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Humble gourds become canvases at Descanso’s Halloween-themed ‘Carved’

Pumpkin artist Albert Rea checks how light comes through the pumpkin creations at Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge on Tuesday, Oct. 22. For five evenings in October, a thousand professionally carved pumpkins will line a 1-mile walk Oct. 23 to 27.
(Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

Halloween lovers of all ages are sure to go out of their gourds this week, as Descanso Gardens debuts “Carved,” a nighttime fall celebration showcasing more than 1,000 hand-carved Jack o’ Lanterns and art pumpkins on display throughout the gardens.

The ticketed event runs Wednesday through Sunday. A talented crew of nearly 20 master carvers came to the La Cañada botanical garden Monday with sculpting tools in hand to begin work on 75 behemoth pumpkins that will highlight the show.

Frankenstein and his bride adorn one of 75 prizewinner pumpkins that will highlight Descanso Gardens’ new “Carved” event from Oct. 23 to 27. The nighttime spectacle includes a Pumpkin House and 1,000 hand-carved Jack o’ Lanterns.
(Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

Descanso public relations manager Jennifer Errico said when the garden first debuted its Halloween-themed “RISE of the Jack o’ Lanterns” in 2014, the concept was a rousing success. But officials then began creating the winter holiday “Enchanted: Forest of Light,” and the pumpkins were put on hold.


“This whole time, all our visitors and members have asked, ‘Where are the pumpkins?’” Errico said. “They want to know when the pumpkins are coming back.”

They’re back, and in a major way. Where the former RISE show employed foam gourds in their more structural displays, “Carved” features 100% fresh pumpkins, created by RISE artists.

Pumpkin artist Rebecca Kruger hallows out one of her pumpkin creations at Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge on Tuesday, Oct. 22.
(Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

Errico says the pieces will be prominently featured in a Pumpkin House created by Descanso’s horticultural staff, and then line a 1-mile pathway leading into the garden’s Camellia Forest. Punctuating the jack-o'-lantern pathway will be huge 100-pound prizewinner pumpkins, each bearing its own carved masterpiece.


During a recent carving day at Descanso’s Van de Kamp Hall, artists hunched over orange behemoths, carving and putting final details on portraits and intricately rendered Halloween scenes. Eagle Rock carver Zach Fajardo said artists sized up the gourds to determine where the images would be placed.

Some portray familiar images — Nemo, Alfred Hitchcock, Grumpy Cat — while others feature characters from horror classics or original artwork created by the carvers themselves, said RISE studio manager Rachael Kolby.

Famous artwork, like Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” has been duplicated on 75 behemoth pumpkins being featured in Descanso Gardens’ Halloween-themed show “Carved,” from Oct. 23 to 27.
(Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

“We have each of our artists hand-paint their designs onto the pumpkins. Then they start carving out all the details they want to glow in the dark,” Kolby said, explaining the pumpkins’ insides are removed through the back, rather than the top, to preserve the nutrient-giving stem.

Each work can take from four to eight hours of carving, depending on the intricacy of the work. It’s a sight to behold, Kolby said.

“There’s really something for everyone,” she added.

“Carved” at Descanso Gardens runs Oct. 23 through Oct. 27, with a members-only day on Saturday, Oct. 26. Scheduled viewings running from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. Tickets cost $25 for members of Descanso Gardens, $30 for nonmembers. For more, visit or call (818) 949-4290.