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.

Visit to Quinta Mazatlan, birding, and Planta Nativa Festival


Texas is a big state, and living in the center of it means that whichever direction you travel, it’s a long drive to the state line. Last weekend, that meant a 5-hour drive to the Rio Grande Valley, where Texas shares a border with Mexico. My destination? Quinta Mazatlan, a city-owned nature and birding center on the grounds of a 1930s Spanish Revival-style estate, where I’d been invited to give the keynote presentation at the 2nd annual Planta Nativa Festival on October 22.


My husband and I drove down on Friday and arrived in time for an early-evening stroll around the grounds. I’d never been to the Valley before (which is not actually a valley but a flat river delta), and I imagined a lusher, rainier climate than Austin’s, with citrus orchards as far as the eye could see. However, while temps are nearly tropical (zone 9b), McAllen is surprisingly dry, with 22 inches of annual rainfall — 11 fewer inches than Austin receives.


The gardens at Quinta bristle with rustling palm leaves, including native Texas palmetto (Sabal mexicana) and imported L.A.-style Mexican fan palms (Washington robusta).


Cacti mingle easily with the palms and other xeric plants.


A dozen or so bronze animal sculptures appear throughout the gardens, including this bird-osaurus sort of creature on a twiggy rebar stand.


The actual birds we encountered were exotic to our eyes, with exotic-sounding names as well, like the chachalaca, a chicken-sized bird that darted around at ground level like a roadrunner, occasionally fluttering into low trees.


Tame and seemingly ready for a handout, the chachalaca may be the center’s mascot.


In an hour’s stroll, we saw many other species as well, including a beautiful yellow-bellied bird called the great kiskadee and circling flocks of whistling ducks, whose whistle-like cries could be heard overhead.


We sat for a while in this boulder-seat amphitheater facing a shallow pond, where birds came to drink as the sun went down.


We didn’t see any of these critters during our stroll, but we kept an eye out, just in case.


I’d love to see a horny toad one day, the state reptile of Texas.


Heron sculpture at a pond


Around back of the main house, we found a charming dance space under the outstretched limbs of a large tree. A wooden stage stands ready for the band, with string lights overhead to illuminate the sandy dance floor.


Entering a gated arch, with tall palms adding Hollywood glamor overhead…


…we found ourselves in a walled courtyard with pergola-shaded seating.


Cantera stone columns support a tile-and-beam ceiling. An in-ground water feature bisects part of the courtyard. This space would be filled with festival guests the following evening.


Bougainvillea clambering along a wall


Another gated arch led to a lawn set up with chairs for my talk. The next day, a big LED screen and stage were set up.


These Spanish-style gates are so inviting.


At the front of the house, an old stone fountain has been converted into a planter filled with succulents and bird of paradise, the latter appropriate for a center that’s a magnet for bird watchers during the big spring and fall migrations.


The Valley is on the migratory flight path for many species, making it a birder’s paradise at certain times of the year. Inside, a board shows what species are currently visiting the grounds.


I was also delighted to see several lovely displays of my books set up in the gift shop!


How nice!


Lots of wonderful gift items were displayed throughout the shop, and we didn’t leave empty handed.


Exploring the mansion, we found South Texas native plants lining the main hall, ready for the next day’s plant sale.


An agave tapestry


The next evening, I headed back to Quinta Mazatlan for a pre-talk book signing while festival attendees shopped for plants, bid on art…


…and enjoyed food and drinks under softly glowing string lights in the courtyard.


Just before 8 pm, drummers moved out to the stage and began tapping a booty-moving rhythm.


It worked like a charm. People followed the music and took their seats. Some couldn’t resist the beat and were soon dancing in front of the stage.


It was the most festive group I’d ever spoken to, with a velvety sky overhead, an occasional bat swooping silently on the hunt, and a happy crowd interested in new ideas for gardening with less water, more native plants, more wildlife, and more beauty!


I met many interesting people passionate about the native ecology of South Texas while I was there, not least these women who organized Planta Nativa: Carol Goolsby, Environment Education Supervisor at Quinta; Colleen Hook, manager of Quinta Mazatlan; and Betty Perez, owner of Perez Ranch Nursery. (I neglected to get a photo during the festival, but I have this one from a speaking event in San Antonio last spring, which they attended.) Huge thanks to them and other members of the board for hosting me.


I came home with memories of a new and interesting place, new connections made, and even some beautiful homegrown limes — evidence of those citrus orchards I expected! — given to me by a lovely woman named Chris. Thanks to all who came!

Up next: Sightseeing along the Rio Grande, where a hand-pulled ferry still operates today.

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.
_______________________

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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