Fall can be a bittersweet time of
year for gardeners. Young trees slow their summer growth, vegetables and fruits ripen as
the days shorten, and flowers go directly to seed. Maybe thats why people love to
bring a bit of the fall garden indoors for decorating from now through the holidays. Take
our ideas and let them be grist for the mill of your imagination.
Gourds. Those gourds the kids grew on the old swing-set
this summer can be used fresh or dry. If birdhouse or turks turban is just now ripe
in your garden, put a new face on them for Halloween. Painting instead of carving lasts
longer, and the gourds make a colorful centerpiece for weeks. Use acrylic paint and spray
on a clear topcoat.
To dry gourds for use as birdhouses and other decorations, cut
(dont pull) gourds off the vine before the first frost. Cured slowly without shellac
or wax, gourds develop hard shells that last virtually forever. Each one needs air
circulation, so stand or hang in a warm, dry place, and turn them weekly to prevent mold
where the gourd touches any surface. After about a month, or when the gourd begins to lose
its natural waxiness, you can add metal wings and a halo. Voila! a gourdian
angel; Ive heard these described as kitchen witches for the
garden, a good luck symbol every garden can use. Once the gourds are completely
dried, you can cut holes to make a birdhouse, hollow out a dipper, or paint Santa on a
bushel gourd and elves on smaller ones.
Dried Wreaths. An autumn harvest of nuts makes a super
wreath and it begins with a simple flat styrofoam circle. Choose small ones to encircle
candles and larger ones (up to 10" [25.4 cm]) to hang on doors and walls. Pick or
purchase a variety of nuts and spray them with a clear topcoat. Tear pieces of a brown
grocery bag and cover the styrofoam to make a natural brown background. Next attach a thin
gold ribbon to the back of the ring. Youll use this to wind and wrap among the nuts
as you hot glue them on to the ring and the brown paper collar. A clever design uses big,
curved brazil nuts flanked by smaller filberts and colorful almonds in a pattern on each
Living Wreaths. Make one of those popular living wreaths
now for a dramatic traffic stopper all winter long. The simplest of these starts with a
tubular circle of oasis, also called floral foam. Soak the foam and cover it with at least
1" (2.54 cm) of wet sphagnum moss pressed into shape for growing small ivy plants all
around. Use a pencil to poke planting holes in the wreath. The smaller the rooted
cuttings, the easier theyll be to plant. Use a spray bottle and tap water to keep it
moist between weekly soakings in a half strength fertilizer bath. Once covered in its
green glory, a living ivy wreath can really soar when you add ribbons, balls, even beads
and feathers in holiday colors.
Dish Gardens. Bring back dish gardens with a twist using a
heavy plastic patio pot as the base. Dont remove the plug from the pots
drainhole and fill it with small, clean, colorful aquarium gravel. Nestle tiny 2"
(5.08 cm) clay pots in the gravel; succulents and cacti are naturals for this project.
Leave just enough room for a 4" (10.16 cm) pot in the center and put in a
chrysanthemum now, a poinsettia later.
Dried flowers can be left to turn their natural colors.
Ornamental grasses, golden raintree seedpods, and even thistles and okra make beautiful
seasonal arrangements. But if youd like to add some pizzazz, grab a can of gold
spray paint. Dry hydrangea by burning the stem ends of freshly cut flowerheads, then
submerging the whole head in water for an hour. Then let the flowers dry naturally in a
vase with no water. Once theyve browned, hold the stem in one hand and the gold
paint in the other. Dont try to cover the whole flower surface, just spray in light
sweeps to color the flowers and stiffen them.
Kids Decorations. Gather pine cones with the kids and let
them make Thanksgiving turkeys. All youll need: white glue, construction paper,
scissors. Trace the childs hand on construction paper and cut it out to form the
turkeys feathers. Then fold a beak and cut eyes, feet, etc. and glue them on. Put a
flock together and rest them on a bed of candy corn for the childrens table on