The Great Pumpkin Carve in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania


Charlie Brown: Who are you writing to, Linus?

Linus: This is the time of the year to write to the Great Pumpkin. On Halloween night, the Great Pumpkin rises out of his pumpkin patch and flies through the air with his bag of toys for all the children.

Charlie Brown: You must be crazy. When are you going to stop believing in something that isn’t true?

Linus: When you stop believing in that fellow with the white beard and the red suit who goes “HO! HO! HO!”.

Charlie Brown: We are obviously separated by denominational differences.

Linus (writing): “You must get discouraged because more people believe in Santa Claus than you. Well, let’s face it. Santa Claus has had more publicity. But being number two, perhaps you try harder.”

~ ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’

Linus’s misguided, if not slightly adorable, belief in the Great Pumpkin as the harbinger of Halloween, may find sympathizers among the people who compete to carve the best looking pumpkin one hour outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Each October, the Chadds Ford Historical Society and Concordville-Chadds Ford Rotary co-sponsors the Great Pumpkin Carve, which attracts hundreds of visitors to witness the artistic carving skills on giant pumpkins. A local farm grows and supplies the giant pumpkins, either ‘Prize-Winner’ or ‘Atlantic Giant’, which are sculptured endless ways. The pumpkins are shown for three consecutive days before they are carted away to oblivion. They range from the recognizable renditions of the traditional ‘jack-o-lantern’ to intricately-incised designs or insignias, i.e. the hoary pig transporting three jack-o-lanterns on its bristly back or a scythe-carrying skeleton on a macabre mission. Despite the crowds on the first evening, the festive fashion with which competition participants and visitors celebrate this Halloween tradition is a worthwhile experience for the first comer.

DSC_0982The pumpkin carving begins between 4:30 and 5 pm when competing individuals assess their pumpkins (they are each assigned one pumpkin randomly, and their ideas may or may not need to be modified). There is some tension as the contestants have until 8 pm to carve their designs before the competition is closed for judging. In the low evening light, the pumpkins glow large and full, and combined with the autumn foliage, it’s certainly a seasonal affair.

Pumpkin_CarvingThose who stuck with simple designs usually finish earlier than those who take on more ambitious, elaborate ones that require scraping, lacerating, and even shaving where translucent layers are required for emphasis. Some people come armed with specific candles or lights to illuminate best their pumpkins. As the nightfall comes, all eyes remain transfixed on wringing out every detail to distinguish their pumpkins from each other on the judging arena.

DSC_1033It takes a steady hand and eye to shave carefully and slowly the hard skin to create ‘engravings’ like the above scene of the Native American Indians rowing a canoe or the one below of a trio of jack-o-lanterns hitchhiking on the back of a pig or boar.

IMG_3679Notice the array of tools the contestants bring with them  –  having merely a knife and a large spoon is inadequate! A set of surgical tools are certainly required to etch out the wood flanks, the roof shingles, and the lit window panes of this house on the pumpkin below. DSC_1035

Pumpkin_facesAn accompanying friend complained about wanting a honest, traditional jack-o-lantern, but some contestants did aim simply for that look – the expressions were varied and fun.

Visit the Chadd Fords Historical Society’s webpage for more details on the Great Pumpkin Carve.

~ Eric

Sunday Clippings


The mornings have started to become more crisp, the foliage is beginning to change and we are enjoying the beauty that autumn has to offer.  It is a chance to slow down, pull out your favorite sweaters and catch up on some favorite reading.  We reach far and deep with this weeks edition of Sunday Clippings, sharing some really interesting stories this week from around the globe.  Click on the links below to enjoy. Have a wonderful Sunday..- James

5-10-5: Kate Blairstone, Illustrator and Print Maker

In a twist of fate, I had not realized that the Kate who had waited on our table during my February trip in Portland was a talented artist herself! Only a month later did I happened on her floral prints in her Instagram account. Her webpage is as colorful and cheerful as her personality, and Kate recently launched her online shop selling a few prints (I particularly like the Euphorbia print).

IMG_4173Please introduce yourself.

My name is Kate Blairstone – I’m 33 and live in beautiful North Portland, Oregon with my husband, dog and two cats.
Summer pink on pink: herbaceous peonies swim among rock rose (Cistus), a combination feasible in climates like that of Portland where Kate is fortunate to reside.

Summer pink on pink: herbaceous peonies swim among rock rose (Cistus), a combination feasible in climates like that of Portland where Kate is fortunate to reside.

The arts or horticulture? 
Both! I find that my many creative outlets inform and pollinate one another – it just depends on how much time there’s left in a day.
The 'Beware of Wisteria' should probably replace 'Beware of Dog' sign', and the juxtaposition, intentional or not, speaks a certain cheekiness, which Kate expresses somewhat in her work.

The ‘Beware of Wisteria’ should probably replace ‘Beware of Dog’ sign’, and the juxtaposition, intentional or not, speaks a certain cheekiness, which Kate expresses somewhat in her work.

Did your interest in gardening develop simultaneously with your professional development in art? 
Yes, in that they developed next to each other – it’s only recently that they’ve really overlapped. I’ve always been an artist, but it’s only since I’ve become a homeowner that I’ve been able to call myself a gardener. You have to have a garden to garden, right?
Like most creative types, you have a full time job at the Portland institution Besaw’s that pays your bills while you are able to produce your artwork, namely prints. How do you juggle the demands of a full time job that can limit creative output? 
When I first started at Besaw’s, I used to feel like the work depleted my creative energy available for my own outlets. In the last year I’ve been focusing more on my creativity as a practice, which really means that I can compartmentalize my output in proportion to the activity I’m working on. I’m much better at allocating only a certain time frame to a work project. I’m more efficient.
I’ve been successful at building my art practice at home by creating parameters for my work: a consistent format, process, and schedule. I feel the same way about my garden – it takes ongoing maintenance. It’s always evolving, and if you don’t stick with it it can get away from you. My husband is also an artist, so we’ve made our studio time something we do together.
Creativity can be capricious – funneling it into a productive and lucrative endeavor is always a challenge facing creative types. It’s all too easy to elapse into a dilettante when priorities divert commitment. Do you set aside blocks of time closed off to interruptions and obligations? 
I try very hard to limit my social obligations, which has been a funny transition as I’ve come out of my 20s. I used to worry over not having enough time to do everything; now I’m just much better at scheduling my time. I’d love to build my practice into a sustainable career, but at this point I’m happy to be able to create consistently. It’s gratifying to be able to see your own progress and track it over time, rather than waiting for inspiration to strike.
Artists sometimes take years to refine their techniques before they are almost confident of them. At the same time their styles evolve with age. Sometimes mastering a new tool that can bring a new dimension to your work can add to the development process. What did your education in printmaking teach and did not? 
I have a funny relationship with art school. I’ve always been someone who’s taken to lots of interests, so in some ways my choice of Printmaking as a course of study was a bit arbitrary. I transferred to art school because I wanted to take more art classes. I started out in Photography but decided I didn’t like that because it wasn’t hands-on enough, and the Printmaking department at the time had the most agreeable faculty.
I didn’t use any printmaking in my work for years after college, and still don’t print my work myself, but I think it shaped my way of image-making. I tend to think in terms of surface design and flatness; I love textiles and folk art, the way craftspeople have been interpreting the world around them for hundreds of years.
A solitary Coulter's Matilija poppy (Romneya coulteri) peeks forth from the chartreuse Euphorbia amydaloides var. robbiae; such surprise combinations inspire Kate's graphic prints.

A solitary Coulter’s Matilija poppy (Romneya coulteri) peeks forth from the chartreuse Euphorbia amydaloides var. robbiae; such surprise combinations inspire Kate’s graphic prints.

How often do you play around with colors and spacing until you are satisfied with the resulting print? I find it overwhelming to pick out colors that really complement or scream the personality of the plant whenever I set to depict it in paintings. 
I usually start out with a realistic color portrayal, and then stray from there. It’s funny – some pieces are much easier than others. Sometimes I get the color relationships where I want them right away, and sometimes it takes hours. It doesn’t help that I tend to like unexpected color combinations. I love the filters in VSCO – I like to play with screen shots of my work on my phone. Sometimes the filters will tweak colors in interesting ways that I hadn’t considered. Placement is much easier, as I try to work within the same format every time.
Kate's ceramic vessels play host to enthusiastic, unrestrained bursts of floral arrangements.

Kate’s ceramic vessels play host to enthusiastic, unrestrained bursts of floral arrangements.

You enjoy collecting antique Asian ceramics. I detect a similarity between the floral motifs on these ceramics and those of your work – sometimes the juxtaposition of colors recall Asian pairings rather than Western ones. They seem lurid in the mind but they always turn out beautiful and contemporary. The Austrian-born Swedish artist and designer Josef Frank’s work comes close in the Western world. 
I love both those comparisons, thank you so much! I work often in ink, so I look at a lot of Asian porcelain, which often has a very similar line quality. I also find that the flowers and foliage depicted are often of actual plant species, rather than imagined ones. As I get to know different plants through both horticulture and drawing, I feel that I’m connecting to a long history of botanical surface design. I enjoy recognizing the plants others have drawn as well – peonies, dogwood, bamboo, chrysanthemums & bonsai – especially on antique pieces.
Josef Frank’s surface design has a similar feeling of flatness and layering, partially because we both use similar production methods. I love love love his overgrown and colorful aesthetic.
Lately I’ve been digging 60s and 70s illustration and surface design – the psychedelic color relationships remind me of golden hour in the garden.
The Swedish-Austrian designer Josef Frank's graphic botanical prints have a lot in common with Kate's work, and it isn't surprising to discover how she enjoys their playful feel.

The Swedish-Austrian designer Josef Frank’s graphic botanical prints have a lot in common with Kate’s work, and it isn’t surprising to discover how she enjoys their playful feel.

Do you have a preferred medium or media in which you render your prints? Are graphic design programs or digital printing part of the process?
I love working in ink – that’s how much of my work starts. It can be loose and heavy, or light and scratchy. I build up parts of each plant in layers of ink on tissue paper. Then I scan each layer, and colorize them in Adobe Illustrator. It’s instant gratification, but also keeps my work hands-on for much of the process.
Bright colors always tickle Kate's aesthetic senses - her photograph of these red chairs against the green foliage of cosmos reflects that preference.

Bright colors always tickle Kate’s aesthetic senses – her photograph of these red chairs against the green foliage of cosmos reflects that preference.

Retro prints are enjoying a revival as people crave bright colors as an antidote to our modern, monochromatic styles. Have any of your prints been reproduced for wallpapers and home decor? 
I’ve sold work for home decor, and would love to produce a line of wallpaper. That’s my dream! If I could have wild prints everywhere I would.
Unexpected sights, such as swags of red roses gracing the front facade of this modest house, always inspire Kate to pause and take photographs.

Unexpected sights, such as swags of red roses gracing the front facade of this modest house, always inspire Kate to pause and take photographs.

No plant seems to escape your attention – orchids, succulents, euphorias, and even temperate woody plants have been immortalized in your bold and colorful patterns. Where are you likely to seek plants for floral and botanical inspiration? 
I help with social media for the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon, so when I get a chance, there are many fabulous open gardens throughout much of the year here in Portland. I also take tons of pictures everywhere I go. I often pull off the road when driving to take pictures of plants!
Irises are a favorite of Kate who favors their brilliant colors and sword-like leaves.; here a few iris flowers really steal the scene here.

Irises are a favorite of Kate who favors their brilliant colors and sword-like leaves.; here a few iris flowers really steal the scene here.

Portland has a vibrant horticultural community that benefits from its ideal climate for plants. What are some of your favorite gardens and nurseries to visit in Portland? 
I love to visit Joy Creek Nursery in Scappoose and Cistus Nursury on Sauvie Island. On a sunny day, that beautiful drive (plus free chocolate chip cookies at Joy Creek) is my favorite day trip. This year I went two weekends in a row to Schreiner’s Iris Gardens. I am now a huge huge fan of iris. I love getting to see a huge variety of the same species all together like that. I also love the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden and Pacific Bonsai Museum outside Seattle. So good.
Any advice you wish to impart to those seeking to blend their artistic ambitions with plants and the greater natural world? 
For me, making art is about seeing, observing. It is also a practice. Going out and looking at plants, working with plants, studying their structure and growth season all contribute to understanding how they might translate artistically. I favor illustration and printmaking as well as folk art when looking for inspiration (and comparison); it’s not about realism, it’s about style and mood.
An unlikely combination made possible in the maritime Pacific Northwest climate: Tetrapanax papyrifer with Cornus.

An unlikely combination made possible in the maritime Pacific Northwest climate: Tetrapanax papyrifer with Cornus.

If you do have a garden, could you say that it is an extension of your personality you confidently exhibit in your prints? I imagine a garden full of graphic architectural plants paired with softer romantic ones – such as the dogwood with Tetrapanax you posted on Instagram. 
My garden is two years old, and started as a very weedy patch of grass. Much of it is still that way (we’re gradually working on that), but it’s now much more colorful. My husband and I got married in our backyard last August, so I spent a lot of time last year creating my “wedding garden”: brugmansia, Yucca rostrata & lots of kniphofia. As Mexican as possible! I think you’re right, though, my favorite combination is my Tetrapanax and white Japanese anemone. As my friend Kate Bryant says, they’re gonna fight it out!
Your desert island plant? 
Can I lump all the poppies together as one plant? If not, I’m in love with Lewisia. #OregonNative!
We creative types never cease to have something coming along shall our interests flag. What projects do you have in the pipeline? 
My husband and I recently went to Croatia for two weeks! I saw and drew as many unusual Mediterranean plants as I can. After that, I have plans for some limited run screen printed editions and hopefully some wallpaper!
Select 6 prints and explain briefly their inspiration behind them. 
Peony & Wisteria
Peony & Wisteria: Honestly I was surprised that these bloomed together this year. Am I crazy? I was looking at vintage Uzbek Russian Trade Print Cotton fabric at the time – which is loud and bright and floral and retro: a fun eBay search when it pops up.
Itoh Peony: My Coral Charm bloomed, and it was amazing! I was playing with grass textures, and enjoyed the juxtaposition. One of my favorite design challenges is “Vintage 70s Tea Towel.”
Poppies: I often work in flat, digital color, so I’m always looking for ways to imply texture. This was another 70s Tea Towel Challenge- but maybe somewhere in the Mediterranean.
Aeonium: For a while we didn’t have a scanner, so I was taking pictures of my ink drawings with my phone, emailing them to myself, and then manipulating them in Photoshop and Illustrator. A pain in the ass, but an unintentional, happy result is the way the layers are offset. I like that hand printed, vintage feel. I studied this aeonium for a long time while drawing; it’s great meditation.
Euphorbia: This Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’ was one of those plants I thought hadn’t made it – there’s a good amount of neglect in my garden – and it suddenly reappeared this spring. I love that bright center; the huge clump of it at Joy Creek is one of my favorite things in their display garden.
Peggy Anne:  I love illustrating variegated plants. It’s a way to gradually convince myself that they’ll be cool in my garden. I spotted Peggy Anne on my visit to Schreiner’s. Adelman Peony Garden is just down the road, which made for a fabulous nursery trip. Those splotchy Itoh peonies were a natural pair – I wish my yard were that adventurous!

 Thank you Kate!
~ Eric

Sunday Clippings

Sunday Clippings

Artists, food, scientific studies, flowers and other peoples lives makes for an interesting recipe of looking back at this weeks edition of Sunday Clippings.  Click on the links below for further reading, and never hesitate to let us know what you think. And if you have read any interesting articles regarding art or horticulture, reach out and let us know, we’re always happy to pass it on. Happy Sunday.. – James

Sunday Clippings

  A terraced hillside orchard of mature Olives, Extremadura, Spain

The heat of the sun is on the rise here, signalling the onslaught of the Spanish summer. The days have consisted of continuing to plant the terrace up and then enjoying it out there on the warm nights.   The weekends are for day trips out of Madrid to experience new friends gardens and the surrounding countryside.  In between I have managed to squeeze in some good reads and I hope you find the following links as enjoyable as I have. Have a fantastic Sunday…. – James

Floral Friday: Group Show

Euonymus japonica 'Aureo Variegata'

Euonymus japonicus ‘Aureo Variegata’ and Helleborus x hybridus, highlighting a self-portrait.

After a few years of purchasing ceramics, my collection has grown to a considerable size, constructed of many different periods, styles and shapes.  My justification for a new addition is that it must be a striking piece on its own, with or without flowers. Sometimes I enjoy grouping single arrangements of different styles together, similar as to how I would display a grouping of pots of annuals. If I can play with the colors and shapes to match a piece of artwork, then it’s another win.  With this type of display I can easily put more pieces of my collection out rather than one at a time while still showcasing beautiful blooms or foliage, and tying it in nicely with the surrounding art, making for a nice group show.  – James

‘Aesthetics is for…’

plinthetal. jmcgrath

Aesthetics is for the artists as ornithology is for the birds.

– Barnett Newman, American artist

5-10-5: Michael Byun, Garden Photographer @phytophile

Using his Canon EOS 70D and IPhone 5, young plant aficionado Michael Byun has perfected the art of macro photography for plants. The mild climate of the Bay Area (San Francisco, California) allows Michael limitless opportunities to capture plants throughout the year.

How did you become interested in plants and horticulture?

I’ve always been fascinated by plants and nature in general. The growth and profusion of verdant foliage has always felt remarkably fulfilling, and so I love going to forests, green places, botanical gardens, and the like. However, it’s only in the last few years that I’ve really gotten into growing plants myself. For me, it’s about the beauty of plants and a sort of primal feeling of biophilia.

What kind of garden would you have if time, space, or money wasn’t the limit?

That one’s hard! I love when plants are incorporated into landscapes beautifully, but I also tend to collect plants that are random from a design perspective. I wouldn’t actually want something especially large–I like the feeling of smaller spaces outside. It wouldn’t be tiny, but would be of a moderate size divided into several different areas or outdoor rooms, each with its own microclimate. It would have a contemporary feel but would not be minimalist or austere; instead, it would feel lush and alive. I’d use all sorts of uncommon and interesting plants in the garden. And of course there would have to be a hobby greenhouse for tropicals!

Your favorite Bay Area nursery or garden?
Flora Grubb Gardens, definitely. It’s almost the embodiment of my ideal garden. There’s something there for everyone, yes, everyone, even if you’re just getting a coffee and relaxing among the foliage. There are plenty of curious flora to peruse and they are all incorporated tastefully into the store’s displays. And not only are the plants beautiful but all of their pots and accessories as well. Add to that friendly and passionate staff and you get my favorite garden store in San Francisco.

Tips for people wanting to develop an unique point of view on Instagram.

In my experience, the most rewarding thing that anyone can do on Instagram is to follow people. Following someone doesn’t have to mean you know them well, nor are you obligated to like or comment on their posts. To me, following someone means opening yourself up to see another person. Whether it’s through food, cats, fashion design, or plants, the people you follow are giving you their perspective on whatever share-worthy things they stumble upon. And once you follow someone, perhaps you’ll like and comment. Perhaps they’ll follow you back. Perhaps you’ll become good friends! The wonderful thing about social media is that geography is not a barrier. You can connect and relate with people all over the world. So don’t be afraid to tap that “follow” button. That’s what Instagram is all about: sharing snapshots of life with the diverse, beautiful global community.

He selects the following 15 photographs as his favorites and explains briefly each image’s appeal. Follow him on @phytophile.


The photos I like best capture not only the subject in a compelling way but also the feeling and environment, directly or indirectly. This is one of my favorite shots for the feeling of late-summer-late-afternoon it gives me.

Red Leaf Close Up

I love finding fractals in nature–they’re everywhere–and when coupled with beautiful colors, they create an amazing sight. As a photographer, I feel that I am letting people see through my eyes; in that respect photography is simply capturing the beauty that I see around me.


Sometimes I love a plant just because it looks so crazy. That’s true of this Aloe. The colors are incredible and the simple geometry balances out the otherworldly texture.


Sometimes simple things are the most beautiful. Leucadendrons, a member of the amazing Proteaceae family, have exquisite blooms that in this photo can let the eye relax.

Window Wall Planting

Not all of the plants I photograph are mine; in fact, I love going to other places and seeing what kinds of flora thrive there. This shot is of a vertical garden at Flora Grubb Gardens in San Francisco, one of my all-time favorite places for seeing plants used beautifully. Through the little community of plant lovers on Instagram, I’ve actually met several of the people that work there!


Since I do grow most of the plants in my photos, I like to get a perspective that people aren’t normally able to see. This cactus, Epiphyllum oxypetalum, blooms only once a year late in the night, and one can find pictures all over of their huge, elegant flowers. However, I found that the bud the evening before it opened was more interesting, especially with the warm hues of the flower and the cold blues outside the greenhouse.

Through the Vortex

Here’s another example of a different perspective, on one of my favorite plants: Colocasia esculenta ‘Mojito’. The new leaf unfurling created a beautifully textured tunnel of color.

Succulent Wall Decoration

As someone who loves both art and horticulture, of course I have to make vertical gardens. This is a succulent vertical garden I designed and created as an experiment in planting living walls.


This photo is very Japanese-inspired. I had been trying out a Japanese planting technique, or art form really: kokedama. Kokedama is the art of plants growing in suspended balls of mossy soil. Though I skipped the “suspended” part, I tried to get a more minimalistic, simple shot with an emphasis on form and light.

Shelf Fungus

My Instagram account may be called @phytophile, but I don’t only photograph plants. I document the beauties of nature I find around me, including these bracket fungi in Muir Woods.


Sometimes, I just like to take pretty pictures of plants. Like any photo, though, they have context and background. This is a waterfall at a Japanese garden I visited.


I tend towards the weird and wonderful of the plant kingdom. Carnivorous plants are some of the craziest plants–they eat animals!–but they can also be some of the most beautiful.

Fasciated Euphorbia

My Instagram account is really just a journal of the flora of my life. Sometimes, weird things happen that I of course share with my followers and friends. This is a Euphorbia characias, a common garden plant here in California, that became crested from some sort of growth defect or mutation.

Leaf Edge

For my last photo, I’ll end where I began: my first Instagram photo. I posted this almost a year ago, before anyone followed me. It’s a simple, green, beautiful picture of a plant. Which, of course, is what my Instagram is all about: snapshots of the beauty of plants.

Thank you Michael!

Sunday Clippings

Narcissus Mix

Narcissus jonquilla, N. ‘Fortuna’ and N. ‘Hollywood’

Taunted and teased with spring blooms we are being lured to spend more and more time out of doors these days.  Here are  a mix of good articles and some of our favorite sites, which can always be found under the header Et Al. on the main page. Here’s to a glorious day and wonderful week, enjoy your Sunday Clippings. – James