Ten Great Ideas For Decorating With Gourds

If you’re like me, every October, when those big boxes of ornamental gourds land at the grocery store, your mind whirls with possibilities. The cute little shapes seem to embody the essence of fall. The problem is that once you get them home, the gourds are a bit lacking somehow. Sure, they look OK on their own in a bowl, but if you really want to get creative, design-wise, you’ll need to add some key seasonal ingredients.

Where did gourds come from, anyway?

Hard-shelled gourds have been around for a very long time. Archeological specimens indicate the bottle gourd (pictured below) was being grown as a domesticated plant in the Americas as far back as 10,000 years ago. It’s still a mystery as to how the gourds got to the New World from their native Africa. But a recent study indicates they may have floated here on ocean currents.

Bottle gourds growing in a garden

Today in the United States, there are three types of gourds that are typically grown: Lagenarias, or hard shells, that are mainly used in crafts; Luffas (also spelled loofah), most commonly used as sponges and Cucurbitas, the ones we call decorative or ornamental.

Cantine variety of ornamental gourds

Ornamental gourds are a whole lot smaller than ordinary gourds. Although some people eat them, they are more commonly known for their curious forms. These include such catchy names as bottle, kettle, pear, crown of thorns, egg and the popular cantine (those little pumpkin-shaped ones.) The unusual shapes are due to the little gourds’ tendency to cross-pollinate with each other as well as with pumpkins and squash. This allows for an endless supply of design possibilities.


Designing with ornamental gourds: Key elements

A good plan of action before getting started on your design is to first assemble some seasonal items that will add color and interest to your arrangement. If you’re considering a dry arrangement, leaves, twigs, nuts and feathers act as great accents to gourds. Try pheasant feathers, curly willow branches, walnuts or pinecones.

Pheasant feathers

Curly willow branches at amazon.com

Pinecones add texture

Walnuts’ large size make them the perfect accompaniment to gourds

Or, you can carve out your gourds to make room for flowers, berries or vines. Try hypericum berries, orange bittersweet, purple, red or orange dahlias or yellow lilies.

Hypericum berries

Orange bittersweet

Assorted dahlias

Yellow lilies provide good color contrast

You can even add votive candles.


Putting it all together

Ready to get started? Here are some great sources of inspiration incorporating many of the items listed above. Click on the links for more detailed information about each idea.

1. Mini “pumpkin” and gourd wreath, Southern Living

Helen Norman for Southern Living

2. White gourds in dough bowl with cabbage and pine cones

3. Green gourd vase with red flower

4. Hollowed out gourds with votive candles

5. Purple and orange dahlias with bittersweet berries and leaves in acorn-shaped gourd vases

6. Orange and yellow gourds in a brown rustic basket

7. Minimalist sculpture with orange zinnias, flax leaf and feathery grass

8. Simply elegant: orange gourds in tall, thin vases with single branches of wild ivy



9. White gourd vase with pink gerbera daisies, magnolia leaves, mini green cantine gourds, ornamental cabbage and evergreen sprig

10. Stacked gourds in iron trellis with potted yellow mums

Happy designing!



How To Create An All White Garden


All-white garden by Here By Design

It’s true that we all see colors differently, but it’s rare to find someone who can’t see white. That’s because white, like sunlight, is composed of all the colors of the visible spectrum. In the garden, white plants reflect light, instantly brightening the look of shady spots. And an all-white garden is a symphony of light, where distinct parts of flowers and foliage join together in a timed succession of harmonious arrangements.

White is a great tool for designers. It attracts the eye and focuses attention on key areas of the garden. In a dark corner, it appears to move forward, while when juxtaposed with colorful plants, it acts as a beacon, calling attention to itself. The real beauty of white, though, is most apparent at night. That’s when white flowers take on an unearthly glow, shimmering like ghosts in the moonlight.

And, many of these nighttime blooms have intense, sweet smells that attract their own group of night pollinators, bringing an entirely new perspective to the garden.

cosmos at night

White cosmos at night


Since by definition a white garden is lacking in color, it naturally relies on shape, size and texture of the elements that make up its structure. Think of a black and white photograph: what makes it interesting?

The appeal of black and white photography lies in its ability to capture details without the distraction of color.

How does it do this? By playing up contrasts between dark and light, repeating lines and forms and demonstrating a strong interplay between foreground and background. These are the same elements that make the white garden interesting.


The interplay between dark and light make a white garden interesting

1. Choose a dark backdrop

To show white-blooming plants off to their best advantage, it helps to place them against a dark backdrop. Consider positioning your white garden in front of a dark green hedge formed of dense shrubs like boxwood, holly or yew or plant your garden in front of a deep red brick wall. Dark-toned doors, black gates, and houses painted in dark brown, green or gray all make stunning backdrops for white flowers.

bench against green hedge

White ‘pops’ against a dark green backdrop

The back of the border is the perfect place for medium-sized white-flowering shrubs such as Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ and Philadelphus coronarius (Mock Orange.) Their soft mounding shapes give structure to the garden and make a great transition from a strong, dark backdrop to more delicate perennials.

2. Vary foliage

Focusing on leaves is a key way to add interest to a monochromatic garden. Not all leaves are created equal. Foliage can vary from light to dark green, be spiny or fern-like and exhibit a range of finishes anywhere from a dull matte to a dark glossy shine. Some greens are gray while others tend more towards blues or yellows. I always select a variety of white-flowering plants with different colored green foliage to add interest to a white garden.


A Mediterranean garden with different colored foliage

And, don’t overlook variegated foliage, which can perform the same function as white flowers. In the white garden, leaves with cream or white margins keep working long after other plants’ flowers have faded, brightening the garden all season long.


White-variegated foliage adds contrast

3. Vary shapes and sizes

Varying shapes and sizes of plants provides stark contrasts in the one-color garden. Mixing tall spires with rounded shapes, upright plants with low creeping ones and mounded forms with loose and rambling specimens enables white-flowering plants to be appreciated from many different perspectives.


Tall spires of white delphiniums

4. Repeat forms

Within the flower world, there are many species that resemble each other. To help unify an all-white garden, I often repeat forms by selecting plants that have flowers that look similar but are not necessarily of the same species.

For instance, peonies look a lot like roses and have a similar shape to the blooms of Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Annabelle’. Tiny Boltonia asteroides, looks like a miniature Shasta daisy, Leucanthemum. And within the iris family, the tall, elegant flowers of reblooming Iris ‘Immortality’ echo the shape of the smaller-sized Japanese iris ‘White Swirl’ to dramatic effect.

white peony

White peony

white rose

White rose

5. Add silvery highlights

Silvery plants act as transitional plants, helping to lead the eye around the space while adding structure to an all-white garden. I like to use groups of the velvety-soft greenish-silver ‘Big Ears’ lamb’s ear, Stachys byzantina, at the front of the border. For added drama, I’ll often plant the woody-based perennial Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ in the mid section of the bed where its silvery, fern-like foliage provides a soft contrast to the other green-leafed perennials.


Silvery stachys provides soft contrast in a white garden in Maryland

6. Deadhead regularly and infill with annuals

White flowers, when they fade, can turn into a less attractive form of brown. I deadhead my white flowers regularly to keep them looking their best. Once groups of perennials have stopped flowering, I cut them to the ground (unless their foliage remains attractive) and fill in with white-flowering annuals like snapdragons, sweet alyssum, nicotiana alata, verbena, angelonia and white pompom dahlias. Click here for my post on how to deadhead and maximize blooms.


White snapdragon

Great Plants for White Gardens

Here are some of my favorite shrubs and perennials for creating a white garden.


  • Hydrangea arborescens, ‘Annabelle’
  • Mock Orange ‘Snow White Sensation’
  • Potentilla ‘Abbotswood’
  • Azalea ‘Delaware Valley White’
  • Common Snowball Viburnum
  • Gardenia ‘Crown Jewel’
  • ‘Iceberg’ floribunda rose


  • Delphinium ‘Centurion White’
  • Phlox paniculata ‘David’
  • Iris germanica ‘Immortality’
  • Allium ‘Mount Everest’
  • Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Summer Snowball’
  • Iris reticulata (Siberian) ‘White Caucasaus’
  • Paeonia ‘Duchesse de Nemours’
  • Salvia ‘Summer Jewel White’
  • Anenome ‘Honorine Jobert’
  • Aquilegia ‘Tower White’
  • Iberis sempervirens ‘Snowflake’
  • White yarrow
  • Hemerocallis ‘Gentle Shepherd’
  • Hosta ‘Francee’