Vampires, Frankenstein's monster, witches, butterflies, and Superman: These are all designs I have attempted to carve into a pumpkin.
When my nephews were younger, they would challenge me to try to carve their pumpkin with popular cartoon characters or superheroes. We always came up with something close, but my attempt at carving Superman really ended up looking like Popeye. My sweet nephew never said a word. He hugged and kissed it and was proud to show it off to his mom and dad.
Now that I have my own children, we do the same thing. I have gone through three pumpkins trying to figure out what a Pokemon is supposed to look like. My daughter wants a Barbie pumpkin! Whatever happened to the simple Jack-o'-Lantern with triangles for eyes, a small triangle for a nose, and big goofy teeth?
This Barbie challenge got me thinking. I needed to give her some hair, but yarn or a wig just wouldn't do. It was time to put some of my favorite houseplants into action and give them a chance to dress up too. Here are some fun ways to turn your common houseplants into Halloween gifts and decorations.
GARDENER'S GAZING BALL
Some witches use a crystal ball to look into the future. If you are a gardener, you need to look into it to see if there's soil in that ball.
Here's a fun decorating idea that also makes a nice hostess gift for aHalloween party. You will need one large decorative ball made from dried vines - these can be found at most craft stores.
You also will need sheet moss, reindeer moss, potting soil, a spider plant, and an empty one-pound plastic margarine container.
Spread some of the vines apart gently to get your hand into the ball. Put the sheet moss around the bottom and sides, with the green side facing out. Punch four drainage holes in the bottom of your plastic container with a sharp knife or a screwdriver. Wiggle the plastic container through the opening in the ball and hide the container in the moss. Fill the plastic container with fresh potting soil and plant a big spider plant shoot in the middle.
Push some of the lighter-colored reindeer moss between the vines in the ball to make it look spooky and mystical. You can push some smaller spider plant shoots into the moss around the outside of the ball if you keep the moss moist.
Push the dried vines back over the opening you have created. Now you have a scary gardener's gazing ball decorated with spiders!
A hanging basket can magically change into a ghost if you give it a face. Cut eyes and a mouth shape out of construction paper. Bend a paper clip into a U shape with a flat bottom. Tape the flat part to the paper and gently stick the paper clip into the branches of your hanging basket. Now your plant is a real Halloween spirit!
Now we need to get the pumpkins into the act. You have seen them used as
containers for mums or other outdoor plants. Why not bring them inside and give your pumpkins a hairdo?
I saw the dark-purple leaves of Zebrina pendula and thought it looked like the hair of a witch.
Here's what you will need to make a witchy pumpkin: a medium-size pumpkin approximately 16 inches in diameter, a Zebrina pendula houseplant or other hanging indoor plant, a witch face, a witch hat, a bamboo stake, and paper clips.
Cut the top off the pumpkin and clean out the center. Cut a hole into the top of the pumpkin that is large enough to insert the plant's pot. Slide the potted plant into the pumpkin, letting the long, purple branches hang over the sides of the pumpkin. This will be the witch's hair.
The witch's face and hat can be as simple as drawing one on construction paper or making one with molding clay or any other material you are handy with. You may have an old mask in your box of Halloween goodies and the witch's hat you wore for last year's office party. Get a little silly, and your witch could wear a stocking hat, baseball cap, or a top hat.
I cheated a little bit and found a papier mache witch at a local home improvement store and took it apart. If you find a witch you like, carefully separate the face from the hair and hat. Keep the face and hat and toss the hair and witch's broom in your craft bag to use for another project.
Put the witch's hat on first. This will give you the best idea of where to place the face. Place a 12 to 16-inch bamboo stake into the soil of your houseplant. Be careful not to damage the roots. Set the hat on top of the plant. The stake will help hold the hat in place.
Lengthen or shorten the stake, depending on the type of hat you choose. A tall pointy hat may need a long stake, but a squatty beret may only need a stake that is about two inches taller than the plant's leaves.
Now you can give your witchy pumpkin a face. Bend a large paper clip to attach to the back of the witch's face and poke the sharp ends of the paper clip into the pumpkin. For the papier mache face, I straightened the paper clip and pushed it through the paper on the back.
Then bend the ends of the paper clip up so they can be stuck into the pumpkin. Attach the witch face you have created to the pumpkin just under the hat.
This pumpkin makes a great centerpiece for a Halloween party, or a spooky decoration for the day. The pumpkin starts to decay after you cut it open, but you can slow the process down a little by coating the inside with petroleum jelly.
Carving the pumpkin and decorating it is the fun part. Convincing my daughter that this ugly lady is really Barbie all dressed up for Halloween is another matter!
Kelly Heidbreder is The Blade's garden writer. E-mail her at email@example.com.