall (15)
OK-so the ghosts look much too friendly, but they were the kid’s choice.  My landscape superintendent involves his kids in a number of Halloween events-parties, pumpkin carving, costume competitions-and a visit to the local spookhouse. They decorate the front garden with ghouls they make themselves. Once the Halloween props are put away for next season, the porch will do well celebrating the Thanksgiving season.  A holiday is a good reason to decorate; the fact that many people do is all the better.  Whole neighborhoods look festive, decorated and lit for Halloween.