October 30, 2014

Pumpkin Topiaries

One of my two new pumpkin topiaries outside my front door...
…and my inspiration, mine obviously less glam than THIS one!

I've been to lots of colleges and college towns over the years. And living next to Salem, Massachusetts, the REAL HALLOWEEN capital of the world, (thanks to all those persecuted young girls who were falsely accused as witches) I thought that I'd seen every kind of Halloween decoration, from creepy to beautiful.

What I couldn't have ever been prepared for was this stunning fall display in Saratoga Springs, New York. Known as Palazzo Riggi, this mansion on Broadway, the swanky street in this beautiful horse town and home to Skidmore College, stops you dead in your tracks. No pun intended...

We came to Saratoga by way of Union College in Schenectady, NY after watching my nephew play in a nail-biter of a football game - Union vs. Rochester with Union winning 16-14! Graciously hosted by some Union parents, and after way too many celebratory drinks, we spent the night in a beautiful condo in Saratoga. On our way out of the town and headed for home, my brother said that we HAD to see the "Pumpkin House".

LOVE any party where dogs are welcome!

I think my brother thought we'd just drive by, but I made us stop the car so I could get out and take some pictures. The history of Palazzo Riggi, from what I gather from online reports, is a love/hate relationship with Saratoga Springs, but all I could do was LOVE. The sheer gaudiness and "fabulosity" (a term my friend Colin Cowie taught me) of this Halloween display, inspired me on a MUCH smaller scale, to create a version outside my home.

You kind of expect Norman Bates' mom to peek out one of those windows - watch out!
Behind these gates is a massive display of pumpkins. I wanted so badly to get a picture but then I would've been arrested for trespassing and that wasn't how I wanted to spend my Sunday 
There's something really awesome about their over-the-topness!

Apparently, the owners of Palazzo Riggi (their last name is Riggi) own a LOT of dogs so they have a constant dog theme. And if this is really true from all I've read, their LAWN is even HEATED for the pooches' paws!
Get it? Howl 'O Ween?

Well I had a LOT of fun looking and drooling and only wishing that I could somehow have a craft workshop with the owners, or whomever decorates their house, to learn their styling tips.
 If I knew these people, I would've gladly brought them their Sunday paper, and then picked their brains dry about all their decorations!
Complete with a lawn jockey. Because nothing says Saratoga Springs like a lawn jockey!

So, as I've embarrassingly admitted before, I'm a better floral designer than gardener (although I love to garden…I just get busy and forget to water things - oops). I have these two Eugenia topiaries outside my front door that are underplanted with impatiens and they definitely needed some love.
 Okay, this is really embarrassing now
This one is a little more protected aka not as dried out :)

So my big Palazzo Riggi idea was to turn my semi-dead topiaries into pumpkin topiaries with a few gourds thrown in.
 You can get some great deals buying pumpkins and gourds at the end of the season. 
I even got a bunch at BJ's Wholesale!
 Isn't Mother Nature amazing?

The first thing I did to remedy my sad, sad little topiaries was to put the bigger pumpkins at the base

 This made my front door immediately more cheery!

Then I got out my super high-tech tools 
 Then I picked the bad side of the pumpkin 
(who knew there was this whole class of specialty pumpkins?)
 Using great skill and dexterity (ha ha), I shoved the screwdriver into the side and then through the other side
See? I even managed to mess up this first one. My screwdriver couldn't make the shorter distance, hence my extra hole - live and learn
Then I wrapped wire around the screwdriver and made sure to go over the top and then twist some wire around the base of the tip so it wouldn't fall off. Then I shoved the wire-covered screwdriver in through one hole and out the other side.
This is so easy, anyone can do it!
 Once wired, I started tying the pumpkins around the topiary trying to cover the less bushy 
(okay, dead) parts
Just like in flower arrangements, I tried to balance size, color and texture and fill in holes where I could

Rather than wire and tie each pumpkin one at a time, I found it was much quicker to wire them all at once and then have fun placing them
 Its starting to look a little better

But they still need more to fill in the holes, so I'm on to the gourds and baby pumpkins
Since these were much smaller, I had to dig deep for my specialty tool (a mini screwdriver) so I wouldn't destroy the little things in one fell swoop

Now they look MUCH better all filled in!

Welcome to my home! I can even keep these all through Thanksgiving - 
that is, if the squirrels don't get to them first!

Pay no attention to these creepy kids. 
Mine are mostly grown-up so I import papier-mâché ones to make me less lonely!

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