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.



  1. Having grown up in the “Halloween Capitol of the World” (Anoka) I love your enthusiasm.
    My mom used to keep notes on all the kids and all the costumes, how many witches how many goblins. I like your idea with the pictures.

    Thanks Deborah
    P.S. It is contagious.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Greg, I did check out the Anoka Halloween website-what a blast. I do have lots of pictures of the kids-they are hilarious. Thanks, Deborah you are right-it is contagious!

  2. These Halloween pumpkins sparkle with imagination, mischief and fun !

    Undoubtedly, those darling trick-or-treaters will remember your house the way we kids (at 60+ yrs now) remember our favorite neighborhood house in Oak Cliff, Texas, that we visited every year on Halloween. Exactly one second after the sun set which was the ‘official’ time to start trick-or-treating back in the 60s.

    It so happened the owners were a childless, older couple — and they went all out for the 31st of October every year. Their decorations were something out of Hansel and Gretel. The lone huge oak in their front yard was draped in ribbons of colorful suckers on sticks, bound together by plastic, like the lengthy greenery of a weeping willow. The bushes were covered in Tootsie roll pops tied with shiny orange ribbons, and the walkways were lined with mounds of Red Hots, Snicker bars, and rolls of Sweet Tarts. The front yard’s edging was effected with gigantic red and white swirling sugar pops. Not one kid in our neighborhood dared disturb even a morsel of those delectable decorations — that house was ‘the church’ in the neighborhood when it came to Halloween. And we were reverent. Instead, we politely approached the front door to receive a homemade popcorn ball and a chocolate chip cookie. Year after year, in awe.
    Ah, those were the days.

    Many many years from now I suspect the kids in these photos will tell their own children about that Miss Deborah’s house — the lady who carved the most scary and wonderful and awesome pumpkins right out of their wildest dreams!

    Thank you for sharing and resurrecting some wonderful memories — one of my favorite posts. Ever.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Thanks for your letter, Terry. I have good memories of Halloween too. I would draw the line at cooking Halloween treats though! We pass out chocolate bars-and only chocolate bars we would be willing to eat if there are leftovers. No leftovers this year. Deborah

  3. Carol Passavant says

    I have not carved a pumpkin for a couple of years, but I am inspired to do it next year. It is just a fun thing to do at this time of year. Your designs are wonderful. Thank you!

  4. I love your pumpkins!! Awesome job!

  5. Your pumpkins are fantastic. And good for you for having fun with them. Those kids will remember your house when they think back on their childhood trick or treating. And I adore the one with the blackened eyelashes. Looks like mascara. A bad makeup job? Waking up the morning after a party without removing her makeup first? Love it 🙂

  6. Maybe you should partner up with Char-Broil and market these!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Very funny Alan! I truly was shocked that my pumpkins were cooking. The kids thought I had done it on purpose-ha! Deborah

  7. Jean Guest says

    So sad that Halloween is not a British tradition – although having said that the children of this generation are being encouraged to celebrate. It will never reach the heights of ‘superbness’ that you all in the US have grown up with. Terry’s childhood memories are magical – just what Halloween celebrations should be about – keep the magic alive – it must be so worth it to experience the joy of all those happy little faces.

    Your pumpkins are awesome – we would expect nothing less from you Deborah!

    • Deborah Silver says

      I think those kids truly do appreciate it-and I just can’t bear to disappoint them. I had to turn away a last group of kids, as we were out of candy-I told Buck we better buy more next year!

  8. Fabulous!

  9. Amazing pumpkins lining your gorgeous walk, wow!! How fun for everyone

  10. Truly wonderful pumpkin designs that can really scare the heck out of any person. Every year I like decorating my yard with pumpkin heads in different shapes and designs.

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