If you’re like me, when those big boxes of gourds hit stores in October, your mind whirls with possibilities. The curious shapes seem to embody the spirit of fall. The problem is that, once you get them home, the little vegetables 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 additional ingredients.
GOURDS FED THE PEOPLE
Have you ever wondered where these little guys come from? The soft-shell gourds belong to a family of plants called cucurbita. Native to the Andes and Mesoamerica, cucurbitas include both ornamental and non-ornamental gourds as well as melons, squash and pumpkins. People grew and ate these plants over 10,000 years ago in the region of present-day Mexico.
Cantine variety of ornamental gourds
Nowadays, though, we value gourds more for their curious sizes and shapes than for their culinary uses. These include bottle, kettle, pear, Crown-of-Thorns, egg and the popular cantine (that looks like a tiny pumpkin.) Incalculable in number, the different shapes are the result of gourds’ tendency to cross-pollinate not only with each other, but also with pumpkins and squash. And this provides for all kinds of design possibilities.
DECORATING WITH GOURDS: THE KEY ELEMENTS
So if you’re looking to create something special, how do you spice things up? By adding some seasonal ingredients. Luckily, 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 arrangements. They are also great signs of the season. Ringneck pheasant tail feathers, curly willow branches, walnuts and various size pinecones all heighten the appeal.
Ringneck pheasant tail feathers
Curly willow branches
Walnuts’ large size make them the perfect accompaniment to gourds
FLOWERS, BERRIES AND VINES
Did you know that ornamental gourds make great vases? You can carve them out and fill them with flowers, berries and 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 florals, feathers or berries? Carve out your ornamental gourds and add votive candles 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.
There aren’t any extra seasonal ingredients here. But what makes this wreath interesting is the combination of shapes and colors. Gourd wreath, Southern Living
WHITE GOURD ARRANGEMENTS
White gourds pop against dark green leaves such as ornamental kale. Below, pine cones and a wood bowl add warmth to this rustic look.
There’s no mistaking the vase-like shape of this mini gourd. Not only does the spray of red flowers complement the gourd’s green color, but it is in perfect proportion to the base of this natural container.
GOURD VOTIVE CANDLES
A miniature take on the traditional hollowed-out pumpkin, these different sized gourds glow with the warm light of votive candles.
When selecting flowers and berries for your gourd vases, keep in mind the color of the ‘container’. Below, purple and orange dahlias, bittersweet berries and green leaves provide great color contrast to the butter-hued gourd.
What makes this arrangement work is the fall coloration and striking similarity in texture of the gourds and basket.
This modernist arrangement with orange zinnias, flax leaf and feathery grass may not be for everyone, but it sure is eye-catching.
Looking for a great table arrangement? These slender glass vases filled with stacked orange gourds and single strands of ivy are clean and elegant.
In the world of garden design, texture is almost more important than flowers. Texture makes plant combinations visually arresting while adding a ‘warmth’ to the overall arrangement. Below, a white gourd ‘vase’ is the perfect complement to frilly gerbera daisies, magnolia leaves, mottled cantines, prickly kale and spiky evergreen sprigs.
If you have the space, these glamorous arrangements are sure to amaze. At Longwood Gardens, designers stacked gourds in black metal towers and accented them with potted yellow mums . (Notice how the pots and towers are the same color.)