If you’re like me, every October, when those big boxes of ornamental gourds land at the grocery, 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 a bit lacking. Sure, you can toss them in a bowl. But, if you really want to get creative, decorating with gourds requires some added seasonal ingredients.
GOURDS MAY HAVE FLOATED HERE FROM AFRICA
Hard-shelled gourds have been around for a very long time. Archeological specimens indicate the bottle gourd (pictured below) was cultivated 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, that are most commonly used as sponges and Cucurbitas, a family of flowering plants that include the ones we call decorative or ornamental.
Cantine variety of ornamental gourds
Known for their small size, ornamental gourds typically exhibit 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. This allows for an endless supply of design possibilities.
DECORATING WITH ORNAMENTAL GOURDS: KEY ELEMENTS
Before getting started, a good plan of action is to first assemble some seasonal items that will add color and interest to your ornamental gourds. If you’re considering a dry arrangement, leaves, twigs, nuts and feathers provide great decorative accents. Or, try pheasant feathers, curly willow branches, walnuts or pinecones for a heightened appeal.
Curly willow branches at amazon.com
Walnuts’ large size make them the perfect accompaniment to gourds
Some people carve out their gourds to make mini vases for flowers, berries or vines. Try hypericum berries, orange bittersweet, purple, red or orange dahlias or yellow lilies for beautiful fall color.
Yellow lilies provide good color contrast
Or, you can add votive candles to your ‘vases’ for a warm and toasty look.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Ready to get started? Here are some great ideas for decorating with gourds. Click on the links for more detailed information.
1. Ornamental gourd wreath, Southern Living
2. White gourds in dough bowl with cabbage and pine cones
3. Mini gourd vase with red flowers
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 ornamental 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 ornamental gourd vase with pink gerbera daisies, magnolia leaves, mini green cantines, ornamental cabbage and evergreen sprigs
10. Stacked gourds in iron trellis with potted yellow mums