Part of a series: Living the Good Life with Chris Olsen
The end of summer is a bittersweet time, but it’s also when certain crops are ready for market. And many of your summer annuals, so vibrant and luscious during the hot months, are now showing their age and wear (though some seem to thrive even now, at the end of the season—I’m looking at you, dragon-wing begonia). The last of the hay has been baled, apples and pears are beginning to tumble into the stores and farmers markets, and muscadines are ripe, a fact not lost on true Southerners. So here comes the fun stuff: pumpkins.
Above: A typical display we have at both Botanica and Plantopia. With such variety, how could you go home with just one? Mix the colors, combine shapes, stack them all cheek-to-cheek. There is no formal pattern for your fall display.
The pumpkin is actually a type of squash, a large family, which means it has lots of looks and shapes. The pumpkin we tend to think of as a jack-o’-lantern was originally grown in colonial Connecticut gardens, but there are many more varieties. And, since you have such a selection at hand, I suggest you create a seasonal display that showcases the bounty of fall harvest. Don’t just stop at one orange pumpkin, lonely and forlorn on a doorstep—stack, line up, or pair pumpkins, add elements such as hay bales, corn shocks, color, and emblematic flowers of the season, like mums. Mums are hard to resist this time of year—those rich, royal colors work everywhere.
Here you see a corner we’ve devoted to the season. It only took two pumpkins stacked to inject color and let us know what time of year it is. Placed on the faux bois bench, where they can observe passersby, they lead the way for seasonal color. Yes, mums are abundant now, but don’t forget other color and foliage plants available this time of year. Bring in a few mixed pots, add an architectural element or two, and think about texture as well as color. That duo of pumpkins works because it’s not a matched pair.
Let’s talk color. If you select two pumpkins, use a traditional color, like the orange, and pair with something unexpected, like this cream one. Growers seem to enjoy hybridizing white pumpkins—think Cinderella’s coach—which have become quite popular. We framed the pair with chartreuse sweet potato vine and a little violet flower for complementary color, then punctuated with marigolds. A true seasonal range of hues. (And those orange and white pumpkins also might appeal to UT fans!)
A variety of pumpkins and winter squash arrayed on bales of hay is a bit of a shopworn display technique, but it’s effective. The dull color of straw is the perfect foil for the rich range of color and shapes available this time of year.
It all comes together: Every one of those seasonal elements, such as a corn shock, hay bale, those workhorse mums, and a mix of pumpkins all blend together. And something else that works about this kind of display is that it weathers beautifully, stretching into the dark and chilly days ahead. Another good thing about potted mums is that they can go right into your existing garden once they’ve stopped blooming. They’ll naturalize with ease and provide color this same time next year.
Enjoy each moment,
Chris H. Olsen