If you’re like me, when those big boxes of gourds appear at the store in October, your mind whirls with possibilities. The cute little shapes seem to embody the spirit 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 want to get creative, decorating with gourds requires some added ingredients.
ORNAMENTAL GOURDS FED THE PEOPLE
Have you ever wondered where these little guys come from? The soft-shell gourds belong to a family of flowering plants called cucurbita. Native to the Andes and Mesoamerica, cucurbitas include melons, squashes and pumpkins as well as both ornamental and non-ornamental gourds. Archeological evidence shows that 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, ornamental gourds are celebrated more for their size than their culinary properties. And they tend to exhibit some curious forms. These include bottle, kettle, pear, Crown-of-Thorns, egg and the popular cantine (that looks like a tiny pumpkin.) Incalculable in number, the odd shapes come from the gourds’ tendency to cross-pollinate not only with each other, but also with pumpkins and squash. And this provides for no end of design possibilities.
DECORATING WITH GOURDS: THE KEY ELEMENTS
So if you’re looking to come up with something special, 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. 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
Ornamental gourds make great vases. You can carve them out 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 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.
MAKE A WREATH
There aren’t any extra seasonal ingredients here. But what makes this wreath interesting is the combination of shapes and colors. Ornamental gourd wreath, Southern Living
TRY WHITE GOURDS
Below, the white gourds pop against the deep green, frilly ornamental kale. And the pine cones and wood bowl add warmth to this rustic look.
MAKE A VASE
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.’
CREATE YOUR OWN VOTIVES
A miniature take on the traditional hollowed-out pumpkin, these different sized ornamental gourds glow with the warm light of votive candles.
ADD SEASONAL COLOR
Below, purple and orange dahlias with bittersweet berries and green leaves provide great color complements to the butter-colored acorn-shaped gourd ‘vases.’
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 orange gourds and single strands of ivy are clean and elegant.
It’s all about texture here. Below, a white ornamental gourd ‘vase’ perfectly complements pink gerbera daisies, magnolia leaves, mini green cantines, flowering kale and 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.)