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Pumpkins play a large part in our fall holiday celebrations. I remember trips to the pumpkin patch when my kids were younger and watching them choose just the ‘right’ pumpkin for our family.


A few weeks later, pumpkins take center stage on Halloween as their artfully carved faces add a festive element to costumed trick-or-treaters.

But, what do you do with them once the holiday is over? Instead of throwing them in the trash can, what if you could find new uses for your pumpkin?

 

Whether your pumpkin has been carved or left whole, I’ve shared 9 ways to reuse them in the garden and in the home, in my latest article for Houzz. I hope you enjoy!

 

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I love Halloween…


Every year, each household in our family takes turns hosting different holidays.

Easter and Christmas are spent on the family farm with my youngest sister, her family and my mother.

Fourth of July and Thanksgiving are spend at my other sister’s house.

But, Halloween is all mine…


We don’t do scary Halloween themes.  The young kids in the family wouldn’t appreciate it and I must admit that I don’t like scary costume or movies.

What I do like to focus on is making family-friendly decorations and making desserts.

Each year, I like to add to my homemade Halloween decorations.  Last year, I made paper-mache pumpkins.

This time I made witches hats using paper plates and party hats.  Simply glue them together and spray with black spray paint.  I added some black lace around the brim.  I am pretty happy with how they turned out.

This year I made homemade marshmallow pops, dipped in candy melts and sprinkles.


I also made Halloween sugar cookies.

The table runner is made of butcher paper with Halloween stamps – I like simple.

Because Halloween is a night for eating lots of sugar, I always ask my mother to bring a healthy pot of soup for us all to share before heading out to trick-or treat.

One of the reasons that I enjoy Halloween so much is the excitement of the little kids as they dress up and get ready to head out.  They don’t want to bother with eating any dinner 😉


Here is my granddaughter, Lily, in her Tinker Bell costume.  Isn’t she cute?  My daughter made her costume 🙂


My daughter, Gracie, went as a medieval queen and my son, Kai, was a zombie like many boys his age this year.


My youngest sister and her family came ready to trick-or-treat.


My mother and I stayed by the fire pit in the front driveway and handed out candy.


My brother brought over my 3-year-old twin nephews who dressed up as sharks.


Lily could hardly wait to get started.


We spent much of the evening keeping warm by the fire while greeting a LOT of trick-or-treaters.


The best part of Halloween is seeing what types of candy you have received.  

Lily kept playing with this lollipop without taking off the paper.  I really need to teach her about focusing on the chocolate candy bars 😉


We had a fun evening, but it was time to get the kids to bed.


And take down the Halloween decorations…

How did you spend your Halloween?

In honor of Halloween, I thought that I would do a ‘scary’ post for all of you.  


Now, this post isn’t filled with ghouls, witches, skeletons or zombies.  But that doesn’t make it any less scary.  


Over the years, I have photographed examples of truly horrific pruning, which are quite scary 😉


WARNING:  The following images are not for the faint of heart…



These used to be Jacaranda trees.  I say “used to” because they died because of this severe and unnecessary pruning.

This is a photo of a Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) that was pruned the wrong way.

Unfortunately, this was a landscape that I was in charge of 14 years ago next to the clubhouse on a golf course.  

My well-intentioned crew member, thought he was doing me a favor by pruning them for me.  He was so proud of the work he had done, that he came into my office and asked me to come outside and see his handiwork.

I must say, that it was hard to criticize him because he was so proud of his work.  Needless to say, I transferred him to doing more clean-up and less pruning around the golf course.

A few months later, he returned to his small town in Mexico where he became mayor 🙂

*This is what Red Yucca are supposed to look like when in flower…


As you can see, you don’t cut the grass-like, succulent foliage below – ever.  The flowers can be pruned to the base when they die.  If the base clump become to wide, then divide the base much like you would perennials.

This photo was taken of another landscape area about 12 years ago that I was in charge of by another golf course.  I made sure that the crew did not prune it 😉


Last month, I was in the historic district of downtown Phoenix returning from a landscape consultation when I drove by these very sad California Fan Palms.  

While fall is the time to prune back – this is NOT the way to do it.  Too much was removed.  For guidelines on how to prune palm trees, click here.


This was a beautiful Palo Brea tree.  Unfortunately, it was ‘topped’ in order for the homeowner to preserve their view of the mountains.

‘Topping’ trees is very bad for trees.  It leaves the upper branches open to sunburn, which is often followed by insect infestations or disease.  

In fact, topping trees causes the tree to grow faster, to replace the lost foliage, which leads to an increased need for pruning.  The branches that appear after ‘topping’ have a very weak attachment, which makes the new branches a hazard because they are in danger of breaking off.

**If a tree is blocking a view that is important to you – then remove the tree instead of subjecting it to torturing it with this type of pruning.


Here is another example of ‘topping’.  This parking lot in Scottsdale, has trees like this.

Believe it or not, this ‘topped’ tree is a Willow Acacia (Acacia salicina).

This is what it should look like…


Hard to believe that they are the same type of tree, isn’t it?


I don’t think that I have ever seen an agave pruned so badly before.

The only time you need to prune an agave is to remove the bottom leaves, once they die.

I think that this agave would have looked much nicer if they had left it alone, like the one below…


It would also be much healthier and less likely to be susceptible to insect attack.


Believe it or not, these are citrus trees.

I could hardly believe my eyes when I drove by and saw what had happened to these trees.

You may be thinking that maybe they suffered from severe frost damage and had to be cut back.  But, I assure you, this wasn’t the case.  I worked just down the road from this house and there was no reason for these trees to be pruned this severely.

Ideally, citrus trees are pruned in March, concentrating on removing dead branches and suckers.  

In fact, did you know that the lower branches produce more fruit that tastes sweeter than that on the higher branches?  That is why you see citrus growers letting the lower branches of their trees grow instead of pruning them up into tree shapes.

**Just don’t let any branches (suckers) from below the bud union grow because they are from the root stock and are thorny and will produce sour fruit.


Much like the Red Yucca I showed you earlier, these Desert Spoon have been butchered.

They also did the same to their own Red Yucca, off to the right.

Desert Spoon has a beautiful, natural form.


The only pruning to be done is to remove the bottom leaves once they turn brown and die.

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I hope you haven’t been to ‘scared’ by these scary pruning practices.

Sometimes it is easy to get carried away when pruning.  But it is important to remember that a plant’s leaves make the food for the plant.  Take away the ability of the plant to make food, it will re-route resources normally used for dealing with environmental stresses as well as defenses against insects and disease toward growing new leaves.

This will make your plants/trees more susceptible to other problems, not to mention leaving them ugly.


It may be awfully hot outside, but my garden is awash in brightly colored flowers from my single bougainvillea, Arizona yellow bells and ‘Rio Bravo’ sage, which shrug off the summer heat.

Last year, we decided to create an edible garden along the side of our house. 

This was a large underused area that we look out at from our kitchen, family room and bedrooms.

To get it ready for planting, we had our ghost gum eucalyptus tree removed.  It was a beautiful tree, but was quickly outgrowing this area with its overhanging limbs.

The next step involved pulling out some of the flowering shrubs along the back wall and along the side of the house.  We kept the flowering shrubs along the side wall, because they add beauty and help to break up the bare expanse of the wall.

This is what the side garden looks like today…

The centerpiece of the edible garden is the vegetable garden.  Right now, it is filled with corn, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers and sunflowers.

In front, is my colorful container filled with a variety of herbs including basil, parsley, sage and thyme.  I bought an inexpensive plastic container and spray painted it a bright blue.  The container is connected to the drip system of the vegetable garden.


In the foreground (not pictured) is our new Arizona sweet orange tree.  We planted it last year and are excited to have three oranges growing on it.  

You may be thinking that three oranges is not much to be excited about, but the first couple of years after a citrus tree is planted – you are lucky to get any fruit at all.

Newly planted citrus trees shouldn’t be fertilized during the first year, because you want them to focus on root growth, not upper growth when there is not a substantial root system for them to rely on.  Since it has been a year since we have planted it, we will fertilize this year.


In front of the vegetable garden are a pair of new peach trees.  

I love peaches and have enjoyed the fruit from my mother’s peach trees for years.  I finally decided that I wanted to grow my own.  

We got 18 peaches this year, which is a lot considering that we planted them in January.

Notice the green plant at the base of the peach tree?  It is a gourd plant that will quickly grow and cover the ground.  This will serve as a ‘living mulch’ and help to prevent weeds and shade the roots of my peach trees.


Inside the vegetable garden, sunflower seeds are beginning to form.  It is so fun to see the birds hanging upside down trying to get to the seeds.  

You can allow the birds to eat the seeds or if you want to save them for yourself, simply tie a paper bag around the flower to keep the birds away.

I’ll probably save some flowers for ourselves and let the birds enjoy the seeds of a couple of unprotected sunflowers.


A large zucchini plant is growing in the background and as anyone who has grown zucchini will tell you, it is prolific.

The slightly wilting plant in the foreground is a pumpkin plant.  If you want a pumpkin for fall, then June is when you want to plant them.

It is normal for the leaves to wilt slightly during the heat of the day.  They will return to normal later in the day.


Zucchini can hide underneath the large leaves of the zucchini plant.  I’m going to use this one to make my chocolate chip zucchini bread.  It’s delicious and your kids will never know there is zucchini in it 😉

I found the recipe on Pinterest and have already made it once.  My family keeps bugging me to make more.  Here is the link to the recipe, if you are interested – Chocolate Zucchini Bread


My tomatoes are flourishing in the natural shade provided by my sunflowers.


One of my cherry tomato plants has even decided to expand a bit outside of the garden.


Behind the vegetable garden are my two apple trees, planted this January.  One is a Anna apple tree and the other is a Dorsett Golden.  These apple trees do well in the desert and although they will produce apples if planted alone – they will produce more apples because they will cross pollinate each other.

It will take a few years for any apples to appear, but the blossoms in spring are just lovely.


Behind the apple trees are six blackberry bushes.  This year, we enjoyed the berries so much and are hoping for even more next year as they grow larger.

Blackberries won’t produce the first year after planting because the berries appear on 1-year odd canes.

Did you know that there are now thornless varieties of blackberries available?  I have one….I only wish that the other five were thornless 😉

Well, that is what I have growing in my side edible garden.

Tomorrow, I’ll share what is growing in my original vegetable garden.

What do you have growing in your garden right now?

Did you have a nice Halloween?  Did you sneak a piece of candy from the bowl of candy you were handing out to trick-or-treaters?  Or maybe you take a piece or two or three from your kids?

I was so excited to be hosting our family’s annual Halloween party this year.

It was my granddaughter Lily’s first Halloween.  She missed Halloween by 3 days last year 😉
I had fun getting food ready before everyone came over…
‘Graveyard’ Guacamole.  
Made with chopped olives and tortilla chips.
Pumpkin veggies.
Carrots with cucumbers.

 ‘Melted Witch’ cupcakes.
I used green and chocolate candy melts to make the ‘melted witch’ base.  Halloween Oreos and a Hershey’s Kiss made the hat.  A pretzel stick with molded lemon Starburst candies finished it off.

 Dessert Table.

 
Homemade Marshmallows Pops dipped in chocolate.
I used orange and chocolate candy melts to dip the marshmallows in.  Regular marshmallows from the store would work great for this too.
Our family get-togethers are often pot-luck and today was no exception.  My mom brought her delicious homemade chili.
Soon, it was time for the kids to get ready to go trick-or-treating…
 
My mother got her ‘witches’ costume ready.  Her twin grandsons weren’t quite sure who the witch was.  In fact, Danny (dressed as ‘Woody’) ran away and cried.
Even after she took off her mask and showed Danny that it was ‘grandma’ – he wouldn’t go near her until the end of the evening 😉
Aren’t they cute?
While the kids went trick-or-treating, some of us stayed behind to give out candy.
Gracie went for a little while and then decided to help give out candy while the other kids continued on.
Lily’s first Halloween was fun.  She gave her candy away to her young aunts and uncle.
Danny kept us on the edge of our seats because he kept pointing to the firepit and saying “Hot”.  Thankfully, he didn’t touch it.
The twins loved my daughter, Rachele’s, classic VW Bug.
Dean with his dad (my brother, Scott) decided to check out my husband’s new motorcycle.
My sister, Grace, and my mom were so much fun to hang out with.
We had a wonderful time even though our kids were crashing after their sugar-highs.  
I can’t wait until next Halloween!
How about you?  
What did you do for Halloween?
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I must admit that my thoughts have strayed to thinking of those who have been affected by the terrible storm ‘Sandy’.  For those who are suffering from the devastating effects from the storm ‘Sandy– you can help by sending a donation to the Red Cross, which will go directly to those affected by ‘Sandy’.
  
HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
Okay, I’m not quite ready yet for Halloween.
I did remember to put on my skeleton earrings this morning, but that is all I have managed to get done so far.
This evening, we are having our family’s annual Halloween celebration at our house for the first time.
Usually, we have it at Double S Farms, where my mother, sister and her family live.  But this year, we all decided to have it at our house because our neighborhood has better trick-or-treating 🙂
Last night, I made homemade marshmallows for the first time.  I used the recipe from the ‘Barefoot Contessa’ that I found on the Food Network online.
I’ll stick lollipop sticks into the marshmallows and then dip them in chocolate and then in orange candy melts.
I also made the tops for my ‘Melted Witch’ cupcakes.  I used green candy melts, Oreo cookies, Hersey Kisses, pretzels and yellow Starburst candy. I can’t wait to show you how they turned out.
Of course, we will also have homemade chili from my mother, chips and homemade salsa (I used the Pioneer Woman’s Restaurant Salsa recipe – it’s delicious).
My two youngest kids are getting ready to dressing up tonight.  Kai will be the ‘Brawny’ paper towel guy.  All we needed to buy was a red flannel shirt, workman boots and a package of paper towels.
Gracie will be a butterfly princess and she is very excited to have me curl her hair and put make-up on her.
Well, I had better get going.  I still need to bake cupcakes, make salsa, pick up the house….
I hope you all have a fun and happy Halloween!
I’ll share photos of our celebration with you soon.

It’s that time of year, the weather is cooler, the trees are dressed up in their colors and people are almost ready for Halloween.  


My youngest daughter, Gracie, is going to be a ‘butterfly princess’ this year and my son Kai will be the ‘Brawny’ paper towel guy.  I bought him work boots (he loves those), a flannel shirt and of course, a package of ‘Brawny’ paper towels.  

This year, we will be hosting the family Halloween night with my sister, brother and their families.  I can hardly wait.  


This post has been a huge favorite every year.  I hope you enjoy it!

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My kids, aren’t the only ones ready for Halloween.  Use your imagination and see how these plants are prepared as well…..



Octopus Agave (Agave vilmoriniana) beginning growing it’s snake-like flower stalk.
Growing up to one foot a day, like a snake coming out of the snake charmer’s basket.


 
Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila) climbing up the pillar and underneath….hanging down 
like spiderwebs.


 
A Yucca reclining like a lovely lady.  
But beware….she stabs you with her leaves if you get too close….
(This Yucca was trained to grow this way)


 
Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) dressed as a giant.

 
 
The ‘claws’ of an Agave


 
Ocotillo (Fouquierea splendens) with a Medusa hairstyle.

 
Sticks of Fire (Euphorbia tirucalli), will not burn you….but it is poisonous.


 
The spooky silhouette of a Shoestring Acacia (Acacia stenophylla).
You can almost hear the hooting owls…


 
Crested Saguaro (Saguaro carnegiea)
A saguaro all dressed up with a new hairstyle.



Twin-Flowered Agave (Agave geminiflora), sprouting horns.

And finally….  

 A beautiful White Oleander (Nerium oleander) flower lures you in with her subtle fragrance.
But Beware!  She is deadly if ingested…


I hope you enjoyed the plants in their “costumes”.

Are you or your children dressing up for Halloween this year?  
What as?