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.
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.
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.
“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 descansogardens.org/carved-faqs or call (818) 949-4290.