A More Friendly Halloween

2008 Vlasic, Paul HALLOWEEN 10-31-08 (2)

These massive stone columns have another life this week; these ghosts have the look of a pair of running backs from the NFL.  The kids did not pick up on this-any big expression is a good expression.  Painting pumpkins is a good way to extend your holiday season; carved pumpkins deteriorate fast. A simple rendering of a face is a strong one; these ghouls look plain scared by the spiders drawing near.  The kids got this part, loud and clear.   

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One client whose landscape was designed by me features a center planting area perfect for seasonal vignettes.  The walkway enclosing it on all four sides makes for theatre in the round.  The granite wall-Rob and I built this ourselves, many years ago, one heavy stone at a time.  I remember this experience as if it were yesterday.  I am pleased it still looks great some fifteen years later.  

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Given that the space is large, I needed lots of elements, set at different heights. The textured pots you see here are liners for wire tree forms.  These liners are made from recycled asphalt and cardboard, ground up and poured into molds made in the 1940’s.  They make great rustic and inexpensive containers for special events.

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I have never forgotten the young person working for one of my clients in Indianapolis who thought “Hardy Mums” was a person running for office.  He saw the signs everywhere, and connected his own personal set of dots.  Every time I see a sign for hardy mums from the road, I laugh all over again.   Given that this scene was a big one, I bought the biggest hardy mums I could find in tight bud, and planted them in fiber pots.  Hardy Mums for President-what do you think?

Prowse (3) The centerpiece of my vignette-a straw scarecrow.  He is not very scary-the crows are perched all over him. The clothes and boots were contributed from the lot of us; the face got painted on a pillowcase.  His hat-some left over erosion mat from a hydroseeding job on a slope. He is one hundred percent straw stuffed-as he should be.  The corn shocks add height, and set our fall figure down-he looks pleased to be settled in where he is.  A hedge of gazanias knits everything together.

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This vignette is all about the growing and farming, the land, the harvest, and the garden, in a very gentle way.  Not every Halloween needs to be about terror.  Very young children can be easily frightened-I try not to get ahead of them.  There is plenty of time time for them to grow up into a love for skeletons dripping fake blood and severed plastic fingers littering the ground.
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I have a soft spot for this blue-eyed scarecrow and his crow friends.  Perched on an embarassment of riches in straw and pumpkins, he is the centerpiece of this sunny fall display.  Happy Halloween.

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.