Tune in every Friday leading up to Halloween for a feature on the art of throwing a fabulous Halloween party, by Denise Delaney.
Read Part 1
When I was growing up, the most I ever saw my family do to prep the yard for trick-or-treaters was rake up the sycamore leaves - a chore that probably would have occurred anyway. The costumed kiddies were lucky my grandpa didn’t leave a rake lying around, teeth up.
I’ve always felt like anyone strolling up my walk deserves more; much more.
My annual ministrations to the front yard usually manage to eclipse those of the previous year, and sometimes to a fault. Last month, as I was scouring who-knows-how-many years worth of accumulated dirt off the garage door, I thought, “Are we expecting trick-or-treaters, or a real estate caravan?”
As I thought about this series of articles, I decided there was no way I was going to let the general public in on this aspect of party preparation; it’s just too obsessive-compulsive. However, all that changed when I heard a radio commercial that trumpeted one of the most bizarre promises, multiple times in the space of thirty seconds: “We’ll install your new pavers in time for Halloween!”
PAVERS?! Even I hadn’t thought of putting in new pavers! Could marble columns and porcelain fountains be far behind? I suddenly realized my DIY laundry list was far from complete.
I’m a big fan of fresh paint. I do my best to keep on top of frequently manhandled railings, fog-ravaged windowsills, and in-the-line-of-fire baseboards. Fortunately, the folks who lived here before us left dozens of cans of paint in the garage; it’s easy to do touch-ups as needed.
A good supply of paint comes in just as handy indoors as out; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pounded a nail an inch too far in one direction or another into an otherwise flawlessly painted wall. Keep a stash of those “magic eraser”-type sponges handy, too - sometimes you can use them to eliminate a scuff that might have otherwise had you heading for your painting supplies.
One of my favorite absurdities about getting the outside of the house ready for Halloween is knocking down the real spider webs and hanging up fake ones. Not exactly resourceful! But as tempting as it is to leave the real cobwebs alone in an effort to “keep it real,” the only character trait likely to get served up is laziness. Grab an old broom and get to work; web sites belong on the Internet, not in your yard.
While you’re at it, artfully arrange piles of snail bait around your yard. I’ll never get used to the number and size of Coastside snails. The first time my sister visited me out here she managed to noisily stomp her way through about a dozen of them on her way back and forth to her car; she thought we’d left a carton of eggs on the path. Trick-or-treaters might not even flinch at the idea of wiping out entire snail families in their headlong-dash to your Halloween offerings, but I sure wouldn’t want to have to clean up the aftermath the day after.
Another project I’m bound and determined to make time for this year is sealing the driveway. When I was a kid, I was fascinated by a family I knew who sealed their driveway every time they knew they had overnight company coming. I think they vacuumed less frequently! As unrelated to Halloween preparation as this project sounds, the upshot is, it leaves your driveway a gorgeous black. The perfect canvas to scribble all over with glow-in-the-dark chalk! Plus, I think it’ll be one of those things that make people do a double-take when they pass by the house; they’ll know something is different, but it’s not as obvious as having a massive metal dinosaur on the lawn (another thing to aspire to).
In a final move to ready your yard for Halloween, it’s time to rip out any remaining withered summer foliage and replant with something spooky and festive. A quick and dirty trick for Halloween-worthy gardening is to put in lots of flowers in thematic colors: there’s no shortage this time of year of orange marigolds, purple lobelia, and even purple-and-orange violas that practically look hand-painted. I’m partial to Mexican sage - it’s purple, fuzzy, and grows like a weed (which it isn’t).
Another stunning alternative is to plant a “moon garden.” Select white flowers of various heights and shapes, and watch them glow by the light of the moon (or the black lights you’re going to hang on Halloween night). I love alyssum; it comes in a range of spooky colors, from ghostly white to regal purple; it spreads, and it’s cheap. It also smells amazing - almost like honey.
While you’re picking out your plants at the nursery, get a few indoor specimens, too. I prefer potted plants over hothouse bouquets any day of the year, but especially on Halloween. Consider an exquisitely surreal orchid for your bathroom, or a spooky ivy that could creep out of a black plastic cauldron in your kitchen. Sometimes you can find lilies that are almost black, or a mother-in-law’s tongue that looks almost prehistoric. Treat it right, and the average potted plant might live with you for years; a much more financially sensible option than spending the same amount of money on a floral arrangement that will be dead in a week.
It’s a lot of work, but now you know what you need to do to give your soon-to-be-spooky crib true curb appeal. Time it right, and you’ll be sprucing up your yard during some of the most glorious weather Half Moon Bay sees all year!
Next week, I’ll give you some ideas for how to decorate the outside of your house. I’d love to see your ideas for getting your yard ready for trick-or-treaters in the comments.