Leaf-peeping, zombies, and Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas


Last Friday my husband and I drove up to northern Arkansas for an extended weekend just before Halloween, hoping to see colorful fall foliage while making a first-time visit to Eureka Springs. I didn’t know what to expect from Eureka Springs aside from hilly terrain, natural springs, and Victorian homes from the town’s heyday in the late 1800s, when tourists sought out the “curative” spring water.


Eureka Springs is indeed very hilly — its nickname, Little Switzerland, is well earned — and we did see leaves of gold and red, although overall it hasn’t been a great year for fall color in Arkansas due to unusually dry conditions. The town is utterly charming, with hundred-year-old houses along every street and a bustling downtown of well-preserved Victorian-era buildings turned into shops, hotels, and restaurants.


In town, footpaths bypass the winding roads and offer mountain-goat-friendly shortcuts up and down hills. We climbed one from a downtown park, up through a neighborhood of sweet, front-porched homes, and then up to the iconic if a bit rickety Crescent Hotel, with commanding views of the surrounding hills. And then we walked back down to town for lunch at Mud Street Cafe. It was perfect sweater weather, with bright blue skies and blushing trees and leaves crunching underfoot.

Halloween in Eureka Springs: All-Out Decorating and Zombie Crawl


We stayed at the delightful Heart of the Hills Inn (not pictured), in its cozy and comfortable Carriage House, located on the Historic Loop along Summit Street. Every house in the neighborhood was all-out decorated for Halloween, including this crazy-spooky house-turned-witch just down the street.


We soon learned that Eureka Springs has a contest for best Halloween decorations, and this one took 3rd place, if I recall correctly. Note the ghoul climbing up over the roof!


Friendly porch-sitters waved at rubbernecking passersby.


Downtown, thankfully, there were no early Christmas trees or Santas adorning storefronts. Halloween and fall were being celebrated in full measure, as they deserve.


Even the murals and graffiti in alleyways got into the spirit of things.


The Babadook?


On the Saturday before Halloween, zombies shuffled into town, looking for braaaaiiiins. It was the 6th annual Zombie Crawl parade, and we joined the throngs lining historic Spring Street to watch the undead go by. Amid skele-zombies and go-go zombies…


…an Elvis zombie appeared, taking selfies with his fans. Clown zombies were unamused.


This hospital-patient zombie was downright scary.


Zombie kids were imprisoned in cages (à la the Child Catcher’s wagon in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang — remember that?), attesting to the presence of zombie catchers.


An Umbrella Corporation pickup truck rolled by too, which I spotted the next morning on a Sunday-quiet street.

Thorncrown Chapel: Sanctuary in the Woods


For something completely different, I was excited to finally see the architecturally celebrated Thorncrown Chapel, a soaring, glass-walled chapel in the woods just outside of town.


Designed by architect Fay Jones and completed in 1980, the design reflects both Gothic influences and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie style.


The transparent walls seem to bring indoors the surrounding woods and rocky bluffs.


Or perhaps you feel as if you’re outdoors and communing with nature.


It’s a truly beautiful structure.

Ouachita National Forest


In search of fall foliage, we drove through the Ozarks and Ouachita Mountains. The area around Eureka Springs and Bentonville had the best color (I’ll share some in my next post about Crystal Bridges Museum and the Chihuly exhibit there), but here are a few views from the more subdued Ouachita.


Orange and yellow amid the green


We’ll have fall color in Austin — such as it is — in another few weeks. But it was nice to get an early taste in Arkansas.

Up next: Chihuly in the Forest and more at Crystal Bridges Museum.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Saturday, November 4th: Don’t miss the Austin Open Days garden tour sponsored by the Garden Conservancy.

Join the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks! Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by inspiring designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Pumpkins in the land of Oz at Dallas Arboretum


Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain! But the woman in front of the curtain? That’s Diana, my friend and fellow explorer last weekend at the annual Pumpkin Village at Dallas Arboretum. This year the Arboretum carries you off like a tornado to “The Wonderful World of Oz,” with pumpkin houses representing Auntie Em’s house, the Wicked Witch’s castle, the Emerald City, and more.


I’m always amazed at what the festival staff pulls off, and this year’s Oz theme may be the best yet. A yellow brick road spirals through piles of pumpkins — more than 90,000 pumpkins, squash, and gourds are used for the display — toward Auntie Em’s house…


…where a big pumpkin appears to have flattened the Wicked Witch of the East. Her stripe-stockinged legs are all that’s left of her, those famous ruby slippers already on someone else’s feet.


In a “cornfield” of dried stalks, the Scarecrow points the way to the Emerald City.


I half expected him to come to life and start dancing.


In a grove of trees stands the Tin Man, already wearing his ticking heart gift from the Wizard.


The Cowardly Lion, wearing his flowerpot crown and medal of courage, stands nearby.


Little pumpkins strung vertically with twine hang from the trees.


One of those trees isn’t very happy about trespassers! Check out that face…


…and a clenched twig fist, ready to hurl a small pumpkin!


Black sweet potato vine darkens the pumpkin house that belongs to the Wicked Witch of the West.


One of her flying monkeys perches on the roof.


The Emerald City’s pumpkin house is adorned, appropriately, with green sweet potato vine.


Inside each house, murals depict scenes from the story.


Munchkin Land is represented with a white pumpkin house…


…with its own sweet potato vine doorway.


Building materials


A small “lake” of gray and white pumpkins is home to a flock of geese gooseneck gourds. So clever!


The place was, naturally, a madhouse with families picking out pumpkins in the pumpkin patch and taking pictures of their kids. I’m just a big kid myself and delighted in exploring the place. Although I searched, I never did see Dorothy, Toto, or the Wicked Witch and wonder if I missed them or if the Arboretum hires actors to play them or what.


Pumpkins are a theme well beyond the Oz display. We spotted these decorated pumpkins, with push-on features you could purchase in a kit.


So cute!


I love all three of these.


The Arboretum is all about wowing you with masses of annuals and perennials in showy arrangements.


That style of garden is not usually my thing, but the Arboretum does it so well that I always end up enjoying the spectacle.


Yellow marigolds — a cottage garden classic done to perfection here with purple-black castor bean plant and bordered by a row of orange pumpkins.


Artfully piled pumpkins of every color and shape surround large containers overflowing with big tropical leaves and annual color.


So much orange and yellowwww — I love it! Golden rudbeckia and orange mums about to pop are edged with orange pumpkins.


Rudbeckia ‘Sonora’, maybe?


Black sweet potato vine, croton, and millet make a wonderful autumnal combo in this pot, set off by lipstick-pink flowering canna in the background.


Gorgeous cannas


Golden narrowleaf zinnia


An allee of crepe myrtles, their bare lower branches making web-like shadows on the ground, leads to…


…a small plaza with four bronze toads spouting water toward the center.


I’d love to see the garden again in a couple of weeks, when all the Japanese maples turn orange and red. In the foreground is a touchable shrub I’m now wondering if we can grow here in Austin: ‘Franky Boy’ arborvitae.


A ‘Bloodgood’ Japanese maple offers some early fall color.


Spiderweb catching the light


A curved arbor of sky vine offers a tantalizing glimpse of a stone fountain.


Sky vine blossoms (Thunbergia grandiflora)


I always enjoy this playful sculpture at the base of a formal stair lined with potted boxwoods: Chico y Chica de la Playa (Boy and Girl on the Beach).


Must be a nude beach.


Millet (thriller), marigold (filler), and sweet potato vine (spiller) make a cool combo.


Who knew pumpkins could make so many plants look even better?


And this! Weeping blue atlas cedar with variegated liriope and big, orange pumpkins.


‘Tis the season for pumpkin enjoyment, so if you have a chance to visit Dallas Arboretum this fall, the pumpkin display runs through November 22nd.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Get ready for fall garden tours in Texas! The Garden Conservancy is sponsoring Open Days tours in San Antonio on Oct. 14th and Austin on Nov. 4th.

Join the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks! Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by inspiring designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Dia de los Muertos parade brightens Austin once again


Every autumn I look forward to the season of the dead. I enjoy both Halloween for its macabre playfulness and the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead, which superficially resembles Halloween in its skeleton imagery but is actually a non-scary, celebratory event. Dia de los Muertos, as it’s known in Spanish, falls on November 1 and 2, and it’s a time of joyful remembrance of departed loved ones.


Over the past decade or so, Dia de los Muertos has grown more and more popular north of the border, and Austin has readily adopted it. I’d never heard of the holiday before I moved here in 1994. But now the annual Viva la Vida parade, hosted by the Mexic-Arte Museum, is one of my favorite local events.


I love seeing the elaborate costumes of those in the parade, and spectators often paint their faces as skeletons and dress up too. Usually I watch the parade near the end of the downtown route, but this year I decided to catch it at the start, in East Austin.


It’s much easier to find a spot to watch at the parade’s start, but I missed seeing the crowd of festive spectators who congregate at the end. Still, I had a great time seeing the new additions, like these butterfly bikes. I don’t remember these from last year, but they’re marvelous.


This pre-Columbian dragon may be new too.


At noon the parade got moving, with marchers costumed as pre-Columbian peoples leading the way.


This papier-mâché horse and rider is a regular at the parade.


I especially enjoy the Aztec dancers’ costumes and dance moves.


They wear extravagantly feathered headdresses.


The men paint not only their faces but their bodies too, with colorful designs.


Check out this jaguar headdress!


Here come the butterfly bikes…


…and little princesses in the backs of pickups.


A shy smile


A giant puppet of Pancho Villa bobbed down the street…


…followed by Frida Kahlo and heroes of the Mexican Revolution.


Masked and straw-hatted marchers wearing serapes and carrying walking sticks passed next…


…followed by a big-headed skeleton with a posse of festively dressed skeleton women and men.


Folk costumes include full skirts, ruffled blouses, and flowery patterns and adornments.


This woman balances a liquor bottle (empty) on her head.


Skulls held aloft on poles


A giant Austin bat — the Aztec bat god Camazotz! — is the creation of artist Dennis McNett.


…accompanied by a larger-than-life skeleton


This car-sized skull, an old favorite, appears each year.


Another tall puppet


A flower-bedecked woman holding a bouquet of marigolds


And a solemn Catrina — an elegant, upper-class woman who symbolizes death, but who also is a reminder that even the wealthy cannot escape death.


This joyous turbaned woman is part of the Austin Samba group of dancers, and she sashayed down the street with a big smile…


…followed by white-costumed samba dancers…


…dancing nonstop to a rat-a-tatting samba beat.


Blogger Lee of The Grackle, in the blue sombrero, leads the drummers.


They were followed by colorfully painted lowriders.


The jacked-up cars bounced up and down as they cruised by.


Happy Dia de los Muertos! If you’d like to see additional posts I’ve written about Austin’s Day of the Dead parade, click these links:
Flower-adorned skeletons at Dia de los Muertos parade, 2015
Skeletons on parade: Day of the Dead 2010
Dia de los Muertos in Austin, 2008

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

I’ll be speaking at the Antique Rose Emporium Fall Festival 2016 in Brenham, Texas, on Saturday, November 5th, 1:30-2:30 pm. Come on out to the Antique Rose Emporium’s beautiful gardens for a day of speakers and fun! My talk, with plenty of eye-candy photos, is called “Hold the Hose! How to Design a Water-Saving Garden that Wows.” Meet me afterward at the book-signing table!

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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