By Jane Gates
Signal Contributing Writer
Decorating your landscape for Halloween is a great way to start the long holiday season.
It offers an opportunity to have fun in your garden that has nothing to do with the usual outdoor chores. You can share the adventure with your family or friends or take on the project for yourself.
This is a perfect excuse let loose the artistic child inside and dress up the exterior of your house. Let your imagination go by transforming your house into a haunted mansion patrolled by witches, ghosts, zombies or ghouls.
Interesting Halloween décor comes in all different forms. You can buy fabrics, wigs and building materials to create your own structures from scratch. Or you can purchase ready-made creatures, characters, inflatables, skeletons or other décor and assemble a 3-D scene of your own.
Go natural and recycle
Dress up the garden for Halloween using natural materials like fallen autumn leaves, bales of hay, pinecones, dead tree branches, bundles of corn stalks, and pumpkins.
Mix these with whatever structures, characters or other materials you want to add to your scene. You can add accents of gourds, squashes, colorful dried Indian corn, or drape crepe paper, textural fabrics, tattered netting, or string up fake spider webs.
One advantage to using Mother Nature’s materials is that your decorations are not limited to Halloween and will remain in style right through Thanksgiving.
Add another dimension to your Halloween scene by dangling sound-producing devices or broadcast haunting music or sound effects on outdoor speakers. (Make sure you’re considerate of your neighbors with your volume and hours of broadcast!)
Night mood lighting
Light up your Halloween scene at night.
Back-lighting will form a silhouette out of whatever stands in front and can be best achieved by hiding a light behind the object you want to silhouette. Frontal lighting not only spotlights the chosen subject, but it will cast a shadow behind whatever is being lit, so keep that in mind as another effect you can use in your lighting design.
You can also get interesting effects by shining lights upward, downward, at different angles, or using colored lights.
Black lights will punch out whites and make any fluorescent colors glow. To create a ghoulish glow, try green colors. Blues make a scene feel cold. Reds, oranges and yellows are warm, but can also suggest fire and heat.
Also, take yourself on a shopping tour of some of the spectral wall-projected scenes and strobe lighting effects that can dress up your work of art. You can find smaller, residential versions of digital decorations that were once viewable only at Disneyland or Universal Studios — now at reasonable prices for your own home.
Technology offers affordable effects
In the last half-dozen years, impressive decorations — automated, life-sized monsters, skeletons of humans and diverse animals, wall-projected scenes, holograms and strobe effects and humorous or gory full-scale illusions — have shown up in all kinds of stores, selling for more than the materials to build them would cost.
Some of these would have sold for hundreds or even thousands of dollars (if you could even find them) in the past. Now, thanks to technology like LEDs, microchips and various apps, you can buy ready-made stars for your Halloween show to provide scenes of horror, laughter, science fiction, fantasy or any other theme, all available with a limited budget.
To create a successful Halloween garden scene, keep in mind it is just like creating a successful stage set, painting or landscape design: all the parts need to work together to create a whole picture.
Try to have one single focal point to catch the eye. Draw the eye to that focal point by leading up to in with supporting items and effects. Try to stick to one theme and make all the parts blend. Don’t overdo your décor. Too many things going on at once will take away from the overall picture.
One last suggestion: Keep safety in mind!
Make sure all wires are carefully hidden so no one accidently trips on them, and fasten down your décor. October usually ushers in the first of the big Santa winds. A single, strong gust can make shambles of an unsecured, vulnerable Halloween scene. Also, only use electric cords made for outdoor use.
Decorating for Halloween can be fun for friends and family. Although you can create your own piece of Halloween art, you can also join together with others to make it into a fun project. Invite friends over for a decorating party or get the children involved for a family project.
Yes, decorating the garden for Halloween can be as much fun for the adults as for the kids!