If you’re like me, when those big boxes of gourds arrive at the grocery in October, 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 seem somehow lacking. Sure, you can just toss them in a bowl. But, if you really want to get creative, decorating with gourds requires some key added ingredients.
ORNAMENTAL GOURDS FED PRE-COLOMBIAN PEOPLES
Have you ever wondered where these little guys come from? The mini soft-shell gourds are part of a family of flowering plants called cucurbita (which is Latin for gourd.) Native to the Andes and Mesoamerica, cucurbitas include a variety of melons, squashes, pumpkins and both ornamental and non-ornamental gourds. Archeological evidence shows that pre-Colombian peoples grew and ate these plants as many as 10,000 years ago in the region of present-day Mexico.
Cantine variety of ornamental gourds
Nowadays, ornamental gourds are celebrated more for their cute size than their culinary properties. And they sure do exhibit some curious forms. These include bottle, kettle, pear, crown of thorns, egg and the popular cantine that looks like a mini pumpkin. The unusual shapes result from the gourds’ tendency to cross-pollinate not only with each other, but also with pumpkins and squash. Happily, this allows for an endless supply of design possibilities.
DECORATING WITH GOURDS: THE KEY ELEMENTS
So if you’re looking to really get creative, how do you spice things up? By adding some seasonal ingredients. And autumn provides a wealth of natural materials to choose from. Here are the key elements:
FEATHERS, TWIGS AND NUTS
Decorative accents like feathers, twigs, nuts and leaves are one way to add interesting texture and color to your gourd arrangement. Ringneck pheasant tail feathers, curly willow branches, walnuts and various size pinecones can also heighten the appeal.
Ringneck pheasant tail feathers
Curly willow branches
Walnuts’ large size make them the perfect accompaniment to gourds
FLOWERS, BERRIES AND VINES
Or, you can carve out your ornamental gourds and fill them with flowers, berries or vines. Hypericum berries, orange bittersweet, purple, red or orange dahlias or yellow lilies all make great fillers while adding pops of seasonal color.
Yellow lilies provide good color contrast
Not interested in any of the above? Carve out your ornamental gourds and add votive candles instead for a warm and toasty look.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Below are some great ideas from around the web for decorating with gourds. Click on the links for more detailed information.
1. There aren’t any seasonal accents here. But what makes this wreath interesting is the combination of shapes and colors. Ornamental gourd wreath, Southern Living
2. These white gourds pop against the deep green, frilly ornamental kale. The pine cones and wood bowl add warmth to this rustic look.
3. There’s no mistaking the vase-like shape of this ornamental gourd. Not only does the cluster of red flowers complement the mini gourd’s green color, but it is in perfect proportion to the base of the ‘vase.’
4. A miniature take on the traditional hollowed-out pumpkin, these different sized ornamental gourds glow with the warm light of votive candles.
5. Purple and orange dahlias with bittersweet berries and green leaves provide a great color complement to the butter-colored acorn-shaped gourd ‘vases.’
6. What makes this arrangement work is the fall coloration and striking similarity in texture of the gourds and basket.
7. This modernist arrangement with orange zinnias, flax leaf and feathery grass may not be for everyone, but it sure is eye-catching.
8. Looking for a great table arrangement? These slender glass vases filled with orange gourds and single strands of ivy are clean and elegant.
9. It’s all about texture and color here. White ornamental gourd vase with pink gerbera daisies, magnolia leaves, mini green cantines, flowering kale and evergreen sprigs.
10. If you have the space, these glamorous arrangements are sure to amaze – stacked gourds in black metal towers with potted yellow mums. (Notice how the pots and towers are the same color.)