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Scarecrows, ghouls and jack-o'-lanterns

October 25, 2013
By H.I JEAN?SHIELDS ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

It is that fun time of the year when we can just set things around in our gardens and yards and not have to go to the trouble of digging in the soil. No digging around, no

fertilizing, no worry about a specific color scheme.

It is Halloween time folks, so let's get in the groove.

My scarecrow is a 12-year-old wooden guy with some scraggly hay hanging strategically here and there about his colorful body. I bought him at a large craft fair out near Palm Beach Boulevard. I think I still see it advertised off and on. However, I have stopped going to those types of places because I have run out of space around here for cute and quaint objects, no matter how cute and quaint they are.

My scarecrow spends his off months standing quietly behind a bedroom door.

He gets to be the center of attention in the front entryway October and November.

I always get a messy little bale of hay to place at his feet and may use a nice fat fresh pumpkin to set with my three plastic jack-o'-lanterns, also from years ago.

If I could just save money as well as I do holiday decorations, I would be very


The jack-o'-lanterns can be plugged in for an internal light but I do not do that. They are three different sizes, mom, pop and little baby. The genius of these three, which I discovered after I had bought them, is that in October they face one way as jack-o'-lanterns and for November, I just turn them around and they look like a great family of just pumpkins. No re decorating needed.

I do have a pot of mums standing there,; who can have fall without mums? The mums do need extra attention as they have a tendency to dry out quickly.

I do sometimes put seasonal mums in the two large pots alongside the front walkway. This year that will not work. The one pot is doing beautifully, full of a middle caladium surrounded with a beautiful variegated ficus cluster draped along the edges of the pot.

The other pot should look the same, NOT. The caladium is straggly and the greenery is down to one leggy strand hanging over the pot rim.

I, of course, do not notice this until I have started setting up Mr. Scarecrow and friends. I am not going to discard that nice full pot, and it is too late to plant enough of the trailing greens, plus would be expensive at this time. I mean, the one reason I buy small pots of trailing greens in small pots is so that they will spread naturally and I do not have to buy so many plants. A gardener's dream.

It is not this gardener's dream to even try and plant two matching horticulture pots, because it never really works for me. I am too inconsistent and not the kind of gardener who pays attention to details after I have the fun of doing the first design and planting. I am, however, a dedicated optimist.

I am smart enough at times to keep an extra plant or two around in the side yard where things go to recuperate, grow larger, or die.

I really like to plant those two pots according to the seasons and I can usually just take out something that has already seen its best days and replace it with the proper plants and/or flowers for a seasonal display. After all, it is the front walk and the area should look weed-less, smartly mulched and at least healthy, if not beautiful.

I did have to do a lot of trimming to get the hugh tangle of potato vine off the walkway and back into its nice trimmed space. Yes, yes, fellow gardeners, I do understand that the unruly potato vine is considered an invasive plant. The chartreuse, black and green colors of the leaves, however, are pleasing all alone or with all three variations in a mixed planting. I do not recommend other people plant it. It is just so easy and hardy that I cannot bear to ban it from my spaces.

I am considering just getting a large pumpkin with a curly stem and setting it in the bare looking pot. That is exactly what I have already done in the front bed, with the birdbath.

The birdbath usually holds a large colorful pot of melampodium. Even though that plant is pretty drought tolerant, one week in the hot dry sun and wind did killer of a job on that plant.

All the summer rains were a nuisance at times, but when it stops it does not take long to be reminded that water is an essential need for potted plants.

Anyone who does not want a Scarecrow or a Ghoulish figure lurking around their yard can just plop a nice fat pumpkin, or several, here and there. You should remember that if they are in the hot sun all day, they may not last as long as you plan. They may be in danger on trick or treat night also.

You can get a good idea of how to decorate for Halloween by taking a short trip over to Fort Myers and visit Lakes Park, on Gladiolus Drive. Its annual Halloween Festival has started and there are dozens of Halloween-themed sites set up for public viewing and voting: schools, doctors offices, colleges, artsy people and the business people. The Garden Club also has a Miss Batty Bella lady displayed with a bat in her belfry and a large black crow somewhere else. Her long flowing straw like locks do not qualify her for scarecrow status, but she sure is interesting.

School kids really do great and there are some very ghoulish figures around. Strolling around the patch is from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. A $2 per car collection is all that is needed during that time. There will be some beautiful big pumpkins for sale and some of the ugly, but smaller ones with bumpy skins.

Also, do not miss the little train ride that is nice and long and features a lot of fun Halloween designs, etc., along the way. Two signs I like are one that says "How

does a pumpkin cover his eye?" The next sign says, "With a pumpkin patch." Cool!

Train seats are nicely padded. The price is $5 for adults and less for children.

Don't forget to vote at the entryway. The patch closes on Oct. 31.

At home, watch for drying out of any potted plants, especially hanging ones. A big drink and then a good long drainage time will keep them healthy. You can probably let up on any fertilizer soon as they will stop growing a lot now that we will be getting cooler weather.

Trick or treaters will be growing more if they eat all the candy they bring home. One trick I learned is let them pick out some favorite pieces then give them $5 for the rest. That works on the smaller ones that think $5 is a lot of money. Also - DO NOT eat the candy you just bought!

Happy gardening until we meet again.

H.I. Jean Shields is a past president of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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