Falling for Halloween

Monday is August 31st.

Guess what that means?

Halloween is only two months away! October 31st heralds the arrival of wee trick-or-treaters and the heady, intoxicating fall air.

I’m ready.

If you’ve been hanging out with me for a while you’ll know that autumn is my favorite time of year. I love growing and decorating with pumpkins, planning or attending costume parties, helping my son “spookify” the front yard and tossing treats into wee little bags on Halloween night.  The changing of the seasons is more of a slow burn in California. The days shorten and the stale summer air finally gives way to the smog-free version I long for. By the calendar, autumn arrives in late September, but it’s not till mid-October that we start to notice the difference.

In the garden, the signs are everywhere.

Lone Pumpkin Turns Orange

The pantyhose trick is keeping teeth-gnashers at bay while nature takes care of the rest.

Pumpkin protected by pantyhose

Pumpkin protected by pantyhose

Did you know that pumpkins turn orange for the same reason leaves do? As the days grow shorter, “the green pigment, necessary for photosynthesis, degrades and the carotenoids are revealed, causing the pumpkin to change color to shades of orange, red and yellow.”¹

Pretty cool, eh?

Pumpkin Shell Survives Composting

It’s true! A few small, late season pumpkins avoided last season’s squash bug onslaught. They were too hard to carve, so I lined them up on the paved wall instead. They remained a point of interest for many months, subject to occasional rearranging by the neighborhood day care kids. It was months before the snails showed up. Then one by one they started to rot. I tossed this one in the compost bin assuming it would also turn to mush.

hollow pumpkin shell

Small pumpkin shell survives the compost pile

When I upended the compost for my sheet mulching project, out rolled the shell. I’ve dusted it off, checked for invading bugs, and brought it indoors. The decorating possibilities are endless and simply looking at it makes me smile.

A (Not so Itsy) Spider Weaves a Wondrous Web

Nothing says Halloween better than a scary-looking spider web.

garden spider web

I’m glad I found this web with my camera and not my face

spider web side view

Spider web in profile

Am I right?

You can buy fake ones at the local Halloween store, or you might get lucky and have one custom-built in the garden.

My hat is off to the photographers of the world that capture beautiful shots of spiders in webs. I could focus on the spider or the web but never both. There is a good chance I’ve offended her, since she took down her web by early afternoon when I wasn’t looking.


Halloween is coming soon. I. Can’t. Wait!

¹Source: Children’s Museum Indianapolis

Freaky Friday: The Garden’s Dark Underbelly

It’s not all Sweet Alyssum and roses.  Every garden has a dark side. I’m sure it’s no accident that the spooky celebrations of Halloween coincide with the decay of fall.

Use your imagination and come with me as we travel the more sinister side of the garden.

bat wings

“Bat Wings”…or decaying leaf?

Spider in the gravel…look closely.

Rats Gone Bad

hollowed orange

Hallowed orange or hollow orange? You decide.

Tree RAt

Tree Rat or Field Mouse? Helping himself to an orange.

Not What They Seem

choking vine

The Choking Vine? Snaking and staking the trellis.

mottled leaf

Urban Decay

shrunken head

Shrunken Head?

stink bug

I’m a Stink bug. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Cavernous Lair

Something Wicked This way Comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes: Black Widow Haven

Halloween Countdown

Cat on Pumpkin

It’s The Great Pumpkin, Lindy-Lu!

California Autumn

I’m originally from Canada, so it took me awhile to appreciate the subtleties of a California autumn. Our boys wore shorts on Halloween night and I walked home from a party earlier that week in a sleeveless costume. In Ontario our Mom insisted on coats, even though we grumbled at the injustice of our “spoiled” ensembles.

We planted a carefully placed Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis) as a reminder of this lovely season. It gradually produces ocher, amber and other golden shades, before the wind sweeps the leaves to the grass below. Our lone tree sits on our suburban lot, but it reminds me of my early roots. In my imagination our tree resides in a New England forest, surrounded by others dropping leaves on the earthen floor. Our Pistache is easily viewed from my kitchen sink and my home office, a wistful reminder of another time.

I do love spring, with the warming sun and wonderful rebirth, but in my heart of hearts, its autumn that firmly takes hold.

Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis)

Pumpkin Bounty: Last Call

True to their genetic roots, our pumpkin vines are coming to a natural end. The leaves, once vibrant, can now be crushed into a fine powder, dusting the garden floor. The vines snap like celery, hollow stems that spent the season bringing energy to the fruit. From seed to pumpkin in 90 days. It never gets old!

We harvested 25 pumpkins this season, with just a few young stragglers left on the vines. Nights are cooler; fall beckons. We gardeners, however, never give up hope. We’ll keep on tending the baby fruit until the end. Our crop produced several varieties this year, a few planned and at least one surprise: a blue-green Jarrahdale.

From Seed to Fruit

My son harvested the last great pumpkin, a hearty, healthy orange. We have a table in our entry way, now laden with fruit. As the season draws near, we’ll set them out along the stone wall in the front garden. My husband will then carve the larger ones with pride and they will finish the season as Jack O’ Lanterns, admired by the plethora of families that come calling on Halloween. We’ll collect and dry the seeds to plant the following year and the cycle begins anew.

Good Side/Bad Side: Hard to Decide

“I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”

-Henry David Thoreau
“There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.”
– Linus by Charles M. Schulz

Orange, White and Blue